JULY 2019 • VOLUME 41 • ISSUE 7
Gamecock DB Jaycee Horn has the …
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purs & Feathers is the official publication of the University of South Carolina Gamecock Club. It is published monthly, 12 times per year and is available to Gamecock Club members as well as additional subscribers. To opt in or subscribe, email subscribe@spursandfeathers. com or call 843-853-7678. The Gamecock Club and Spurs & Feathers thank you for your support. Below is our publication schedule for 2019:
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Editor’s Note: The editorial deadline for this issue was July 11. GAMECOCK CLUB EVENTS It’s A Garnet Girl Thing The Lexington County Gamecock Club will hold its annual women’s brunch Aug. 3 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Country Club of Lexington. Proceeds from the 5th annual fundraiser will go to the South Carolina women’s athletics programs. Reserved seating is $45 and non-reserved $35. Sponsorships are available for $25. Tickets are available through eventbrite.com (search “garnet girl”). For more information, email ggirlbrunch@ yahoo.com.
Got a Gamecock Club event you’d like us to list? Email jowens@ spursandfeathers.com
8 Book Tour
21 Ready, Set gamecock club 5
14 PHOTOS: Celebrating two more national championships
Winning the state: SC wins Palmetto Series again
Gamecocks excel in classroom, community
Moore, Thorne book more than #JustAChicken
Horn following in dad’s star-studded footsteps
Connor Shaw helping kids develop passion for sports
Track & Field 10 Hall fulfills dream as national champion
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Martin energized by returning players, 2019 signees
Gunter: Gamecocks flying under radar in 2019
Girardeau: The year SC beat Alabama, Clemson and Georgia
28 Electrifying Cooke has ‘Wow’ factor
On the cover Jaycee Horn Photo courtesy of SC Athletics Cover Design by Lisa Heinz
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Club team wins national title
26 The next A’ja? Boston already drawing comparisons
13 Back on Track: Frye leading SC back to national prominence
Kingston reloads for promising 2020 season
24 Huge Expectations: No. 1 recruiting class enjoying hype
12 Jonathas finishes strong with another national title
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Carolina Forever: New campaign helps fans share memories
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Gamecocks win fourth straight Palmetto Series over Clemson By Brad Muller | SC Athletics
outh Carolina won the Certified South Carolina Grown Palmetto Series for the fourth year in a row against rival Clemson. The Palmetto Series is an annual points competition between the state’s flagship universities in head-to-head athletic events. Points were also awarded for highest team GPA and for a food drive tackling hunger in their communities. Presented by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, the series fosters a fun competition between the historic rivals while connecting fans with farmers and to food grown in South Carolina. “Whether we root for the Tigers or the Gamecocks, we all root for South Carolina,” Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers said. “The Certified South Carolina Grown Palmetto Series shines a stadium-sized spotlight on our home-state farmers and the
importance of eating locally grown produce and products.” Points were awarded to the winner of each athletic contest between the two schools, including sports in which both teams competed as part of multiple-team tournaments. Points were also awarded for academics and the food drive benefit-
ting Harvest Hope Food Bank and Golden Harvest Food Bank. South Carolina earned nine points for wins in baseball, women’s soccer, volleyball, women’s golf, women’s basketball, men’s and women’s tennis, the food drive and the academic point. Clemson won four points for men’s soccer, women’s cross country, football and
men’s basketball. Each team was awarded half a point for men’s golf due to Clemson winning the first match-up and South Carolina the second. The final score was 9.5 to 4.5. “I am proud of our student-athletes and what they have accomplished,” South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner said. “Their achievements in the classroom, the community and their respective sports will be with them for the rest of their lives. We have an outstanding group of coaches and staff who work hard to help our student-athletes succeed. The SCDA and the Palmetto Series highlight the broad-based success of our programs and the impact our student-athletes make in the community and the classroom.” The Palmetto Series trophy will be presented to South Carolina Sept. 7 during the football home opener against Charleston Southern.
