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february digital magazine

Looking Strong

New year brings renewed excitement for Gamecock baseball


2 • Spurs & Feathers

Spurs & Feathers Published by Aiken Communications, Inc.

Contact Us: 326 Rutland Drive N.W. PO Box 456 Aiken, SC, 29801 To subscribe: Please call 800-559-2311; annual subscription price is $50 Ellen Priest Publisher Aiken Communications, Inc. Brian Hand Executive Editor bhand@spursandfeathers.com (803) 335-1399 Ext. 506 Ed Girardeau Contributing Editor/ Advertising Account Executive ed@spursandfeathers.com (803) 646-9807 Dee Taylor Advertising Director (803) 644-2371 Kathy Boyette Advertising Sales Manager (803) 295-3654 kboyette@spursandfeathers.com Brooks Rogers Advertising Representative (803) 446-4022 brooks@spursandfeathers.com Reporter Kyle Heck kheck@spursandfeathers.com Photographers Allen Sharpe and Jenny Dilworth Cover Design Brian Hand (photo by Jenny Dilworth) Postal Information: SPURS & FEATHERS (USPS 12779) (ISSN 7454368X) is published 20 times annually. The frequency is monthly in January, April and July. The publication is weekly from September-November. SPURS & FEATHERS also publishes two slick-paper magazine issues — one in August and one in December. The annual subscription price is $50 for non Gamecock Club members. Members of the Gamecock Club receive a discounted subscription as a member benefit. Spurs & Feathers is published by Aiken Communications, Inc., 326 Rutland Drive NW, Aiken, SC, 29801-4010. Periodicals postage paid at Columbia, SC Postmaster: Send changes to SPURS & FEATHERS, PO Box 456, Aiken, SC, 29802.

February 24, 2016

When to expect Spurs & Feathers in the upcoming year Thank you so much for your con- sports) tinued support of Spurs & FeathJuly 27 newspaper (SEC Media ers. Days) Per our contract with the GameAug. 24 magazine (preseason cock Club, below are our edition football) dates for the 2016 year. Please note Sept. 7 newspaper the digital magazine delivered via Sept. 14 newspaper email is an added benefit courtesy Sept. 21 newspaper of Spurs & Feathers. Sept. 28 newspaper Oct. 5 newspaper 2016 Spurs & Feathers schedule Oct. 12 newspaper Oct. 19 bye week (no newspaper) March 16 digital magazine (post- Oct. 26 newspaper season basketball lookahead) Nov. 2 newspaper April 27 newspaper (basketball, Nov. 9 newspaper spring football wrapup) Nov. 16 newspaper May 25 digital magazine (springs Nov. 23 newspaper sports) Nov. 30 newspaper June 15 digital magazine (springs Dec. 21 magazine (end of year)

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Spurs & Feathers • 3

February 24, 2016

Football appreciation luncheon recognizes all contributors by brian hand Executive Editor

Every year after National Signing Day, South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner holds a special thank you luncheon of gratitude. The special luncheon gives Tanner and the South Carolina athletics department the opportunity to thank all of those that in some capacity helped to make Saturdays in the fall at Williams-Brice Stadium happen. The event this year also gave Tanner and new head football coach Will Muschamp the unique opportunity to thank all of those that made it possible for the Gamecocks to bring in one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Always willing to serve, Tanner - who addressed those in attendance along with Muschamp - and other athletics department staff also helped to serve the food to further emphasize their appreciation for their efforts to make Gamecock football home games a reality.

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4 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

Thank you, Tim O’Briant by brian hand Executive Editor

I will never forget the day. Well, the lunch. To be honest, I have no idea what day it actually was as I had so much going on around me that all I remember is it was in May. Nevertheless, during that day in May of 2013 at what was once The Bowery restaurant in downtown Aiken, South Carolina and is now a Mellow Mushroom, my life changed. I remember current Spurs & Feathers contributing editor Ed Girardeau asking me to lunch the weekend before not having any idea about why. I thought we were just having a talk about doing some more things with USC Aiken athletics through my then position as assistant athletics director for communications and promotions. I also had no idea that Tim O’Briant would be joining us for the lunch. I was so busy trying to get everything ready to head to Mount Olive, North Carolina for USC Aiken’s NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament appearance there that I was not really thinking about anything but that. Once we arrived at The Bowery, Tim was quick to relay to me that our lunch was much more than I expected. “Do you read Spurs & Feathers,” Tim asked. “Of course, I have been reading it my entire life pretty much,” I remember responding. “How would you like to be the editor?” The words came as a complete shock. I had worked in newspaper and on campus at different athletic institutions after finishing up my college soccer playing days forward, but I had never really thought about working with Spurs & Feathers. It just never crossed my mind. All I could say back in fact was, “that is intriguing for sure.” I met with Tim and then Aiken Communications publisher Scott Hunter shortly after getting back from the NCAA Division II Baseball Regionals and I guess now the rest is history as this lifelong Gamecock fan got an opportunity that I know so many would relish. I will forever be thankful to Tim for giving me this opportunity. It’s a gift. It’s been a wild ride, but under his leadership over the past three years, I feel like we have taken Spurs & Feathers to the level requested of us when we were given the opportunity to bring it to Aiken Communications by the Gamecock Club. The biggest things asked of us were to provide daily coverage through the first-ever Spurs & Feathers website, incorporate social media into our daily coverage and still contin-

photo by brian hand

ue the quality work done over the years with the newspaper, while also changing the overall look and feel of the newspaper, but keeping with its strong tradition. In addition, we have incorporated quarterly magazines that have been a welcomed addition by Gamecock Club members and our subscribers. SpursandFeathers.com has become a huge hit over the last couple of years particularly as our numbers right now are more than we ever could have imagined in year No. 3. In regards to social media, we are consistently overwhelmed by where we are as right now our Twitter handle @SpursFeathers has almost 16,000 followers. On Facebook, we have close to 17,500 likes. We are incredibly blessed to say the least. One of the things that Tim and I made sure to set as a priority when we first took over Spurs & Feathers was to visit with as many Gamecock Club chapters as we could, while also writing stories of all of the great things happening with the chapters. This was obviously done on top of the daily coverage of all things Gamecock on campus. It is one thing for us to feel like we have continued to grow in these three years, but it’s another to hear individuals at Gamecock Club events thank us. For example, this past summer when I was speaking at a Gamecock Club event in Dar-

lington, new chapter president Curtis Tyner made it a point in front of everyone to thank us in the best way we consider possible. Tyner in front of the close to a hundred individuals in attendance said what we hear all the time, which is that they did not know if we would be able to get the job done because it was so beloved before our arrival. Hearing Tyner then say that we have is incredibly special to us. Recently, we received a compliment that most would consider maybe not all that nice, but it is all we want to hear. It’s not about us. It’s about the product. “I expected you guys (Spurs & Feathers) to fail when you took over,” the individual said. “You didn’t. Keep up the good work.” That’s special and it could not have happened without mastermind Tim O’Briant. Tim hired me to be the day-to-day guy at Spurs & Feathers, so that he could focus on so much more like being the editor of the Aiken Standard under our current publisher Ellen Priest. It’s been an honor, but I am just a cog in all that has taken place over the past few years and without Tim’s constant hard work behind the scenes it never could have happened. It would be exhaustive to list everyone that contributes to Spurs & Feathers whether from our offices in Columbia or at Aiken Commu-

nications. But they are all special people who go above and beyond because they know once again that Spurs & Feathers is so much bigger than any of us. Without Tim’s guidance as our general manager from the outset none of that would have been possible. In baseball, people always talk about fivetool players. Tim would be a five-tool journalist. He does it all. Calling him a five-tool journalist is actually probably a disservice as well because he wears many, many hats. I write all of this because on Feb. 19, Tim departs Aiken Communications for another position where they will see the five-tool journalist make things so much better there. We have produced over 70 publications under his guidance, while also incorporating video through avenues like our “Off the Field” videos with Steve Spurrier and our Gamecock Club Renewal Day videos. Tim’s been my boss, my mentor, but, most importantly, my friend. Once again though, it’s not just me. His reach is so much more and he means a great deal to so many people. Coming back from a meeting in Aiken recently, Gamecock Club executive director Patrick McFarland said it best to me - “I am going to miss that guy. He is one of the good ones.” Amen.


Spurs & Feathers • 5

February 24, 2016

Muschamp: ‘I’m very pleased with where we are’ by brian hand Executive Editor It was just mere minutes after South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was finished with his duties surrounding his introductory press conference on Monday, Dec. 7, that he was on the road visiting recruits. His first stop was to meet Richland Northeast product T.J. Brunson. The linebacker was committed to Louisville at the time, but Muschamp wanted Brunson to know how much of a priority he considered him for the new staff. Shortly thereafter, Muschamp was visiting with wide receiver Bryan Edwards in Conway, South Carolina. “Those were two guys that we felt we needed to pinpoint early and make sure they knew how we felt,” Muschamp said. Eventually Brunson and Edwards both decided that South Carolina was the right fit for them and both are a part of Muschamp’s inaugural signing class with the Gamecocks that was officially unveiled on Wednesday, Feb. 3. The two huge pickups in Brunson and Edwards was indicative of the hard work pretty much put in by Muschamp from the second he accepted the South Carolina job. Muschamp began developing a plan and despite having under two months to get individuals to buy into their vision on National Signing Day on Feb. 3, Muschamp and the Gamecock coaching staff had reeled in a consensus top-30 signing class. For Muschamp, being able to put together a coaching staff while also trying to pick up recruits was obviously incredibly taxing, but rewarding. “You had some guys that left some good situations because they wanted to be at South Carolina,” Muschamp said of his coaching staff. “That was refreshing. On the recruiting trail, I felt very good about where we stood with a lot of the student-athletes that we were recruiting. We hit well on the guys we got on campus, so that as a lot about the job we do on campus on the official visits.” A head coach with a truly holistic approach towards the student-athletes within his program, Muschamp spent a great deal of his signing day press conference thanking all of those that helped along the way. “The biggest thing for me is the willingness of everyone on campus to help,” Muschamp said of why they were so successful in bringing in such a top-notch class in short order. Muschamp even went above and beyond after the signing day press conference to have all of the South Carolina mid-year signings who were already on campus have a special signing ceremony with their families in front of the media.

OL Sadarius Hutcherson -- “He has the potential to have a great frame when it’s all said and done. We’ll get him in the weight room and see if he can gain some weight.” DB Jamarcus King -- “He has really good coverage skills. He is a long guy that has good top-end speed. We’re expecting him to come in and compete right away.” OL Pika Leota -- “I am really excited about his upside as a player. I feel good about him.”

photo by allen sharpe

Pictured is Muschamp with all of the South Carolina mid-year signings on Signing Day It was a small, but huge thing that further shows the family approach being brought forward by Muschamp and the Gamecock football program. As with any head coach, Muschamp on the whole is excited with how everything has turned out since his arrival, but he knows there is a lot of work ahead. In fact, when asked about his class, Muschamp was quite succinct. “I’ll let you know in two to three years,” Muschamp said quickly before further expounding about what is ahead for his program. “I’m very pleased with where we are,” Muschamp said. “I really am. I don’t think you’re ever satisfied, so that’s the way, I kind of look at things. But I just think this is a two or three year process that you’re going to look back and reflect back and know that was a really good class for us. Winning on signing day is not real important to me. It’s about two years down the line, three years, where are these guys? And how much they contribute, how much did they did they play, how productive were they as players for South Carolina?” Coach Muschamp’s evaluations of each player (provided by South Carolina Athletics Media Relations) WR Korey Banks Jr. -- “He comes from a great program, and he has good top-end speed. He’s a guy that can really challenge people vertically down the field.” LB T.J. Brunson -- “He has really good instincts with good contact speed that allows him to run through people.”

QB Brandon McIlwain -- “His commitment was huge for us. He’s an athlete that can run the ball and throw the ball extremely well. He’s doing a great job over at baseball, but he will be full-time at football this spring.”

WR Kiel Pollard OL Akeem Cooperwood -- “He is a massive human being that has re- -- “He’s another guy that comes from a winally good feet and good athleticism for some- ning program. He’s a competitive guy that can play in the slot and on the edge.” one that size.” WR Randrecous Davis -- “He can change the game when the ball is in his hands. He’s special as a returner and a receiver, and he can play in the slot and outside.” WR Chavis Dawkins -- “He’s another big receiver that knows about winning. He knows what to do to be successful.” RB Rico Dowdle -- “He’s a guy I am really excited about. He’s very explosive and he has a bigger stature than you would think. He has leadership qualities and is a good decision maker with the ball in his hands.” WR Bryan Edwards -- “He can vertically stretch the field and he is another bigger receiver. We certainly will need him.” RB C.J. Freeman -- “We’re really excited about him. He gained a bunch of yards in high school.” DL Griffin Gentry -- “He’s a guy that plays with a high motor. I’m excited to get him into camp.” TE Evan Hinson -- “He’s someone with tremendous upside. He’s a basketball player that has great range, and he has great growth potential.”

OL Will Putnam -- “He is another massive human being. We’re excited to get him in the fold.” DB Chris Smith -- “He’s another guy that we’re really excited about.” DL Kobe Smith -- “We were really pleased watching him. He is a guy that moves around extremely well for his size.” DL Stephon Taylor -- “He was a key signing for us today. He’s a guy that I really feel good about.” DL Keir Thomas -- “He has some pass rush and has some use on the line of scrimmage.” DL Aaron Thompson -- “You can’t ever have enough pass rushers, and we’re excited to get him.” TE Robert Tucker Jr. -- “He’s another one with tremendous upside as a player. He’s a very good athlete.” DL Darius Whitfield -- “He’s a guy we knew a lot about and are excited about. DL Dennis Wonnum -- “He’s from Stephenson. (Adds to) again a good, deep class.”


6 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

Muschamp, Gamecocks finish strong on National Signing Day by kyle heck Reporter

guys we offered didn’t come,” Muschamp said. “So when we got them on campus, we did a great job with them.” South Carolina’s first letter of intent on NaMuschamp made sure to thank everyone tional Signing Day came in at 7:08 a.m. and the involved with all of the official visits and other last one arrived at 12:42 p.m. things during the overall recruiting visits. During those five and a half hours or so in Whether it was people in the recruiting office between, head coach Will Muschamp and his or people helping with tours on campus, Musnew staff saw the fruits of their hard labor over champ said the Gamecocks would not have the past couple of months pay off with a solid been able to have the success rate they had finish to this year’s recruiting cycle. without the help of everyone involved. The Gamecocks officially signed 24 players, The recruiting class is particularly deep on four of those new commitments that South both sides of the line and at wide receiver. The Carolina was able to snag on National Signing Gamecocks signed four offensive linemen and Day. a whopping seven defensive linemen. “Exciting day for the University of South “The most exerting thing you do as a football Carolina and our football program,” Musplayer is pass rush,” Muschamp said. “You run champ said. out of gas pretty quickly, especially early in the When Muschamp first took over the reins in season with as hot as it is. You have to have as early December, the Gamecocks’ recruiting many as you can to rotate up front. It’s a develclass was ranked in the 60s or 70s nationally opmental position and we needed to gain more and last in the SEC. However, with the strong girth up front.” showing on National Signing Day, the class is South Carolina got two new defensive now ranked No. 26 in the country and 10th in linemen on National Signing Day in Aaron the SEC, according to the 247Sports Compos- Thompson and Stephon Taylor. Thompson ite Ranking. was previously committed to Maryland before “We visited about 36 or 38 guys and only six switching to the Gamecocks while South Caro-

photo by allen sharpe

lina beat out the likes of Texas, Florida State and LSU for the services of Taylor. At the receiver position, the Gamecocks signed five new athletes that will immediately have a chance to compete. Among those were two new wideouts who Muschamp and company were able to pick up on National Signing Day in Korey Banks Jr. and Randrecous Davis and the class also contains Conway star Bryan Edwards. That opportunity for early playing time and success is something that Muschamp preached to the prospective wide receiver re-

cruits. “They watch the games and they see the opportunities,” Muschamp said. “They see that Pharoh (Cooper) is a very productive player and they all are told, given the opportunity if they’re good enough and they’re the best at their position, they’ll play.” With the Gamecocks filling their positional needs for the most part, Muschamp is obviously happy with what transpired over the two short months that he’s been head coach. It took a lot of hard work to get the players to sign, but Muschamp knows that the real work starts when spring practice begins in preparation for the new season. Included in those 24 signees were six midyear enrollees that have already been on campus since the spring semester began. Those players will be important and since they didn’t get their own National Signing Day, Muschamp took the opportunity to have them and their families come in front of the media and sign letters and take pictures after the signing day press conference. “I think it’s always good for them to get recognized for coming on campus to be here at South Carolina,” Muschamp said.

Florence Gamecock Club Signing Day Luncheon another huge success by brian hand Executive Editor Tony Morrell says the proof after National Signing Day is fairly obvious. “To me, anyone that questioned the hire of Muschamp doesn’t understand what South Carolina needed,” Morrell said. “It had to be somebody that could recruit. It had to be somebody that would put in the time and the effort to put in the talent where it needs to be. It had to be somebody that could build a great staff around him and a staff that understood what the job required. You go down and you start checking the boxes and I think Muschamp is exactly what South Carolina needed.” Morrell spoke these words to a large crowd at the annual Florence County Gamecock Club Signing Day Report Luncheon on Thursday, Feb. 4, at the Floyd Center at Carolina’s HospiA co-owner and analyst at TheBigSpur.com, tal System. Morrell also broke down each and Morrell said that the consensus top-30 recruitevery one of the Gamecocks’ 24 signings dur- ing class for Will Muschamp and Gamecock ing his time talking with the group. football is only the beginning.

photo by brian hand

“You’ve already seen the early fruits of his labor with this class,” Morrell said. “It’s only going to get better.” After the event, Florence County Gamecock

Club chapter president Scat Scaturro was extremely appreciative of Morrell’s efforts and the information he provided. “This is always a good event,” Scaturro said. “We have great participation here in Florence, particularly this year with the new coaching staff in place as everybody is excited about football and how he (Muschamp) has gotten up there and worked so hard with the class he signed. It’s pretty exciting.” Gamecock Club executive director Patrick McFarland always loves visiting with the Florence County Gamecock Club. In fact, McFarland presented the chapter with their Director’s Cup Black Division (250 members or more) award for the 2015 year while also explaining the great things happening right now with the Gamecock Club. “We really appreciate everything that they do for the Gamecock Club,” McFarland said. “What they do makes a tremendous difference and it is noticed by everybody in athletics. We cannot thank them enough for all they do for Gamecock athletics.”


Spurs & Feathers • 7

February 24, 2016

Muschamp visits with enthusiastic grouping of Gamecocks in Charlotte by brian hand Executive Editor

to be there and their energy was readily apparent to Tanner. “It is great to be in Charlotte,” Tanner Charlotte is always going to be somesaid. “I’m so happy to be in a room that can where that is special to South Carolina match the enthusiasm of Will Muschamp.” head football coach Will Muschamp. The event was emceed by Dari Nowkah Not only is the area somewhere where of the SEC Network. The Tulsa, Oklahoma Muschamp and his coaching staff plan native was blown away by the passion of to recruit heavily, but it’s also truthfully the Gamecock fans on the evening. where it all began for him as a Gamecock. “I have not obviously ever been to some“It’s a special place for me because I thing like this before, so I didn’t know what came and interviewed with coach Tanto expect,” Nowkah said. “The parking ganer in Charlotte,” Muschamp said to a rage (when I arrived) kind of told me what standing room only crowd at the Charlotte to expect. It’s a disaster in there and it’s a Gamecock Club Signing Day Recruiting mess because there are so many people tryRoundup on Thursday, Feb. 4, at the Char- ing to get here.” lotte City Club. Like all Gamecock fans, Nowkah is imThe special evening with the Charlotte pressed with how Muschamp was able to Gamecocks featured Muschamp breaking put together such a solid top-30 recruiting down the 24 Gamecock signees to all of class in a little under two months. those in attendance along with Tanner talk“I haven’t talked to anybody that does ing about all of the great things happening our recruiting rankings that has said anywith South Carolina athletics. thing other than it’s incredibly impressive,” The Charlotte Gamecocks were extremely Nowkah said. “And it is.” appreciative of Muschamp taking the time The Charlotte Gamecock Club event fea-

thrilled to have so many Gamecocks in Charlotte supporting Muschamp. “It just shows the true Carolina fans,” Wharton said. “They always stick with the program no matter what and they’re welcoming the transition. This is my second event this week seeing the fans - well, the family, I can’t call them fans. It’s just the family of Gamecock Nation.” In an area where there is over 8,000 photo by brian hand alumni, Charlotte Gamecocks chapter tured numerous former Gamecocks in atpresident James Wolf pointed out that evtendance in support of Muschamp and the erything went perfectly for Muschamp’s football program in Ryan Succop, Fran Per- first appearance there. son, Travelle Wharton, Anthony Wright, “We sold over 250 tickets,” Wolf said. Rick Sanford and Patrick Fish. “We sold out and we still had people callThe grouping of former Gamecock stand- ing us, texting us, emailing us, trying to outs like fans everywhere are ready to see get in.” what the future holds for South Carolina If you want to know more or get connectfootball. ed with the Charlotte Gamecock Club, you “I think this is awesome,” Fish said. “He’s can find them on Facebook and LinkedIn come in and obviously proven that he’s as Charlotte Gamecock Club. On Twitter here to recruit and turn things around.” and Instagram, the handle is @CltGameWharton spent most of his NFL career cocks. You can also visit their website at with the Carolina Panthers, so he was www.mycarolina.org/charlotte.

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8 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

Three-peat: Gamecocks in midst of historical SEC run by brian hand Executive Editor

I remember thinking when the SEC preseason media poll came out prior to the start of the 2013-14 season that seventh seemed incredibly low for South Carolina women’s basketball. Obviously being around the program we knew they were going to be good, but it was going to take some time for those across the nation to see. None of us expected the ride to come though. How could anyone? As the 2013-14 season progressed it became painfully obvious to not just us that were covering the team, but everyone in the country that Dawn Staley had a special group. The Gamecocks playing in front of what would be some of the best crowds in the nation would go on to win their first-ever SEC regular-season title en route to garnering their first NCAA No. 1 seed. The Gamecocks would claim their first outright SEC regular-season title in front of a crowd of 12,458 at the Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 27, 2014. “It just seems so surreal,” Staley said at the time. “I think our kids have worked extremely hard, have put themselves in a position to be SEC champions and we took care of business. I’m glad that we did it in front of almost 12,500 fans who were able to join in and share in this joyful moment for us.” South Carolina would eventually bow out inaugural trip to the Final Four. in the Sweet Sixteen, but with the pieces in It was an exceptional season that will live place and A’ja Wilson and the No. 2 recruiton in the minds of South Carolina fans foring class in the country coming in it was ob- ever. vious 2014-15 was going to be special. After the year was over, Staley and the The 2014-15 season commenced with the Gamecocks were honored at the South CaroGamecocks advancing to No. 1 in the Associ- lina State House for all that they did over the ated Press national rankings for the first time course of the season. in program history. “It’s tremendous, exciting and amazing, The Gamecocks would expound greatly the outpour of support we’ve got from the upon their tremendous fan folentire state,” Staley said. “I lowing from 2013-14 to finish don’t think you could write a the year leading the nation in better script. All we do is play attendance. basketball, but the fans they’ve That was the not the only created this environment of place the Gamecocks would oneness. Whether you’re a lead the way though as once Gamecock fan or not, you have again, South Carolina procured an appreciation for what our another SEC regular-season players have brought to this title before winning their first- All Gamecock basketball state and how they’ve repreever SEC Tournament title that coverage sponsored by sented our state.” Yesterdays would be followed up by their Now considered one of the

photo by allen sharpe

top powers in all of women’s college basketball, Staley and the Gamecocks started the 2015-16 season considered the favorite for the SEC regular-season title once again, while also having a shot at the national title. Step No. 1 has already been crossed off the list as Staley and the Gamecocks became just the third program in SEC women’s basketball history to win three straight SEC regularseason titles, joining Auburn and Tennessee. Fittingly with South Carolina (24-1, 12-0 SEC) quite possibly now the standard in the SEC, the Gamecocks knocked off the program considered the standard in Tennessee, 62-56, to claim at least a share of the SEC regular-season title on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. They claimed it outright with a 61-51 win over Georgia on Thursday, Feb. 18. The currently third-ranked Gamecocks have come a long way in Staley’s eight years at the helm and the win over the 24th-ranked Lady Vols was just South Carolina’s second

ever in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was South Carolina’s school-record 11th win over a national ranked opponent this season. The Gamecocks still have a ton to play for with the SEC Tournament coming up soon and the NCAA Tournament looming. Nevertheless, looking back makes it fun to look forward as the historical run for South Carolina women’s basketball to three straight SEC regular-season titles is nothing short of special. Still, for Staley and the Gamecocks, while it all may be special, winning SEC regularseason titles is not the end goal for a program of their stature. Staley - who just won her 352nd career game against Georgia - and the Gamecocks want to win it all. “There have been some special ones wrapped in there (her career wins), but the biggest one is yet to come,” Staley mused recently.