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Carolina Forever campaign allows fans to share memories at Williams-Brice By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor
South Carolina Athletics and the Gamecock Club have launched a new campaign that allows fans to share their favorite Gamecock football memories while supporting South Carolina studentathletes. The Carolina Forever campaign will create a 10-by-15-foot mosaic on the east side of Williams-Brice Stadium that will be made up of photos submitted by donors and supporters of the program. Gamecock fans can add a photo to the mosaic for a $100 donation, which will go toward the purchase of text books for student-athletes. The program is similar to the brick campaign that allowed fans to purchase bricks with personal messages outside the stadium near George Rogers Boulevard. Each $100 donation will allow fans to upload a photo of their favorite moment or fan experience at Williams-Brice Stadium. A $100 donation would purchase at least one text book for a student-athlete. The mosaic, which could feature up to 50,000 images, depicts a South Carolina football player in uniform and will be made up of images of fans, players, game highlights and special moments at Williams-Brice. Fans can also view their photos at CarolinaForeverMosaic.com, an interactive website that allows fans to search for their name and photo. “It’s a loyalty program and a way for us to give back to studentathletes and then, similar to the brick campaign, a way for us to give to all of our Gamecock Club members and beyond something that will be enshrined at WilliamsBrice,” said Kuris Duggan, the 6
assistant director of the Gamecock Club. Duggan helped launch the campaign in May as assistant director of premium seating and events. During football season, the Gamecock Club will have a game day venue on the east side of the stadium where fans can view the mosaic, donate and upload photos on-site. The exhibit will feature Gamecock football helmets, jerseys and other gear that fans can wear or use to take photos for the mosaic. The campaign will continue through this football season with the mosaic scheduled to go up at the stadium in 2020. The program is part of South Carolina’s continuing efforts to upgrade the fan experience at Williams-Brice, which is set to undergo $22.5 million in renovations prior to the 2020 season. South Carolina opened its new $50 million Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Facility earlier this year. “We really wanted to find a campaign where we weren’t building a building and we weren’t doing a scholarship and we thought how cool would it be if we could get our donors and our fans involved where we see their favorite memories, and at the same time they are helping student-athletes,” Duggan said. The mosaic will also serve as a landmark to help enhance the look and fan experience on the east side of the stadium. For more information on the program, visit CarolinaForeverMosaic.com. To donate and upload an image, visit give.evertrue.com/ sc/carolinaforever.
GAMECOCK CLUB • CAROLINA FOREVER
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Gamecock student-athletes excel in classroom, community By Brian Hand | Contributing writer
n August of 2015, I sat down with Athletics Director Ray Tanner for our regular question-and-answer session for Spurs & Feathers. As always, the exclusive interview focused on all of the great things happening with South Carolina athletics and at that time the overwhelming success of the fledgling SEC Network. For someone with two national championships to his credit, winning is incredibly important, but I will never forget how proud Tanner was of the student-athletes amassing more than 8,600 hours of community service and what they had continued to do in the classroom during the 2014-15 athletic year. â€œCompeting in the SEC at this level, the schedule is very busy,â€? Tanner explained. â€œYouâ€™re practicing, youâ€™re traveling and youâ€™re competing. Then to succeed at a high academic level is very exciting and I canâ€™t be more proud of our studentathletes and our staff over at the Dodie (Anderson Academic Enrichment Center).â€? That was four years ago, but one thing has not changed â€” the Gamecocks are still excelling in the community, athletically and academically. In fact, year-by-year the Gamecocks continue to set records.
â€œOur student-athletes work hard in the classroom, in the community and in their respective sports to achieve success,â€? Tanner recently told South Carolina Director of Content Brad Muller. â€œWhen you look at the numbers, there is no doubt about their achievements with 25 straight semesters of a 3.0 GPA, being among the leaders in the SEC in the Academic Honor Roll and community service hours and a top-25 finish in the Learfield IMG Directorsâ€™ Cup.Â The commitment to excellence in academics, community service and athletics competition sets the path for our student-athletes to career success and judging by these results, they are on their way.â€? Gamecock student-athletes set a record this past spring with an overall grade-point average of 3.338, besting the fall record of 3.335. The Gamecocks also performed more than 7,000 hours of community service as a group during the 2018-19 athletic year. The continued community service commitment by South Carolina student-athletes is even more impressive when noted that they are not required to volunteer. â€œThe community service opportunities arenâ€™t mandated due to the [NCAA] time limit rules, so it really puts the initiative on our student-athletes.