Spurs & Feathers • 9

February 24, 2016

Martin excited fans giving Gamecocks the biggest reward

by brian hand Executive Editor

Shortly after Frank Martin was hired he remembers going to a South Carolina baseball game. Obviously, Martin knew the history of Gamecock baseball and at that time, South Carolina’s program was at its zenith under All Gamecock basketball Hall of Fame coverage sponsored by head baseball Yesterdays coach and now athletics director Ray Tanner. Still, Martin was overwhelmed with what he was seeing at then Carolina Stadium and now Founders Park. “In my first year here after I got hired, I went to a baseball game and I couldn’t believe the amount of people at a baseball game,” Martin said. “I realize that coach Tanner and his team had won back-toback national championships, but still I couldn’t believe how many people were there for a baseball game. And not just there, but how engaged they were at a baseball game.” As he continued his time into South Carolina into the new year, Martin realized that it was not just confined to baseball as the legends he had heard about the passion of Gamecock fans was absolutely true. “Then when I went to a football game and then a volleyball game, I was like, ‘oh, my. If we can ever win, so that we can capture this energy inside the building, it can be a lot of fun,”’ Martin mused. “Putting 18,000 that’s a big part of what we try to work for every day.” Getting Colonial Life Arena packed is something that Martin and his men’s basketball program have been able to do in year four as recently South Carolina sold out games with Alabama, Kentucky and Florida. Martin and the Gamecocks are currently near the top of the SEC and he is incredibly pleased that South Carolina fans everywhere are buying into what is being built with his program.

photo by jenny dilworth

“That’s the biggest reward you can give players and coaches, is when they play at home and their arena is full,” Martin said. “That means that their fans respect their team. Their fans respect what’s going on. As a fan, I’m not spending my time, my money, my energy, on a team that I don’t respect. As a player and a coach when you walk out in your building and the seats are filled, that’s the biggest respect that can be given to any team or any coach. And then you take pride

in those people coming and respecting your team, so you got to give them what they want and you’ve got to play a certain way. That’s what we’re trying to do right now.” Martin knows this is nothing new to Gamecock basketball as the Carolina Coliseum was consistently filled. “You look back to the Coliseum days and every coach that had to coach a game in there will tell you it was as hard of a place to coach as there was in the coun-

try,” Martin said. That was then and this is now and Martin is ecstatic that the present includes the increased commitment all the way around that he has coveted for his Gamecock team. “We’re still early in the marriage,” Martin said. “But we’re both starting to get a little more committed to each other, our fans and our team. This marriage looks like it’s getting ready to be a whole lot of fun.”


10 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

Harold White stands as a pioneer for Gamecock football/athletics by brad muller South Carolina Director of Content

Most of Harold White’s nearly four decades in the South Carolina Athletics Department were spent as an academic advisor or administrator, but nearly everyone who knows him, still addresses the man as “Coach.” Retired since 2007, White became South Carolina’s first AfricanAmerican coach when he was hired by former head football coach Paul Dietzel as a graduate assistant in 1971 at the age of 31. “Everyone calls me ‘Coach,’ ” White said. “Even today, I get more joy from everybody I had the chance to know, whether it’s black or white; male or female. I feel good about my career. I was a full time coach when I got there, but I came in as a graduate assistant. I had a wife and two kids at the time. In 1971, there were six black football players who came in with me. There were a couple basketball players that came in that year too. I coached on the freshman football team in 1971 and 1972.” He took off his whistle and became an academic counselor in 1973, taking charge of academic support for Gamecock student-athletes, and later holding the title of Senior Associate Athletics Director for Academic Support and Student Services. Had White stayed in coaching, he probably would have been just as successful, but he still made an impact every step of the way. Changing Times While there were racial tensions across the country as schools and athletics programs integrated around this time, White acknowledged that the transition at South Carolina was relatively smooth. “We didn’t have those kind of problems with the black and white players,” White said. “Many of them became the best of friends, and a lot of them are still friends today. We didn’t have the flare ups that happened on a lot of other campuses. That’s not to say everything went OK every day, but from what we heard about what happened at other schools, we were OK. I think I had a little bit of a role in that. I think we did well.” White recalled a situation that had potential for some conflict when Dietzel implemented a prohibition on mustaches

and long hair, which were both popular in the day. “It was tough,” White said. “For the black players, they all had mustaches. That’s just what we did. So now, I had to shave my mustache. The word got around to a lot of friends I went to college with, and they kept saying ‘tell me that man didn’t make you cut your mustache.’ I did.” The issue was somewhat diffused a short time later when White gathered the African-American student-athletes on the team to let them know that Dietzel was offering a compromise. “Coach Dietzel was going to have a meeting after practice, and he was going to announce that he was backing off that rule a little bit, and that you could have a mustache, but it could only come down so far,” White said. “I told them that all I wanted them to hear was that you can have a mustache. He’s going to tell it his way. So just listen and accept it. We got the mustaches, so we were pleased, but the boys who wanted the long hair down their backs, they were more upset.” Tackling His Biggest Role A couple of years later, limits were placed on the number of fulltime coaches college football programs could have on

their staff, and with the elimination of freshman teams as first-year college student-athletes were now allowed to play on the varsity team, White found a new home with the Gamecocks. “I was interested in the academic side of things, and the guy who had been doing that left,” White said. “So I took that position at that point. Academics became my area for the rest of my time there.” Moving from on-the-field responsibilities to the academic side at South Carolina was not a difficult transition for White. “I was not a super coach,” White laughed. “I played high school football. I wanted to be like my (C.A. Johnson) high school coach, Charles Bolden. I wanted to help some young boys like he helped me to understand that I could be somebody in spite of anything. That’s why I got into coaching. My role there was to help any young kid who came through there. I wanted to make sure that those first black athletes had a comfort zone here so they could do what they needed to do to graduate. “Over all of the years that I was there, I didn’t care if you were black, white, green or yellow. I wanted you to be successful. I started there because of black athletes, but once we moved on, the ‘black’ or the ‘white’ had nothing to do with it. The joy

of my career with the University of South Carolina Athletics Department was that I had the opportunity to help so many youngsters – black, white, and whatever other color it may be.” “Harold White helped everybody around him,” Manning said. “Not just young black kids. He helped everybody. He always stressed academics.” White was inducted into the USC Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009, and is being inducted into the Richland County School District One Hall of Fame this month. While he is proud of the accolades, the 75 year-old takes more pride in staying in touch with the former student-athletes. “I’ve received calls from all around the country from men and women thanking me,” White beamed. “That’s my life. That’s the kind of thing that keeps me going. I always enjoy meeting them and their children. That’s been my joy. “Working with the athletes, both male and female, was the best part about my time at South Carolina. Through the years, I’d like to think I had some role in helping them become very productive citizens. I just like to hear that they are doing well.” White and his wife, Lilly, have two daughters and four grandchildren. They are among the few who don’t call him “Coach,” but he is “just fine with that.”


Spurs & Feathers • 11

February 24, 2016

Auriemma on Gamecock fans: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’ by brian hand Executive Editor

damn arena today,” Auriemma said. “People were lined up from here to Atlanta it seemed like. Our guys couldn’t get in.” Geno Auriemma has led the University of Auriemma’s No. 1 Huskies would go on Connecticut women’s basketball team to 10 to knock off the No. 2 Gamecocks before a national titles. sellout crowd of 18,000 at the Colonial Life Coming into the Colonial Life Arena for Arena, but after the game, UConn’s 31st-year the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between his head coach made sure to let it be known that No. 1 Huskies and the No. 2 South Carolina he considered South Carolina a definite Final women’s basketball team he saw something Four contender again this year. he had never seen before though. Much has been made about how Dawn Stal“It was amazing out there,” ey’s fledgling South Carolina Auriemma said of the large program is where Auriemma’s crowd waiting to get in the program was many years ago. arena for the showdown. “I’ve But Auriemma is quick to never seen anything like it.” point out that the Gamecocks In fact, Auriemma said that have one definite advantage it was so busy out there with that UConn did not have after people trying to get into the its first Final Four in 1991. arena that the UConn bus had “The only difference is All Gamecock basketball that when we came back the trouble getting the team into coverage sponsored by following year there wasn’t the arena. “We couldn’t get into the Yesterdays 18,000 people watching us

you have to keep making that next step, next step, next step. I think that’s exactly what they’re doing. They’ve got a great fanbase here.” South Carolina and UConn plan to continue their new rivalry for at least the next two years with the two next year meeting up in Connecticut once again before returning to Columbia the following year. In the meantime, Staley knows the advantage to which Auriemma is referencing is real and it’s fantastic for the Gamecocks. “I just think we do things the right way,” photo by jenny dilworth the eighth-year South Carolina head coach said. “Our fans support us like no other. I play games,” Auriemma said. “Where they think when you do it this way where they are right now is a lot further ahead than where we were in 1991. It’s just going to take have an appreciation for how we’ve done it a matter of time. You don’t build these things because we’ve made them feel like they are a part of us. They’re going to not sleep as much overnight. No matter what anybody says, it tonight because we lost. The fans that have doesn’t happen overnight. Even when winning a national championship in 1995 nobody come to support us they’ve put a lot of energy was confusing us with the University of Ten- into coming to our games, not just buying nessee. But you have to start somewhere and tickets.”

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12 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

Gamecock Club honors chapter award winners by brian hand Executive Editor Ray Tanner and South Carolina athletics fully understand that without the Gamecock Club it would be incredibly tough for the Gamecocks to compete at the level they desire across the board in the SEC and nationally. “The Gamecock Club has been around for a long time and it’s the fabric of our athletic department that supports our student-athletes by providing scholarships and academic support,” South Carolina’s athletics director told Spurs & Feathers recently. “For our donors and our members to support the club to the extent that they have over the years has enabled us to recruit at a high level and finance scholarships for our student-athletes. It’s been an initiative that, as a former coach and certainly as an administrator, you never take that for granted. Our student-athletes understand and I think all of our coaches make sure that our scholarship athletes understand where the financial support comes from and that’s from our Gamecock Club members. That makes it possible for them to come to school on scholarship.” The Gamecock Club is now in its 76th year and during halftime of the South CarolinaKentucky men’s basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 13, the Gamecock Club honored their 2015 Chapter of the Year, their Director’s Cup award winners and their Most

Lexington Gamecock Club chapter president Steve Gunter accepts award on behalf of chapter.

represented by chapter president Scat Scaturro. The Lexington County Gamecock Club was awarded with the Gamecock Club Chapter of the Year Award. They were represented by numerous chapter members and chapter president Steve Gunter. The Gamecock Club’s Most Valuable President award was presented to Colleton County Gamecock Club chapter president Lori Bell Beard. Gamecock Club executive director Patrick McFarland presented the awards during the halftime presentation. He was thrilled to have the opportunity to thank these great Gamecocks for all they do for the Gamecock Club and South Carolina athletics. “It’s neat to be able to honor them with a sellout crowd here at the Colonial Life Arena,” McFarland said. “It’s really special. We’re excited to be able to recognize them because they put a lot of time and effort into assisting the Gamecocks and into making South Carolina athletics one of the best departments in all of the country.”

Valuable President. The Director’s Cup was established to honor and acknowledge the chapters that have demonstrated an outstanding commitment and dedication to promoting the success of the University of South Carolina athletics department. There are two Director’s Cup divisions with the Greenwood County

Chapter of the Year: Lexington County Gamecock Club Garnet Director’s Cup: Greenwood County Gamecock Club Black Director’s Cup: Florence County Gamecock Club Most Valuable President: Lori Bell Beard, Colleton County Gamecock Club

photo by allen sharpe

Gamecock Club taking the Garnet Director’s Cup (less than 250 Gamecock Club members) and the Florence County Gamecock Club winning the Black Director’s Cup (250 or more Gamecock Club members). The Greenwood County Gamecock Club was represented by chapter president Ray Lewis and Florence County Gamecock Club was

Gamecock Club facilities tour a huge hit by brian hand Executive Editor

What is taking place with the athletic facilities upgrades at the University of South Carolina is incredibly special. So special in fact that anytime the Gamecock Club offers a facilities tour pretty much all of the spots are signed up for very quickly as Gamecock fans are always looking to see the great things happening at South Carolina like the new football indoor practice facility. The latest Gamecock Club facilities tour took place the morning of Saturday, Feb. 20. Over 300 individuals signed up for the tour given by the Gamecock Club with all involved arriving very early at 8:30 a.m. Ray Lewis II and the Greenwood County Gamecock Club left at 6:45 a.m. in the morning from Greenwood, South Carolina to see all of the tremendous facility upgrades. “We brought two vans with 40 or 50 people from the Greenwood area and also some

people that we are friends with throughout the state met us here,” Lewis said. “A lot of people are really excited because nobody has really seen the indoor practice facility yet. We’re pretty excited about that.” The tour was the second offered by the Gamecock Club in the last three weeks with over 400 people taking the facilities tour on Saturday, Jan. 30. Once again, Gamecock Club executive director Patrick McFarland was thrilled to see the smiles on the faces of all the Gamecocks in attendance for the tour that featured stops at the new indoor facility as well as Williams-Brice Stadium. “They’re impressed when they come in to see the facility upgrades that we’ve been able to do,” McFarland said. “It’s pretty neat that they take ownership and pride in being a Gamecock. They feel like it’s theirs and it really is.” will be a long day for many of them. McFarland and the Gamecock Club were “They traveled from all over,” McFarland thrilled that so many also made it a point to said. “A lot of these people have a very long come out so early and enjoy the tour on what day ahead of them as they are going to bas-

photo by brian hand

ketball, baseball and many other Gamecock events. They are literally making it a Gamecock day and to get here at 8:30 a.m. it just shows their passion and enthusiasm.”


Spurs & Feathers • 13

February 24, 2016

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14 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

Gamecock Club members thrilled by efforts of Muschamp by brian hand Executive Editor South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner let it be known upon his hiring of Will Muschamp as head football coach that he had found a Gamecock. Tanner reiterated these thoughts to those in attendance at the Gamecock Club’s annual National Signing Day event at The Zone at Williams-Brice Stadium on Wednesday, Feb. 3. “When you think about passion, enthusiasm, work ethic and a relentless pursuit of excellence, we’ve got our man,” Tanner said. “We’ve got a Gamecock.” It was painfully obvious that on an evening that featured introductions of the coaching staff, breakdowns of each player and much more that those in attendance completely agreed with Tanner as when Muschamp was introduced to the large crowd he was given a standing ovation. Gamecock Club member JR Buzzelli is

ecstatic about what Will Muschamp has been able to do since taking over the reins of Gamecock football. “I’m very excited,” Buzzelli said. “He had eight weeks to do what he did and I think his performance is phenomenal. Not only am I excited about the kids coming in this year, I can’t wait to see the way this new staff he put together comes together and how he can develop these kids, which is really the key. After today, the stars really don’t matter. It’s really about development. I am psyched to see a full year of recruiting and what he is going to do next year.” New York Gamecock Club chapter president Lou Antonelli agreed with Buzzelli, pointing out that social media has changed the way even fans can follow along with all of their hard work. “I am very excited to see what coach Muschamp and the rest of the staff has been able to do in a very short period of time,” Antonelli said. “It’s just great to see

photo by brian hand

Will Muschamp introduces the Gamecock football staff at Signing Day event on Feb. 3. with the one small example of the #SpursUp tweet. When that goes out, it’s just a fever pitch that goes over Gamecock Nation.” Aiken County Gamecock Club president Chris Fulmer thinks it’s pretty impressive that in a little less than two months, Muschamp and his staff were able to turn around a signing class that was ranked somewhere in the 70s when he took over to a consensus top-30 recruiting class.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Fulmer said. “It’s a big turnaround. I think we finished even better than most of us even could have imagined. They got after it, they went out and they hit the ground running.” Gamecock Club member Charlie Mitchell is just pleased in general in Muschamp and the excitement he has brought to Gamecock football. “I think the world of him,” Mitchell said. “It’s exciting.”

Along with learning more about the Gamecock Club, those in attendance also got an indepth look at the new signing class for South Carolina football, thanks to Mitchell. His insight got the local Gamecock fans excited to see what Muschamp can do in the future. “As you can see, once he was hired and then through Signing Day he improved the class and was able to really attract some talent to South Carolina,” George said. “Also we’re excited about the talent instate that he was able to attract. Bryan Edwards from Conway, which is about 40 miles away, we were excited about that. Wes got us excited. Hopefully, Muschamp can keep the ball rolling with recruiting going into the 2017 class.” Being active with the Gamecock Club is nothing new for George. By being president of the Marion County Gamecock Club, he follows in the footsteps of his father and

uncle who were president before him. He’s also been a Gamecock fan from birth and received a scholarship from the Gamecock Club to attend South Carolina. “The club has meant a lot to me and it certainly means a lot that I can come back and give my time and effort to help build this club up,” George said. George and the rest of the Marion County Gamecock Club members are looking forward to a busy spring and summer that features the annual golf tournament and hopefully an appearance from a football coach. George is also excited to work with his new four-person board as they try and continue to gain support from local Gamecock fans. “We have a good board of all four individuals who really care about the Gamecock Club and really care about the University of South Carolina and I’m looking forward to working with them in 2016,” George said.

Marion County Gamecock Club continues to grow support by kyle heck Reporter

ing and speaking as well.” One of the most important things for a Gamecock Club chapter to do is to spark inThursday, Feb. 11, was a big day for the terest and support for the University of South Marion County Gamecock Club. The busiCarolina and George said the Marion County ness meeting at the Dry Dock Seafood ResGamecock Club could have a few extra memtaurant marked the beginning of a new era bers in the future, thanks to the good turnout with Bradley George being elected the new for the meeting. president of the chapter. “Patrick was there to kind of be able to pass In addition, Gamecock Club Executive out some sheets for membership applications Director Patrick McFarland was in town and and also (for the) Junior Gamecock Club GamecockCentral’s Wes Mitchell was also (since) we had a couple kids in attendance,” present to talk about the recruiting class that George said. “We had good participation, new head football coach Will Muschamp just some folks took some sheets home and also signed. some current members took some sheets “We really wanted to spark some interest and applications home for some prospects as and promote some things we’ll do going for- well. We think we have some potential new ward,” George said. “We’re a small club with members for the Gamecock club and also just it being a rural area, but we always appreciate wanted to get the word out that our club is acPatrick McFarland taking the time and also tive and there’s neat events that we do on how Wes Mitchell from GamecockCentral comwe give back to the Gamecock Club as well.”


Spurs & Feathers • 15

February 24, 2016

Winning the offseason is key to future success by Brad Muller South Carolina Director of Content

ready as well.” Even when the team is not practicing, Dillman is in a position to work with the studentWinning on the football field doesn’t begin athletes year-round to get them ready, and he on game day. Winning begins in the offseahas jumped in with both feet. son, and enjoying success is something Jeff “They’re spending a lot of time in here with Dillman knows plenty about. Dillman was us,” Dillman said. “We have a lot of guys that recently named Director of Football Strength come in on their own time and do extra work and Conditioning at South Carolina by head because it’s important to them. It’s an investcoach Will Muschamp, and the 39-year-old is ment, and they understand that it’s a commitalready at work instilling that winning attitude ment to be successful. into the Gamecock student-athletes. “When our coaches are out recruiting, we’re “The key is to win today,” Dillman said. managing day to day stuff. We’re helping “What are we doing to win the ball game build them into men, and teach them the diftoday? I’m not talking about stepping on the ference between right and wrong and doing field on Saturday and winning. The mindset of the little things right so they can be successful our staff, the coaches and of the players is that in the real world.” you don’t want to let a single day go by that The team is lifting weights three days per you lose. You want to win the day, every day.” week while and participating in conditioning Dillman’s positive enthusiasm is evident as four days per week. soon as you walk into the room with him. His “This is a good group of guys,” Dillman said. keys to winning each day revolve around three “They’re working extremely hard. They’ve elements. been very, very coachable. They just want to “We always talk about effort, toughness and get better. Right now we’re in the preparation discipline,” Dillman said. “If we have those phase getting them prepared for spring ball.” three elements, and we’re good at them, then One of Dillman’s primary goals early on is to we’re going to be a very good football team. establish trust. I’m like the second head coach on staff in “I came in and told the guys that I wasn’t gosome ways. Coach Muschamp tells me what ing to just ask you to trust me,” Dillman said. his priorities are, and we implement that. The “I’m going to earn your trust. Once I learn and program is coach Muschamp’s plan, and we get to know you, then I can trust you. Once have the ‘Fourth Quarter Program’ that we you get to know me, you will trust me. Trust go through in getting these guys in shape and is earned. We’re going to earn that by being making sure they are ready come competition consistent every day in how we coach and how time - not only physically ready, but mentally we teach and the message that we deliver to

them every day. “We’re just trying to make a difference in these guys’ lives. We’re trying to make them better football players, but we’re also trying to make them better men. A strength coach is kind of like a coordinator now because of the amount of time that we spend developing the guys into good football players and into good men.” Dillman’s passion and energy comes naturally, and fits well with his role as a coach and a teacher. “Everybody needs motivation,” Dillman said. “They’re going to resemble and react to how they are being coached and how they are being taught. That’s what we do in here. We bring a lot of passion, a lot of energy, and we’re teaching these kids how to do things right. They’re going to react off of you. So if you’re low energy, and you don’t ‘bring it’ every day, they’re going to react the same way. Actions trigger feelings, and feelings trigger actions.” Dillman came to South Carolina after spending one season as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Alabama. Before that, he worked on Muschamp’s staff at Florida for three years. He also spent time on LSU’s staff when the Tigers won the SEC and BCS National Championship in 2003, and he led the strength and conditioning staff at his alma mater, Appalachian State when the Mountaineers won NCAA Division 1-AA national championships in 2006 and 2007, including the historic upset of No. 5 ranked Michigan. In addition to college football programs,

Dillman worked at the IMG Performance Institute in Bradenton, Fla., where he oversaw the strength and conditioning programs for all youth, adult, collegiate and professional athletes who trained at the Academy, including NBA and NFL offseason workouts, NFL Combine training and the Madden Football Academy. “I’ve been very successful in my career, and I’ve been very blessed to be around some great coaches and some great athletes,” Dillman said. “If you’re in the right system, and everybody believes in the process and doing things the right way, like Coach Muschamp does, you’re going to have success. “The biggest thing is that you just have to stay humble. You don’t really get to enjoy (success) because your competitive spirit moves you on to the next one. I can enjoy that stuff when I retire, but I’m probably never going to retire because I love what I do. It’s been fun.” Born in Georgetown, South Carolina, Dillman is thrilled to be a Gamecock and loves the energy of the fans in the Palmetto State. “They are awesome,” Dillman said. “Every time we’ve played here, the energy has just been unbelievable. Knowing what (Athletics Director) Coach (Ray) Tanner did with the baseball program, and now the basketball programs have taken off, it’s just incredible. I always wanted to have the opportunity to be the head strength and conditioning coach in the SEC. I did that at Florida, and then to go from being the assistant at Alabama to being the head guy here, it’s awesome.”


16 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

photo by allen sharpe

For Gamecock fans, Opening Day couldn’t get here fast enough by kyle heck Reporter

for us,” Snelling said. “Every season for at least 20 years now. Opening Day, get the kids out of school early and leave work There’s nothing quite like Opening Day early.” for South Carolina baseball and that was There was also a familiar face for many clearly evident on Friday, Feb. 19. Gamecock fans out at Founders Park on Tailgaters arrived early and the parking Opening Day, one that has been known to lot soon filled up with excited fans who get quite a few South Carolina fans riled up were ready for another season of Gameat various sporting events. Carlton Thompcock baseball. For some, coming out on son, better known as “Gamecock Jesus,” Opening Day has been a was excited himself for the tradition for generations. return of baseball. Longtime fan Mike Snelling “All the great baseball remembers taking his son games we’ve had in the to Sarge Frye Field when past,” Thompson said of he was young. Now, Snelwhat comes to mind when ling and his adult son are he thinks of Opening Day. taking a new generation of “How we’ve worked our All Gamecock baseball Gamecock fans to games at way to regionals, super recoverage sponsored by Founders Park. gionals and Omaha several “It’s a family tradition DiPrato’s times and then we kept do-

ing it and we finally won it twice in a row.” Thompson also didn’t disappoint when it came to getting the Gamecock fans into the game as he was walking around the park starting “Game-Cock” cheers. “I go to the games and I try to get the fans involved because that’s what makes the difference,” Thompson said. “You have to create that home environment and the players always feed off of that, especially with the students.��� The players certainly fed off the home crowd on Friday and the Gamecocks rolled over Albany by a 10-1 score. All-in-all, it was a great start to the season. “I think it’s exciting to go out there and win a game in the season opener,” said Dom Thompson-Williams, who was in awe of the support after putting on the uniform for the first time. “We had a great fanbase today and it lights a fire under us.”

Christian Travers is a sophomore at the University of South Carolina from Rhode Island, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t know about South Carolina baseball before he came down to Columbia to attend school. He happened to go to the same high school as former Gamecock great Evan Marzilli and followed him through his career. “You know about South Carolina baseball and you know how big it is,” Travers said. “No. 1 ballpark in college baseball.” The fans, players and coaches all have one thing in common when it comes to South Carolina baseball. There’s nothing like it and they couldn’t be happier that another season is officially here. “Nothing better than baseball down here in South Carolina,” Travers said. “SEC baseball, two-time national champs. It’s just exciting.”


February 24, 2016

Spurs & Feathers • 17

Smith: ‘It was a great day for Gamecock softball’ by kyle heck Reporter The only thing better than playing in front of your home fans is winning in front of your home fans. The South Carolina softball team got the best of both worlds on Wednesday, Feb. 17, when the Gamecocks dominated rival North Carolina, 9-1, in South Carolina’s first home game of the year. Trailing the Tar Heels, 1-0, heading into the bottom of the fourth, the Gamecocks piled up all nine runs in a little over one inning and a two-run single by senior Alaynie Page ended the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. “It’s always good to play at home,” said Page, who is coming off of an All-American season last year. “We want to always show up for our home fans. They support us and we just want to get a good game in at home.” The Gamecocks accomplished just that in front of a solid crowd, especially for a Wednesday afternoon first pitch. “What a perfect day,” head coach Beverly Smith said. “Opening Day, it was gorgeous outside, the crowd was full. There was a lot of excitement in the air and I thought our players played right into that. It was a great day for Gamecock softball.” Junior Nickie Blue is the leader of the pitching staff, but South Carolina added junior college pitcher Jessica “Jake” Elliott for this year’s team and she has made an immediate impact and was the winning pitcher in the victory over North Carolina. “I tell you, just her and Nickie working in combination together, they’re really tough,” Smith said. The ability to have two strong arms is not only beneficial to Smith, but to the players as well. “I think Nickie appreciates the help and I know I couldn’t do it by myself,” Elliott added. The Gamecocks returned seven position player starters and virtually all of the offensive stat leaders from last year’s team. In addition, Blue returned to anchor the pitching staff and Elliott came in to help replace the loss of Julie Sarratt. Smith brought in an excellent recruiting class to help replace the starters South Carolina did lose and two freshmen have made an immediate impact in the starting lineup. Shortstop Kenzi Maguire has played well both offensively and defensively to start the season while outfielder Kennedy Clark has shown a strong bat as well. Infielder Alexis Mack has also impressed in the time she’s been on the field. South Carolina is the only team in the SEC improvement won’t continue. “They’ve been on base a bunch and have to have improved its win total over the last “It’s important,” Page said of starting put a lot of pressure on pitchers,” Smith three seasons and the strong start to this strong at home. “We don’t want someone said. season has done nothing to show that the else coming here and beating us. We set a

photo by allen sharpe

goal this season (where) we want to win all of our home games and that’s something that’s important to us, just to protect this house.”