This really speaks to their character,â€? South Carolina Assistant Director of Student Development Carmen Rollizo said. â€œItâ€™s a part of the culture, so much so that we have incorporated community service into our summer bridge programming so that the incoming student-athletes understand that we arenâ€™t just telling them about the service, weâ€™re actually going out and doing it.â€? Itâ€™s truly special to see what South Carolina student-athletes are doing to separate themselves in all of their endeavors. In addition to all of their efforts in the classroom and community, South Carolina athletics won four individual national titles this spring to go along with 56 Gamecocks garnering AllAmerican accolades. The Gamecocks racked up 71 all-conference honors across all sports. South Carolina also won the Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series for the fourth consecutive year in its head-to-head all-sports matchup against rival Clemson with an impressive final tally of 9.5 to 4.5. Itâ€™s definitely great to be a Gamecock. Brian Hand is life-long Gamecock fan and the former executive editor of Spurs & Feathers. He is currently the Assistant Athletics Director for External Relations at UNC Asheville.
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No Chicken Little Former Gamecock stars use popular children’s book to teach kids value of reading By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Allen Sharpe
angston Moore attacked like he went after NFL quarterbacks on Sundays — with relentless vigor and precision. With a whole lot of energy. He moved about with a purpose and a mission. But he was not out to sack Brett Favre, Rex Grossman or Marc Bulger. This was a Wednesday morning in May, and Moore moved through the center aisle in the auditorium at Irmo Elementary School taking questions from schoolchildren. Moore and fellow former South Carolina football player Preston Thorne were out to spread their 8
message of education. With their book, #JustAChickenLittle, the two were there to show children the importance of reading, writing and speaking. And, with their inyour-face, hip way of doing it, they were out to show just how cool all three are. “Those three skills will put a whole bunch of money in your pocket,” Moore told the 750 or so students they met with during the day. “Make sure you don’t get your brain all soggy. Thirty minutes of games, 30 minutes of reading.” Moore (1999-2002) and Thorne (2001-04) expressed how important the three skills are not just
BOOK • #JUSTACHICKENLITTLE
now, but how fundamental they will be in whatever the students become in life. They told a group of third, fourth and fifth graders that growing these skills will give them confidence. With illustrator Kev Roché, an Irmo native and another South Carolina alum — and contributor to ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball — the three collaborated on the children’s book #JustAChicken in 2015. That story centered around the famous Gamecock mascot Cocky and his journey to discover greatness within himself. He was a Gamecock and not just an ordinary chicken.
The book has sold around 25,000 copies. The sequel, #JustAChickenLittle, which was published earlier this year, centers around a group of Gamecocks who are worried about a storm brewing in their coop. It revolves around the idea of the “wretched Chicken curse,” which Moore and Thorne liken to the supposed “curse” around South Carolina athletic teams. “Rumors of the dreaded curse cast a dark shadow over the coop for generations,” Thorne and Moore write in the book. “Many believed it promised years of failure, bad luck
and misfortune that would lead to the crumbling of the coop.” CJ, the main character, rushes to find his friends to tell them about the impending storm. They all find Cocky, who’s hanging out under a Palmetto tree with George the Giant. “We can’t be afraid of some silly little curse,” Cocky tells them. “Just because the coop might shake doesn’t mean it will fall.” Then, spoiler alert, a sandstorm rolls in to save the day. With Roché’s colorful graphics and Thorne and Moore’s entertaining writing and presentation style, the book readings were a hit at Irmo Elementary. But the overall theme throughout the day was fun and competition. Thorne told students about how NBA player Steph Curry has to make 100 3-pointers in a row before leaving practice. He then asked students what the word consecutive means. “With skills you gain confidence,” Thorne said. “Same thing with reading skills. If you read, you’ll get better.” Moore asked students what NFL stands for. “National Football League,” one responded.
Not so, according to the former Detroit Lion, Arizona Cardinal and Cincinnati Bengal. “Not For Long,” he said before reiterating that reading, writing and speaking set him up for a career after football. Moore told students he was part of a winless Gamecock squad and an 0-16 Lions team. “Worse than the Browns?” one student asked. Moore and Thorne tailored their presentations. They asked the first group of students they met with in the auditorium — the third, fourth and fifth graders — to hypothesize what the book may be about and to draw comparisons from what they know about the classic book “Chicken Little” to what a Gamecock version may be.