18 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

Gamecocks pick up huge 4-3 win over rival Clemson by brian hand Executive Editor

the Tigers, which meant they had even more pressure on them in singles action and the Gamecocks stepped up by winning four of Coming into the match, South Carolina the six singles points. women’s tennis head coach Kevin Epley felt The match eventually came down to No. 6 his team had done all the right things to put singles with South Carolina’s Ximena Siles themselves into contention to best No. 21 Luna gutting out a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 win over Clemson on Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Carolina Clemson’s Ally Miller-Krasilnikov to clinch Tennis Center. the 4-3 win for the Gamecocks. As it turns out, his assumptions were right, With the team win over their rival, South as the 37th-ranked Gamecocks emerged with Carolina is now 7-2 on the 2016 season. a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Tigers (2-3). The victory over the Tigers according to “It was huge,” Epley said. “We’ve been Epley is not only big in that they were able struggling a little bit lately, but we’ve been to overcome their rival, but it also gives his working our tails off in practice and we just young team some added confidence going had this feeling that this week it could be our into league play. week. I think they all believed that.” “It’s fantastic, particularly with SECs right South Carolina dropped the doubles point to around the corner,” Epley said. “We’ve had

south carolina athletics media relations

some gut checks recently. We have a lot of young girls on our team that are freshmen. There are some growing pains and every

match is going to be a battle for us.” Epley is also hoping that the win will allow the Gamecocks to turn the tide back in their favor in a rivalry that had until this year gone Clemson’s way of late. “They’ve actually beaten us pretty handily the last three years, so today was huge for us and maybe next year we can call it a rivalry,” Epley said of the rivalry win that now gives the South Carolina athletics department a 7-5 lead over Clemson in the Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series. The Gamecocks will next return to action by facing off against ACC foe Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28. The Gamecocks open SEC play at home at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 3, against Missouri.

Gamecocks honor one of best senior classes in program history by kyle heck Reporter

stuff. Along with succeeding in meets, Major said this senior class has been one of the best when it comes to the behind-the-scenes There’s no doubt that this is a transition action. year for the South Carolina equestrian “The meet starts at 10 a.m., but most of team. Having to replace a lot of riders from these girls are out here at 5 a.m.,” Major last year was tough and that meant a lot of said. “They’re braiding horses, lunging young riders were coming into this season horses, getting equipment out (and) setting preparing to get their first taste of college up arenas. We don’t have a staff that sets equestrian. everything up for us and gets all the horses However, there was still a core group of ready for us, we have to do it all ourselves. seniors that took over leadership and have The seniors have been able to bring all these helped the young riders in that transition. other ones in and show them how we run On Saturday, Feb. 20, seven Gamecock sea home competition. I was actually telling niors participated in their final home meet at them that I think this year has been one of One Wood Farm in Blythewood. the first years that I really haven’t seen many Prior to South Carolina’s meet against photo by juan blas glitches at our home competitions. Things Texas A&M, each member of the class have run smoothly.” It’s obviously a bittersweet moment for the was recognized along with their families to-back SEC titles a year later. Last season ulated the senior class along with Major and for everything they’ve done for Gamecock as juniors, the class helped the Gamecocks her assistant coaches and Pastides received a seniors, but when they look back on their equestrian. bring home the third national championship special national championship jacket to take time at South Carolina, they have a lot to be proud of. They are also looking forward to “They obviously have been very instruin program history. home. mental in the success that we’ve had over “To me it’s really special because I didn’t “I have several equestrian rings and I cher- the future of South Carolina equestrian. “This senior class is amazing,” Smith said. the last four years,” head coach Boo Major know how it was going to be, being on a ish every single one, but when I wear (jacksaid of her senior class. “They’ve been great team,” said Samantha Smith, who is South et) out, I’ll be proud and people will stop me “And I know that the next senior class will leaders this year. Win or lose, they’ve helped Carolina’s active leader with 60 career vicand say, ‘Hey, what does that mean?’ and I’ll be amazing too. There’s a lot of good people on the team.” craft this team into a really great group of tories. “But it ended up being great. It gave have an opportunity to tell them about this Pastides agrees and he is looking forward young women that we just love to death. me a new perspective on life and then doing equestrian team,” Pastides said. “So I will to the Gamecock equestrian team continuWe’re going to be very sorry to see them all the accomplishments with my team, it’s wear it with great pride.” go.” just amazing and it’s going to suck that it’s The seniors’ contributions aren’t just lim- ing to be a great example for the University of South Carolina. This senior class was part of the team ending.” ited to what happens in the meets. There is “Beyond winning I would say that their that won the inaugural SEC championship Present on the team’s special day were so much that goes into getting the arenas character and their spirit exudes the very in 2013 before becoming the first team in Athletics Director Ray Tanner and Univerready for home meets and also taking care best of the Gamecock Nation,” Pastides said. school history, in any sport, to win backsity President Harris Pastides. Both congrat- of the horses and barns and plenty of other


Spurs & Feathers • 19

February 24, 2016

Let’s talk about the dirty ‘F’ word - Failure

“A marine biologist a venture capitalist and a retired football player all walk into a bar…” Sounds like the beginning of a joke that could be terribly good or bad, it depends. But substitute “bar” for on campus dining hall (Capstone Roof top Restaurant, 2 thumbs up), and we didn’t necessarily “walk,” we slowly rotated. We weren’t there to discuss jokes, we were there to talk about the big “F” word. When I first received the invitation to be interviewed by the USC Times, I thought “they must have zero people available for this Langston Moore interview.” Contributing Anticipating Writer that the conversation would turn into a heavy discussion on scholarly things outside of my world, especially after I learned who my co-­ interviewees would be. This was going to be a discussion on “failure.” But when I got the news of the topic, I knew I would be the emeritus professor at the table. The dirty “F word,” we all like to shun and turn our backs on this idea when it comes to anything we do. Admit it, no one looks to be a “failure,” but if you’ve ever done anything in life you’ve failed, period. From learning to walk as a child, being an “adult” (whatever that means), playing a sport, or any other thing you want to put into this statement, failure has been right there. Rarely getting the kudos at the awards podium it’s usually more along the lines of: “I want to thank my hampster for always being there for me, without him I couldn’t be here.” Failure is one of the things we all have in common on our own personal success journey. I say “personal” because success is a subjective thing that really you yourself have to define. My definition can be completely opposite of your definition and we can both feel like we are successful with the results of our actions. But along this path that dirty “F word” carries with it the thing or things we need to propel us on our journey. Failure is information. How we digest pivot and apply this information determines howsuccessful we become. As much as we like to vehemently deny it and do what we can to avoid it, without failing we would never get the information we need to let us know we’re getting closer to finding something that works or not. Imagine a toddler learning to walk for the first time, it falls over and over and over again. Only to figure out the proper way to

photo by allen sharpe

balance , stand up and eventually understanding that putting one foot in front of the other is going to work. From that the toddler is off and soon they’ll be wrecking everything in sight. What if that toddler took the stance that most non-­toddler’s take when they try and fail at something? “Maybe there’s something wrong with me” or “I wasn’t born with the ability to overcome gravity,” or “I have sea legs not land legs” all BS. But this is usually the self talk most human beings have when they try and fail. *** Note to self, think more like a toddler!

able to us if we are brave enough to look at the “game tape of life.” I tell this tired joke all the time that “I have the distinct honor of being one of the only few people to lose every game in college and every game in the NFL” (See told you I was the emeritus of this losing thing!). But it’s what losing taught me that has helped me long after I hung up the jock strap. “Failure is success turned inside out”

leadership, something that goes far beyond the football field. A quote from Peter Guber’s book “Telling to Win” gives us a profound insight into the psychology of failure: “it’s an equal opportunity vehicle that doesn’t care who rides it or what cargo it delivers. As long as you don’t get run over by disappointment before you get in.” The disappointment of the last few years of our football program is evident to the players, coaches and fans, and it STINKS! It feels like we’ve been “run over” at times thinking on the past seasons. But much like our newly appointed coach we have to not let that disappointment crush us, instead use the experience to make us better, faster, stronger in thought and action . Eventually when we grace the podium in Atlanta and raise that Championship trophy we can have a Kanye West moment and thank all the “failures” that led to our success! And maybe our hampster too.

Before the new head coach was announced the old HBC had to do it, much to the chagrin Failure is the foundation of success and of those cheering for the program. As Coach the means by which it is achieved. –Lao­Tzu Muschamp went through the normal Q&A at his introductory press conference last The great quarterback Fran Tarkenton wrote December we knew questions of “perceived a book called “What Losing Taught Me About failure” would arise from the media: “Why Winning” that described what he had drawn wasn’t he successful at Florida?” So on and from his losses on the football field, and that so forth. Coach Champ gave us his take as to helped him later in life as a business person. “why”and what he learned. Besides the many We all can be are best teacher and draw on other things I respect of coach “Champ,” the these experiences to gain strength from the awareness to recognize past failures and adForever to Thee... perceived failures IF we choose too. And miring them will serve him and our players USC times article reffred to: https://issuu. that’s the big takeaway from this is “if we here at Carolina. The people who can be bruchoose to.” We rarely like to admit failure, tally honest with themselves even when you’re com/uofsc/docs/february_usc_times_2016_ online but in doing so we can quickly get the golden standing at the podium accepting your new #SpursUp #JustaChicken nuggets of information that are readily availposition, shows a great sign of strength and


20 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

Destino passing down valuable knowledge to newcomers by kyle heck Reporter

Destino said. “It humbled me down and got me really excited for the future because of how much learning I did my Alex Destino knows it is hard to come in freshman year.” as a freshman and have success upon imDestino plans on passing on all that mediately joining the starting lineup. He learning to all of the new players on the went through exactly that during the 2015 team this year. He has developed a good baseball season. relationship with junior college transfer For someone who was just playing high Dom Thompson-Williams and those two school baseball a few months before, appear as if they could be hitting back-tothe transition to facing SEC pitching is back once the season starts. a big one. Because of that, Destino went The Gamecocks may be a young team, through his ups and downs as a freshman, but they are a very talented young team. but still finished with respectable numThe recruiting class was ranked as the bers. The Weaverville, North Carolina second-best in the country and Destino native batted .251 with six home runs and has been excited with what he’s seen. As 35 RBIs. a highly-regarded recruit himself com“It’s a shock,” Destino said of the coling out of high school, Destino can teach lege transition. “You look out there and the younger guys that they aren’t going you’re not facing a kid that’s scared to to come into the SEC and have as easy a face you like it was in high school. You’re time as they did in high school. It’s going looking at a kid that’s ready to get you to take some work. out. It was a very big learning experi“Obviously I don’t have quite the years ence.” here like maybe a senior or junior does, Despite the struggles that came with be- but I feel like I’m well respected and I reing a freshman, that valuable experience spect all the guys in that dugout and lockhas paid dividends as Destino prepares for er room,” Destino said. “I know some of the 2016 season. He’s only a sophomore the younger kids look to me because I’ve now, but because of the amount of youth been here for a year and I was fortunate on the team this year, Destino is one of enough to play a lot last year and I can the more experienced players on the team. share a lot of my knowledge with them.” “Last year in a way was kind of a disapAs for himself, Destino said he worked pointment for me coming from normally on becoming more patient over the offputting up high numbers in high school,” season. As a freshman, he was eager to

photo by allen sharpe

make the big play every at-bat and that didn’t always end well. Destino has also been working in the field at first base and said he’s also comfortable playing in the outfield. Wherever he ends up, one thing is for sure. He’s going to be a pivotal piece of the South Carolina baseball team and is looking forward to helping get the Game-

cocks back into the NCAA tournament and beyond. “I’m looking forward to it,” Destino said. “I’ve been looking forward to it ever since we lost last year to Missouri in the SEC tournament. I’m ready to get back out on the field and I know this group is. I’m extremely excited to see where this year goes.”

Reagan enters junior year a much-improved pitcher for Gamecocks by kyle heck Reporter

hoping it allows him to take that next step and become the pitcher he wants to be for the Gamecocks. During his press conference to preview “In the SEC, if you leave a ball over the the upcoming season, South Carolina head middle of the plate at 82, more than likely baseball coach Chad Holbrook had high that’s going to get hit a lot further and more praise for pitcher Josh Reagan. The junior often than if you throw 88,” Reagan said. worked hard over the offseason and came “It just helps everything when your fastball into the spring an entirely is harder.” different player. According It took a lot of hard work to Holbrook, Reagan greatly from Reagan to improve as increased his velocity and he did, but something he came into the year touching was more than willing to do. 88 miles per hour on the “I just stayed the course,” radar gun after throwing in Reagan said. “Got in the the low 80s for the first two weight room, perfected my All Gamecock baseball years of his career. mechanics. I obviously have coverage sponsored by That is a huge difference a long way to go, but I’m DiPrato’s for a pitcher and Reagan is excited.”

Reagan has shown flashes of brilliance during his first two years as a Gamecock and his role greatly expanded with the team last year. The Lexington native pitched in 15 games with seven starts last season and had a 2-2 record to go with a 4.72 ERA. Reagan had a good strikeout rate, recording 44 strikeouts in 47.2 innings pitched. His best moment came in a victory over Penn State where he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and finished with 6.2 scoreless innings pitched. As a freshman, Reagan had a sparkling 0.36 ERA in 25.1 innings pitched on the year. Reagan, just like everyone else on the team, is ready to get a new season started. The Gamecocks went 32-25 last season

and missed out on the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999. Now an upperclassmen, Reagan has been around long enough to notice a difference in the mentality of this year’s team. “We have so much chemistry this year that it’s unbelievable,” Reagan said. “In the locker room and the weight room, everyone is working hard, everybody is getting their extra reps in and everybody goofs off. We’re having a good time out here.” The Gamecocks are focused to not let this year end like last season and Reagan is hoping to play a big role in the turnaround. “Everybody knows what they need to do and everybody is searching for this angle and I think in years past, maybe it wasn’t like that as much as it should’ve been,” Reagan said.


Spurs & Feathers • 21

February 24, 2016

Anderson: ‘I think we’re going to be a different team this spring’

by kyle heck Reporter

photo of anderson by allen sharpe

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Coming out of the fall, South Carolina women’s golf head coach Kalen Anderson wanted the bottom part of her lineup to become more consistent. She was extremely happy with her top two golfers in Katelyn Dambaugh and Sarah Schmelzel, but the other golfers had their ups and downs during the fall and that affected the Gamecocks during their events. With spring play recently starting up, Anderson said she is in a much more comfortable position. Her team knew what they had to do over the offseason to become better golfers and they came back after the winter break ready to go. “That is something we talked about going into the offseason and a lot of it relies on them to be proactive on their own with some of the NCAA rules,” Anderson said. “They came back very strong and very much ready to go and I was extremely pleased. That conto the 2015 European Ladies’ team championship, earned medalist honors sistency at that three and four spot is at the 2014 ANNIKA Invitational Eugoing to be so big moving forward. I think they understand that and they’ve rope and was ranked No. 1 in the 2014 European Girls’ U-18 rankings. reacted to it and I’m proud of them.” “Marion is only going to get better,” Anderson was happy with the way Anderson said. “She can chip and putt golfers like junior Jia Xin Yang and Ainhoa Olarra came back after the fall better than anybody that I’ve seen in and in addition, the Gamecocks added a long time. We’re working with her golf swing a little bit and she’s going two talented golfers for the spring to pick up some speed and some length season. Marianna Monaco is a junior transfer from nearby Newberry College with time. But her experience internationally, you can’t teach that. That’s who was named South Atlantic Conwhat we look for and that’s what we ference freshman of the year before love.” picking up SAC player of the year her While Veysseyre has already made sophomore season. “Marianna is a huge, raw talent,” An- an impact in the lineup this spring, Anderson said both golfers should derson said. “She hits it I’d say in the have an impact this season. Their adtop one percent of female golfers I’ve seen, especially in college. She has the ditions will improve the depth and ability to do great things. We’re pretty competitiveness for a team that was on the small side, numbers wise, during excited about being able to work with the fall. her and to help her and see where we Dambaugh and Schmelzel will still be can take that because I think she could the leaders for the Gamecocks, howbe a pretty big contribution to what ever. After a strong fall, Anderson is we’re doing here.” looking forward to more The other newcomer great things from the is Marion Veysseyre, a duo in the spring. freshman from France “Our senior Sarah has who was one of the best basically played every amateurs in all of Europe. She helped lead All Gamecock golf coverage event except when she the French national team sponsored by Jeffers-McGill was injured and she

works her tail off and is very consistent for us,” Anderson said. “Then you have Katelyn, who’s playing unbelievably well. She’s going to have a really exciting spring I would have to say.” After the fall didn’t necessarily go how the Gamecocks wanted it to go, it’s safe to say that they were ready to get action started at the Florida State Match-Up as they finished second at their spring-opening event. “It was a long and short offseason, but for the most part it was a long offseason,” Anderson said. “I’m very encouraged and very excited with the work that several of them have done because I think we’re going to be a different team this spring. I think our foundation and our starting point is so different than where we were in the fall that it’s just going to create a lot of momentum for us and I’m excited about that and excited to get going and see where we’re going to go with it.”

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22 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

2001 straight: Fan completes odyssey of wearing Gamecock shirt by brian hand Executive Editor It started on Aug. 15, 2010. At the beginning, South Carolina fan Seth Forrester commenced his incredible undertaking with no idea of how long it would go into the future. It just seemed like a cool idea. Almost three years into the process, Forrester’s friend and fellow huge Gamecock fan Jim Thompson gave him the idea that it could be much bigger than he had ever envisioned. The question by Thompson was simple: “How long has it been since you haven’t worn a Gamecock shirt?” “I said maybe 1,000 days,” Forrester said. It was then Thompson made sure that Forrester continued the streak by using a number that meant a great deal to Gamecock fans everywhere. “You’re going to do 2,001,” Thompson said. “That kind of stuck and it’s just been every day since then,” Forrester said. 2001 days is almost five and a half years and Forrester said it really just became a labor of love that even before that important Aug. 15, 2010, day had really started long before. “I guess one day prior to me deciding I am going to do this and see how long it goes, my wife asked me, ‘do you own anything else? Over the course of dating and everything else, your closet has four colors - white, black, garnet and grey,’” Forrester recalled of his wife’s understanding of his passion. Well, really his wife has a unique understanding and appreciation of his Gamecock love, but really to use Steve Spurrier’s words she also realizes “It is what it is.” “My wife calls it a sickness,” Forrester joked. To those wondering how all of this could even be possible, Forrester assures that yes, he has worn a Gamecock shirt to just about anywhere and everywhere that you can think about. “To church I am very active and I will wear a button down polo shirt,” Forrester said. “I’ve worn it to funerals, weddings, you name it, I’ve done it. For my brother’s graduation, I wore a Carolina button down with a tie. And I always wear a Gamecock watch.” Forrester notes that his drawers and closest are pretty much all Gamecock. “I’m probably with shirts, jerseys, t-shirts and polos, I’m probably easily at the 100 mark.” Forrester said.

submitted photo

To make sure that he completed the 2,001 days wearing a Gamecock shirt, Forrester created a support group to help him along the way. “I take a picture and text it to a group of my buddies every day,” Forrester said on day 1,990 of wearing a Gamecock shirt. He knows that some may see this as a little too much, but he also knows that to more though it is seen as true dedication. In fact, Forrester undertook this stretch

in the Upstate of South Carolina where he works in Greenville as a medical recruiter at Connexis Search Group. His efforts have even been noticed by fans of the school in the Upstate. “Basically, what I’ve gotten from even a lot of Clemson people is that you’re the most dedicated Gamecock fan I’ve ever seen,” Forrester said. Forrester officially completed his impressive streak of wearing a Gamecock shirt for

2,001 straight days on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Asked on day No. 1,990 how he would celebrate completing the streak, Forrester said, “I don’t even know what I’m going to do after I complete it. I have no clue.” As one would expect, Forrester celebrated day No. 2,002 by doing exactly what he had done for the 2,001 days before - he wore a Gamecock shirt. “At this point, it’s so much a part of my DNA, I’ll never stop,” Forrester said.


Spurs & Feathers • 23

February 24, 2016

Moritz on Gamecock beach volleyball: ‘We’re fired up’ by brian hand Executive Editor

getting ready for the season. It’s awesome. On a tournament-to-tournament basis, you It’s an exciting time for South Carolina never know what you’re going to get, so for us adaptability is huge and to be able to beach volleyball with the Gamecocks set prepare for everything, that’s tremendous. to open year No. 3 as a program on Friday, I think the coaches love it a little bit more March 4, in Tempe, Arizona. (than the student-athletes) just because it’s As year No. 3 commences, beach volleynot ideal and perfect all the time, but it’s ball is now fun to put the girls in that situation.” an official Despite returning a wealth of talent, the NCAA Gamecocks also lost some solid programsport and starting players. the GameThe fledgling program also brought in cocks are some players that they will help immedinow in a All Gamecock ately. conferAs one would expect, while excited, ence in the beach volleyball coverage sponsored by James W. Moritz also knows the Gamecocks have a Coastal great deal to do to continue their ascension Smith Real Estate Co. Collegiate up the beach volleyball ranks in year three. Sports As“I think we still have a lot to learn … but sociation. we’re really excited about the new talent In addition, South Carolina returns 11 and to see how that all develops and comes players from a 14-7 season in 2015 and the Gamecocks are preseason ranked No. 17 photo by allen sharpe together,” Moritz said. South Carolina beach volleyball will by DiG Magazine. host their first on-campus tournament at South Carolina head coach Moritz Moritz possible,” Moritz said. “We try to quiet the lands, but Moritz thinks that will only the world-class Wheeler Beach facility on is not focused on any of that though as like noise and focus on the volleyball aspect make the Gamecocks better as they start Saturday, March 12 and Sunday, March always he is making sure his team is just because while some of those things are their upcoming campaign. focused on getting better every single day. tied into our goals, it always comes back to “We’re fired up,” Moritz said. “We’re out 13 with the Gamecock Challenge. It is the “We try to minimize that (excitement of every day, one day at a time.” in the sand, the wind, the cold and the next first of three consecutive home tournaments for the Gamecocks. new conference, NCAA sport) as much as It’s been an unusual winter in the Midday it’s beautiful and gorgeous and we’re

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24 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

Norwood, DiMarco highlight Atlanta Gamecock Club meeting by kyle heck Reporter

The Atlanta Gamecock Club had two very special guests at its annual recruiting recap meeting on Monday, Feb. 8. Former Gamecock football greats Eric Norwood and Patrick DiMarco joined Gamecock Central’s Wes Mitchell to speak to those in attendance about the new signing class and give a behind-the-scenes look into the world of recruiting. With the excitement of the new era of Will Muschamp and the fact that two former players were in attendance, there was a great turnout with between 55 and 65 people showing up for the event. “The people that were there truly enjoyed hearing their points of view from being a former athlete and what it takes and what the recruiting process is really like from the other side,” Atlanta Gamecock Club president Michele Beagle said. “They were also very happy to hear Wes Mitchell break down the 2016 signing class and talk about how hard coach Muschamp and his staff (are working) and how much ground they covered in such a short time.” Norwood, who played two years for the Carolina Panthers and currently plays in the Canadian Football League, added his thoughts and views on what Mitchell was saying about this year’s recruiting class. While Beagle was a student at South Carolina, she tutored Norwood and was glad to get to see him again. “We always laugh that he likes to hang out with me now, but he didn’t like me very much when he was in school when I was making him do his homework,” Beagle said. DiMarco, who currently plays for the Atlanta Falcons, also gave a unique view about his journey through the recruiting process when he was an overlooked two-star prospect. After a stellar career at South Carolina, DiMarco has been a force throughout his four-year NFL career and just returned from his first Pro Bowl in Hawaii. “His point was that you can’t always judge an athlete from the number of stars by their name,” Beagle said. Beagle also added that the excitement for the future of Gamecock football is very high with what Muschamp has been able to do on the recruiting trail in a short amount of time.

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The future also appears bright for the Atlanta Gamecock Club, thanks to the support of the loyal Gamecock fans in the area. Beagle said the club has several events planned in the spring, including one on April 26 where the club goes to an Atlanta Braves-Boston Red Sox game to cheer on Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., a former South Carolina baseball star. The Atlanta Gamecock Club is also hoping that

one or more of the football coaches will be able to make a trip over for an event later in the spring. Beagle and the rest of the members in Atlanta say they are just trying to show their Gamecock pride. With Atlanta being a huge city, schools like Auburn, Alabama and Georgia have big presences in the city and Beagle and company want South Carolina to have one as well.

With the amount of success several athletic teams on campus are having right now, there has never been a better time to showcase the South Carolina pride. “Our whole athletic department as a whole is doing very well and for anyone that is an alumni, booster, fan, anything, they have to stop and think that there is good things happening right now at South Carolina,” Beagle concluded.


February 24, 2016

Spurs & Feathers • 25

photo by allen sharpe

Hard work has Schmidt as top gun in Gamecock rotation by kyle heck Reporter

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a whole, mentally and physically. Even my hard for spots,” Schmidt said. “It’s good belence between all of us. I think it’s good that freshman year coming in and having the incause it creates this competition in the locker we have all these young guys hungry to win nings I did, it helped mold me for where I am room and dugout. It’s bringing a lot of excel- and play. We’re ready to get after it this year.” All throughout preseason practice leading right now and mentally prepare me for where up to South Carolina’s opener with Albany, I am for this year.” Stadium Village Lofts head coach Chad Holbrook has made it clear Schmidt came on as a freshman and made Adjacent William Brice Stadium that there is one pitcher who has separated 18 appearances, including 10 starts. He himself from all the other guys. ended with a 2-2 record and 4.81 ERA, but That pitcher is Clarke Schmidt. the Georgia native showed great stuff, strikThe sophomore had a great fall and spring ing out 55 batters in 58 innings pitched. On and that, coupled with his impressive freshOpening Day 2016, he fanned six in six inman year, has Schmidt in line to lead the nings pitched to capture the win in South Gamecocks into the season as the Friday Carolina’s 10-1 win over Albany. night starter. Getting the experience of pitching against “Everyone has something to prove, but I teams like LSU and Vanderbilt last year was feel like that’s been my goal from the begin- invaluable experience for Schmidt. After ning of the year,” Schmidt said of the Friday growing through situations like those, the spot. “That’s the spot I wanted to have. I’m sophomore doesn’t feel the pressure he did as going to continue to work as hard as I can to a first-year player. get that spot and if I can do whatever I can do “Everyone knows that if you’re on the to win that, I’m going to do whatever I can weekend, you just have to go out there and do.” give your team a chance to win,” Schmidt Priced to sell at $159,900! As it turned out, it took a lot of work in the said. “Last year, I felt like when I was a Just in time for football season, enjoy this gated and secured community! Enjoy 2 private offseason for Schmidt to be able to come in starter that was my goal every time I went out parking spaces leading to the front porch of Unit 38. This unit has 14 ft. ceilings and an open and win the spot and become the improved there.” concept gathering room and kitchen with granite, a stainless refrigerator, microwave, range, pitcher he is. As with most of the guys on the team, dishwasher, stackable washer and dryer. This freshly painted 2 Bedroom, 2 full bath unit has “One of my goals in the Schmidt senses a different new Gamecock Garnet carpet, and an observation deck. offseason was getting some feel about the Gamecocks strength in my legs and workheading into the 2016 season. Cameron Hartley, Realtor® ing on really just polishing With a great mix of new (803) 206-0601 myself as a pitcher consisplayers and returning guys, chartley@cbunited.com tently and mechanics-wise,” there is a lot more competimhart5555@aol.com Schmidt said. “I worked a lot tion for spots across the Preview online at www.cbunited.com/ on mechanics. I had a really board, which helps out the 1711 Gervais St. cameronhartley or call today All Gamecock baseball good offseason and I feel like team overall. Columbia, SC 29201 coverage sponsored by the whole offseason I was “We have young kids that for a private showing. other units also available DiPrato’s out to just improve myself as have really been working www.stadiumvillagelofts.net


26 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

McDonald on his Gamecock men’s golf team: ‘I love this team’ by brian hand Executive Editor

Bill McDonald has built the South Carolina men’s golf program into one of the top programs in all of college golf. The Gamecocks under McDonald’s tutelage have made seven NCAA regional appearances and three straight NCAA Championship appearances. Last year, the Gamecocks were a No. 1 seed at the NCAA Bremerton Regional. Presently in the top-20 in the country, McDonald and the Gamecocks started the spring portion of their season with a third place finish at the AllAmerican Intercollegiate in Humble, Texas. All Gamecock golf coverage During sponsored by Jeffers-McGill the fall of 2015, South Carolina finished in the top-6 in four of their five tournaments and won their second straight Camden Collegiate Invitational. Last year, South Carolina put together an incredible year in total, but in particular spring, and McDonald likes where the Gamecocks are entering the spring. “I feel really good,” McDonald said. “I think we had a very productive fall. I got to play a lot of my freshmen and I think my two studs in (seniors) Will Starke and Matt NeSmith were able to figure out a lot of things as far as trying some new equipment.” As South Carolina opens the spring of 2016, McDonald feels like his players have come back ready to continue to keep the Gamecocks among the elite nationally. “You always hold your breathe over the break between Thanksgiving and the middle of January and they’ve all come back looking sharp and really motivated,” McDonald said. “I just love this team. The three seniors I have in Sean Kelly, Will Starke and Matt NeSmith are like sons to me. They’ve been such a big part of the program. I’m really looking forward to this spring.” As always, McDonald has put together a tough slate for the Gamecocks in the spring. “We’re going to try to give them the best competition we possibly can at a variety of different styles of golf courses, which is always important because you never know what you’re going to get at (NCAA) regionals,” McDonald said. “We’re going to try and peak at SECs and into the postseason. I think that’s what this team really wants to do is really make their mark in the postseason.”

photo of Mcdonald with nesmith by allen sharpe


Spurs & Feathers • 27

February 24, 2016

Giving back comes easily for South Carolina’s Bittner and Hassler by brad muller South Carolina Director of Content

Olivia Hassler and Bobby Bittner are South Carolina’s nominees for the 2016 Brad Davis Southeastern Conference Community Service Leaders of the Year, and giving back is just part of their nature. The prestigious award recognizes studentathletes for their commitment to service, leadership qualities, academic achievement and athletic participation, but Hassler and Bittner are happy to do their part without being formally recognized. “It’s nice to be recognized for being prominent in your community and that people recognize that you take giving back very seriously,” said Hassler, a senior on the track and field team, who, in addition to being among the leading South Carolina studentathletes with 240 community service hours last semester alone, has made it her mission to spread awareness about domestic violence as a result of her own experiences. “It’s quite an honor, and I didn’t expect it,” said Bittner, a senior on the swimming “Olivia is special,” Nelson said. “Much and diving team. “I love doing community has been written and said about her comservice, and I definitely do not do it to get mitment to empowering men and women an award. It’s not about the reward. It’s just about domestic abuse. Beyond that, she is about doing what I like to do. I just serve oth- someone who is among the first phone calls ers because it’s what I’m supposed to do. It’s I make when I need someone to go out and who I am. It makes me feel good inside to volunteer. Whether it is visiting a hospital or know that someone else is benefitting from helping with any service event at places like something I’m doing.” Harvest Hope Food Bank or Ronald McDonThe award is named for former SEC asald House, where she is on a first-name basis sociate commissioner Brad Davis, who sucwith the staff, she just always gets it. cumbed to cancer on March 2, 2006. He had “Bobby is someone who seeks no glory been a member of the SEC staff since 1988. in his community service efforts. He would “I love the fact that this is a award that rec- do it without any award being involved. He ognizes student-athletes specifically for their really enjoys giving back. He has been a community outreach efforts,” said Erica Nel- mentor at Catawba Trail Elementary School, son, South Carolina’s Director of Life Skills and he is someone who really loves being in and Community Outreach. “This award a position to give back to the community. He recognizes their commitment to the commu- has also helped me get a lot of other members nity. That’s important to us as an institution. of his team involved.” So I’m happy that it is recognized like this Both Bittner and Hassler have been named across the conference.” to the SEC Academic Honor Roll in their Each of the 14 schools in the league nomirespective careers. Hassler was also the 2015 nates a male and female student-athlete, and Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievethose nominees receive a $5,000 post gradu- ment Award recipient, which is given to ate scholarship. One male and student-athletes who have one female winner will be overcome great personal, selected from that group by a academic, or emotional odds committee of Faculty Athletto achieve academic success ics Representatives from the while also competing in colAll Gamecock swimming and lege athletics, after sharing SEC’s universities and will diving coverage receive a $10,000 post-gradher story as a victim of dosponsored by Aquarian uate scholarship, provided by mestic abuse. Pools of Columbia the SEC. “I’m still doing speaking

engagements and speaking to people about it,” Hassler said. “A lot of people know me for that story, but now people will know me for community service. I think it encourages other people who go through that type of situation to reach out and find another outlet.” Community service is required in some fashion for all South Carolina student-athletes, but Bittner and Hassler point out that it’s an important part of the culture within their respective teams and the athletics department as a whole. “We’re always willing to go out and do something for others,” Bittner said. “(Swimming and Diving) Coach (McGee) Moody provides a lot of leadership and knows a lot of people in the community. After the floods, he was really out there telling us that we needed to round up as many people as we could to help other people. I see it as something we are meant to do.” Community service efforts can range from opportunities at Transitions Homeless Recovery Center, Special Olympics, Harvest Hope Food Bank, or serving as mentors for children in local elementary schools. “I think community service and working with kids is important because we were in their shoes once,” Hassler said. “I work a lot in the elementary schools. For kids to see someone who can be a role model, especially a student-athlete, can be huge. Making a difference in one kid’s life is something I can really do, and is something I’d be very

proud of. At the community level, these are the people that support us at our games and events, so when they see us out there helping others, maybe it can inspire them to help other people too.” Hassler and Bittner agree that while they hope they are making an impact, they do get something out of their efforts as well. “It doesn’t matter who the person is,” Bittner said. “If I can make in impact on them, that makes me feel comforted inside. Whether it’s an eight year old kid I’m helping with a math problem, or doing something with an elderly person who just wants to come in and eat dinner at the homeless shelter, it’s all rewarding to know I made someone feel good.” “The kids always teach me something,” Hassler laughed. “It’s humbling to know how you are perceived by others, especially children. They are very honest in their opinions. You’re a student-athlete, but you’re just a regular person, too.” The SEC will announce the overall winners later this spring, but regardless of whether their name is called, Bittner and Hassler already have plans to keep giving back. “As soon as SEC (Championships) are over, I already have three things lined up,” Bittner said. “I’m going out to a fish hatchery in Cayce. I will also be mentoring at Catawba Trail Elementary School again, and of course I’ll be at Transitions at least twice per month.”


28 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

Muschamp must follow the blueprint Now that signing day has passed and the initial excitement of new football coach Will Muschamp arriving in Columbia to become the 34th head football coach of the Gamecocks has subsided a little it is time to get to work. With spring practice just a few weeks away, there is plenty of work to do in order to find the key components of Bill Gunter the football roster Contributing to start the comeWriter back from a 3-9 season to becoming a contender in the SEC. If Muschamp wanted a blueprint for how to get the Gamecocks back to the top of the SEC Eastern Division and contend for conference championships, there is really no better place to look than at how the coaches of the Gamecocks basketball programs got them there. South Carolina’s basketball programs entered this week riding exciting highs. The women’s team clinched the SEC regular-season championship outright while the men’s program has 20 regular-season wins for just the second time in 15 years and is in the thick of the conference championship hunt. Muschamp possesses a lot of the exact same traits that are seen in Dawn Staley and Frank Martin and those traits are what have helped get the basketball programs over the hump and into both league and national contenders. For Martin and Staley, they are both energetic personalities that excel in recruiting prospects to their respective programs. The same reputation precedes Muschamp as he enters his Gamecocks head football coaching position as he is a relentless recruiter known for his ability to build relationships and then capitalize on them come National Signing Day. Just the same as Staley and Martin, Muschamp is an intense personality on the sidelines. Not afraid to show emotion whether it is excitement in a play or disappointment when something goes wrong. That type of passionate coaching style has endured Staley and Martin to their players and brought life and excitement to Colonial Life Arena. Williams-Brice Stadium may never be at a loss for life and excitement but having a coach on the sideline who is going to be fired up for the good and the bad is always a good thing. More importantly than the traits though, Staley and Martin showed that coaching at South Carolina, for programs that were expe-

photo by allen sharpe

riencing down years, you simply cannot forgo you beliefs and ideas when building your program. For Staley and Martin, success did not come overnight and was not instantaneous. Both basketball coaches believed in strong defense and recruiting the right players, they did not take shortcuts and change their mind about how the game should be played. Muschamp must follow the same path as he builds his own version of South Carolina football and more importantly the Gamecock Nation must be patient with him as this happens. One reason that Staley and Martin have been successful is because not only the administration but the fan base has been patient with them as they found the right pieces to the puzzle. This can be tough in the modern era of coaching as programs expect results on their investment within a short time frame.

Both Martin and Staley had their moments early on where it was evident that if given time they would succeed in Columbia and build programs that made the Gamecock fans and administration proud but once again, they needed to be given the proper amount of time to let the product develop. And that brings me back to the main point of this article, that both coaches did not compromise their beliefs and confidence for a quick fix just because that is the expectation in today’s modern era. Muschamp will need to do the same thing regardless of what the early results may end up being. There are sure to be doubters and people that exalt should the Gamecocks’ new football coach not succeed right out of the box but the honest truth is this football program needs a little bit of rebuilding and is not ready to contend for an SEC Championship

on day one. I firmly believe that Muschamp’s time as head coach of the Florida Gators has indeed helped him become a better coach and have a better understanding of how to run a program. Still, as we draw closer to spring practice and the true dawn of a new era in Gamecock football, I believe it would be wise if Muschamp followed the blueprint of his teammates at the University and trust his own system, work at his own pace and build his own program without cutting the corners for a quick fix. This will require patience but as we have seen from Dawn Staley and Frank Martin, if given time and allowed to do their work, the formula generally will succeed and I believe that will once again ring true for Will Muschamp if he chooses to follow that path.


Spurs & Feathers • 29

February 24, 2016

Gary Gregor created lifelong bonds at South Carolina by kyle heck Reporter

me in additional ways.” Gregor was speaking at the annual Legends Reception on Friday, Jan. 29, in the Frank McWhen people think about the South Carolina Guire room at Colonial Life Arena. For him, basketball glory days, they think about the the annual event is one of the things he looks 1971 ACC tournament championship, 20-win forward to most since it means he gets to catch seasons and regular trips to the NCAA tourup with other former greats. nament under legendary head coach Frank “It brings back a lot of memories,” Gregor McGuire. stated. However, all of that probably wouldn’t have Gregor had an outstanding career with the happened without players like Gary Gregor, garnet and black, playing in 1965 and 1967-68 who originally came to South Carolina under while averaging 15.6 points and 12.6 rebounds the impression that he was going to play for per game for his career. He led the ACC in reChuck Noe. However, McGuire took over the bounding and earned all-conference honors in reins and coached Gregor his final three years 1967 and 1968. He was the eighth overall pick in college. in the NBA Draft following his senior year by Those three years turned out to be highly the Phoenix Suns and went on to have a proproductive for Gregor and he helped lay the ductive professional career. foundation at the beginning of the McGuire The McGuire teams that Gregor was on had era for the future teams that would have wild a lot of success, winning 20 games and chalsuccess. lenging for ACC champion“Frank was a different kind ships. However, what Gregor of coach,” Gregor said. “He remembers most is the bond he coached everybody from New created with the University and York. I was from West Virhis teammates. ginia. Frank would have never “As a person, it molded me,” recruited me, but when I was reGregor said of his time at South cruited here I was like 6-foot-5, Carolina. “I spent time here and All Gamecock basketball I met some great people here. 195 pounds and I finished up coverage sponsored by The reason I moved back here at 6-foot-5, 245, so it was great Yesterdays playing for Frank. He developed nine years ago was because of

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the feeling that I had some 45 years before. It’s great to be back and see all the people.” As one would imagine, Gregor has immensely enjoyed watching what Frank Martin has done with the basketball program. The Gamecocks have consistently gotten better under the former Kansas State head coach and this year, they are near the top of the SEC and consistently in the national rankings. “Frank has recruited top-notch players and Frank has got them in a system that he has

developed himself and he loves,” Gregor said. “It’s just unbelievable. You could see it coming a little bit more each year, which is amazing. And now you’re seeing it with three seniors that came in with him. I am so happy Frank has done the job he’s done.” When Martin first arrived, there wasn’t a weekend set aside every year for former greats to come back, see old teammates and be recognized for what they did at South Carolina. That quickly changed and Gregor appreciates the dedication that Martin has shown to former players. “The (current) players will be here and they’ll see all these people coming back and they’ll know that there is a home here for them if they want to come back,” Gregor said. “That’s the biggest thing.” Gregor remains in close contact with his former teammates and talks to them throughout the year. The chance every year to come back and relive old memories is one that he will always cherish. “There’s a lot of great memories and they’re memories of the teams I played on and the guys I played with,” Gregor said. “I can tell you where every kid is today that came to South Carolina when I was a freshman that was a freshman with me. We’ve stayed close, we all talk, we all email, it’s just a great feeling.”

Sessions on #SCTop10: ‘Shout out to Gamecock Nation on that one’ by brian hand Executive Editor

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30 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

Unique bond between Petravicius and two current Gamecocks by brian hand Executive Editor

place finish in the Beijing Olympics. Unknown to Petravicius, it was during his time playing professionally and with the LithuPrior to the start of the 2015-16 season, South anian national team that two future Gamecocks Carolina’s Laimonas Chatkevicius and Mindwere carefully paying attention to his career. augas Kacinas mentioned that one of their idols In fact, the 6-foot-11 Chatekivicius said that growing up was Marius Petravicius. Petravicius was “a big that I actually looked at The now 36-year-old Petravicius spent 10 as a style of play.” seasons playing professionally after a solid colStill, Chatkevicius had no idea that the lege career with the Gamecocks that included “big” that he was looking up to had actually 38 games scoring in double figures and five once starred at the institution where he would career double-doubles. choose to play college basketball. The 6-foot-10 center was a star at the pro“Once I signed here, I learned he played here fessional level where in 2004 he was named and I was like, ‘that’s awesome,’” Chatkevicius the FIBA Europe Cup Final Four MVP in said. 2004. The two-time Lithuanian On Friday, Jan. 29, in the Basketball League (Lietuvos Frank McGuire room at the krepšinio lyga) all-star was also Colonial Life Arena, the curthe Latvian League Finals MVP rent Gamecock Lithuanian duo in 2006 and the Eurocup Finals had the unique opportunity to MVP in 2009. meet one of their idols as part During his time playing proof the annual “Legends Weekfessionally, Petravicius was also end” where former Gamecock All Gamecock basketball basketball greats come back to a member of the Lithuanian coverage sponsored by campus. national team where in 2008 he Yesterdays helped lead Lithuania to a fourth Petravicius was excited to be

photo by jenny dilworth

back on the South Carolina campus in support of a men’s basketball program that he still keeps up with to this day. “It feels great (to be back),” Petravicius said. “I’ve been back since I’ve played a few times, but this is the first time during the season. It’s a different feel, but it’s great.” Currently living in Tucson, Arizona, Petravicius talked extensively with Chatkevicius and Kacinas over the course of “Legends Weekend,” which also included an appearance at the Columbia Tip-Off Club the morning of Sat-

urday, Jan. 30, and then taking in South Carolina’s 78-64 win over Alabama that evening. Petravicius was thrilled that the two current Gamecock Lithuanian standouts looked up to him, particularly since his time at South Carolina is something he holds dear. “I had a great time when I was playing here,” Petravicius said. “It was a great experience with a lot of great people and I still keep in touch with them. It was just a great experience all over.” South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin really appreciated Petravicius’ time talking with his two Lithuanian seniors as they prepare after this season to enter the next stage of their life. With his background, Martin knows this type of mentorship was invaluable. “They’ve both got a decision to make here pretty soon,” Martin said. “Do they stay here or try to play professionally back home?” One thing is for sure though after talking with all three, they all have the same feeling about the University of South Carolina. “You’re proud being a Gamecock,” Petravicius said.

Lithuanian man crosses the country to watch Gamecock duo by kyle heck Reporter When Tadas Dabsys heard that there were two Lithuanian players coming to play basketball for South Carolina, he had to come watch at least one game a year. So what if he lived all the way out in California? The distance didn’t matter to Dabsys. He just wanted to come and watch his fellow Lithuanians play for the Gamecocks. Although Dabsys was born and raised in Los Angeles, his parents are from Lithuania and he became enveloped in the culture at a young age and that hasn’t changed over the years. “I speak, read, write, sing, and dance Lithuanian,” Dabsys said. “My mom lives here now and I go back at least once a year to Lithuania to visit.” Because of some friends and family and having visited Columbia for business over the years, Dabsys was already familiar with South Carolina basketball and had kept up with the team. In 2012, when Laimonas Chatkevicius and Mindaugas

photo by kyle heck

Kacinas, both Lithuanians, joined the Gamecocks as freshmen, there probably wasn’t anyone more excited than Dabsys. That year, he crossed the country to Columbia to start a tradition that has lasted four years. “I came out, I sat right (behind the back-

board) and was waving a Lithuanian flag and cheering them on,” Dabsys said. “It’s nice to see them throughout their whole career here.” On Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, Dabsys came out to a sold-out Colonial Life Arena to watch the two now-seniors for what could be the last time. After South Carolina knocked off Alabama by a score of 78-64, Dabsys had the chance to meet the two Lithuanians for the first time in person, taking pictures with the two while holding a Lithuanian flag. “It’s bittersweet,” Dabsys said. “I’m still hoping I can come out to at least one more game. It’s challenging to come out here, but I’m really going to try and come out to at least one more game. I’m wishing them the best in their senior season.” So far, both players are having tremendous senior seasons in helping the Gamecocks get to 20-plus wins on the season. Both are regular starters and are entirely different players than when they first stepped on campus. Dabsys has seen the growth right from the beginning and is extremely proud of

his countrymen. He remembers watching them as freshmen when they were virtually all skin and bones. “They were just kids,” Dabsys said of that first year. “They weren’t familiar with the culture. They had to be scared and then here they are engulfed in everything. That first game was definitely the most memorable game.” When Chatkevicius and Kacinas were freshmen, the Gamecocks were a team as a whole that was rebuilding in the early stages of head coach Frank Martin’s tenure. However, now South Carolina is a nationally-ranked program that looks poised to head back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in over a decade. The two Lithuanians that Dabsys has followed for four years have been a big part of that rise. “They need to be ranked a little higher,” Dabsys quipped. If it’s up to Dabsys, you’ll see his Lithuanian flag waving behind the backboard of a South Carolina game at least one more time before Chatkevicius and Kacinas hang up the garnet and black uniforms.


Spurs & Feathers • 31

February 24, 2016

What a time for South Carolina basketball I have reminisced in this column many times of things of the past. One of my favorite memories was going to the Carolina Coliseum in the early days. The sights, the sounds, the smells all remain from my childhood when I would go with my dad and uncle and absorb those games in the early 70s. By the time I got to college, the excitement had waned, though there were still Ed Girardeau memorable times. Contributing Coach McGuire’s Editor final seasons and Zam Fredrick’s season leading the nation in scoring were still pretty good. The late 90s teams under Eddie Fogler brought back the excitement at least for a couple of years. These were heady times and the building seemed to be alive by itself. It has been a long time coming for the Colonial Life Arena. There have been some pretty decent games and excitement over the years, but it all paled in comparison to the days of old. That was until Monday, February 8, 2016. That night the number one team in the nation, the Connecticut Huskies, came to town to take on the number two team in the nation, the South Carolina women’s basketball team. That’s not to say there have not been packed houses and sellouts in the past, but the excitethe team a glimpse of what it’s going to take to ment level pre-game has not been to this level. win the National Championship. It won’t be easy, First there was the crowd outside. Traffic in all but I have no doubt the women will be there. directions with people all over the sidewalks Coach Staley’s team bounced back and beat with a line coming out the door for the students ranked Florida at home and then their old nemthat wrapped around the building. esis Tennessee on the road to clinch another Inside the buzz on the concourse was incredSEC regular-season championship. It would take ible. Long lines stretched at the concessions. The some incredible upset to keep the Gamecocks atmosphere brought the memories of the past, from being a number one seed and hosting. particularly the early 70s, rushing back. The Look for USC to be in the Final Four again and sights, the sounds, the smells were all back. take another shot at the Huskies. They will know I stood on the concourse level in the pre-game. what to expect. The sound coming from inside the building was Meanwhile, the men have battled through just alluring. It was hard to just stand there and a tough spot in their season. South Carolina not go rushing in. It beckoned that something started a two-week run that I thought would go special was happening. a long way in determining the season. Trips to Dawn Staley is to be congratulated. Who ever Georgia and #8 Texas A&M followed by home thought it could be like this? dates with LSU and Kentucky When South Carolina scored its setup as the toughest stretch of first basket, the roar was deafthe season. ening. The old days were now. I was concerned that two road Finally, the CLA was notching losses could have resulted in its own identity, for the young lost confidence and the first two and the old. losses at home this season. After The game, as we all know, did a tremendous start, a 0-4 stretch All Gamecock basketball could have been disastrous. not go the Gamecocks’ way. UConn is just that good. Sure it’s coverage sponsored by It started out bad enough with a Yesterdays a little deflating but it does give lopsided loss to a mediocre Geor-

photo by allen sharpe

gia team, but the team bounced back and beat a very good Aggie team. Then with freshman sensation Ben Simmons and LSU on a roll and in first place in the SEC, the Gamecocks lead most of the way and won going away. It was a good crowd but by no means was the same atmosphere as the women’s game on the previous Monday. In fact, Coach Martin getting up and demonstratively waving his arms from the bench whipped the crowd into frenzy. The fans responded and the Gamecocks put the Tigers away. The Kentucky game is different. Yes, it was a sellout and yes, first place was on the line. The atmosphere was good in the pre-game, however, until the day comes that so many Kentucky fans are not inside our building, it will never be the same. Kentucky hit their first shot and you knew the Wildcats were there. By the end, it might as well have been Kentucky’s homecourt. They showed why they are still the team in which the SEC men’s championship must run through. That is not an indictment of Gamecock Nation in any way. It’s more of a respect to Kentucky and their fan base. They run far and wide and show up in every venue where tickets are available.

The day will come when South Carolina buys all the season tickets and there won’t be tickets available to Kentucky. They will still be there. There were UConn fans in the house, too, but they were few and far between. Frank Martin is to be congratulated as well. This has not been an easy road, but the men are getting there. The freshmen class is very good and you can see them getting better each and every game. The future is bright! And the present isn’t so bad either. The team took one on the chin on the road at Missouri. It was a game that really good teams don’t lose. We’re not quite there yet. But we’re good and getting better and the rebound win against Florida proved just that. The schedule plays out pretty well and we will win more than we lose which will be around 23 or 24 wins and a winning record in the SEC, one of the best seasons in our history. I would love to see a win in the SEC Tourney. That is doable and would set the stage for a good seed and the first win in the NCAA tournament since 1973. What a time for basketball at South Carolina. Don’t worry about rankings. Just enjoy the sights, the sounds, and the smell of success along with the ride.


32 • Spurs & Feathers

February 24, 2016

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Spurs & Feathers 2016 February digital magazine