They asked a younger audience they met with later in the day — kindergarteners, first graders and second graders — the difference between the author and illustrator. They had the students point out the shapes and colors on the page and also asked them to find the footballs. Between the auditorium sessions, Moore and Thorne met with one fifth-grade class and one thirdgrade class. In both, the two authors were asked questions, some serious and some silly. In the fifth-grade class, they were asked about the publishing process of a book (it took them two years) and if they have ever had writer’s block. They were asked about the pair’s writing process
since they live in two different cities. They talked about Google Docs. Moore was asked why he stopped playing in the NFL, so he told a story about getting cut. “They put all your stuff in a plastic bag and send it to your house,” he said. The two were asked if they will write a third book in the series. “One more and we’ll complete the series and then we’ll see where our creative genes take us,” they said. But questions one would expect from elementary school children were also asked. Moore and Thorne were asked their favorite colors, favorite foods and about how they became friends. They also sat through stories about several of the students’ interesting pets. One boy questioned if Moore really played in the NFL. “I didn’t see you on my Xbox and that’s the 360,” he said. To the students, Moore and Thorne are mostly just authors. But joked Moore about the man he was named after, “But don’t get me confused with Langston Hughes.” #JustAChickenLittle can be purchased on Amazon or mascotbooks.com.
#JUSTACHICKENLITTLE • BOOK
TRACK & FIELD
No Doubt Quincy Hall overcomes adversity to fulfill dream as national champion
By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by SC Athletics
uincy Hall had not lost a race in almost five years. Every time he ran, whether it was the 400m or the 400m hurdles, he had won. His speed and perfect technique carried him to two state championships in high school, and then to numerous victories and records at the College of Sequoia junior college, including a victory in the 2017 U20 Pan American Championships. “Quincy is a guy who believes that he is going to win every time he runs,” South Carolina head coach Curtis Frye said. So when Hall finished third earlier this spring in the 400m at the indoor Tiger Paw Invitational at Clemson (despite winning the slower heat with a school record), he was devastated. “He was so upset when he got back here, he went for a run on Sunday on his day off,” Frye said. Hall had been running since he was 5 years old, racing his uncle and 10
cousins in Minnesota. As a kid, he made the track team at his church, then the AAU squad, then the high school team. He won at every level. He also starred in football and wrestling at Raytown South High in Kansas City, but track was his path to being the absolute best. “Becoming a champion was always a big dream for me,” Hall said. “I wanted to be the nation’s best in track. I was never going to be the nation’s best in wrestling or football, but being the nation’s best, that was the drive that I have.” Hall finally accomplished his dream at South Carolina, winning the national championship in the 400m hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. “It feels good, just to know that I could be the fastest in Division I,” Hall said. The 19th men’s individual track national championship in school history capped a remarkable junior season for Hall. He won the indoor and outdoor SEC championship in
TRACK & FIELD • QUINCY HALL
the 400m, with his school-record time of 44.53 ranking second in the nation. He won the 400m hurdles at the prestigious Penn Relays and the NCAA East Regionals before winning the national championship with a record time of 48.48. He was so dominant in the national finals that he won despite not running his best race. Focused a bit too much on setting the NCAA record, he got off to a slow start and trailed two runners heading to the final hurdle before kicking into high gear and winning the event. “It was one of my worst races,” he said. “I wanted to run a faster time, but everything panned out how it was supposed to.” Hall could have contended for the national championship in the 400m, but Frye and his coaching staff decided instead to prepare him for the 400m hurdles, an event he likely will run in the 2020 Olympics. Frye never had any doubt he could win the national championship in that event.
“Never did I doubt that Quincy was going to win the intermediate hurdles. Not even in the straightway when they were almost a hurdle up on him,” Frye said. “He’s just faster and his heart is bigger.” Despite his world-class speed, Hall almost never made it to South Carolina and Division I track. He didn’t have the grades to qualify for Division I and Frye was the only D-I coach to recruit him in high school. Frye helped place Hall at College of the Sequoias, where he led his team to the California State Championship and set the fastest time in the junior-college ranks in the 400m hurdles. After winning the Pan Am championship in 2017 and a fabulous 2018 season, when he won every race he ran in the 400m and the 400m hurdles, Frye was worried about losing his prize recruit. He had placed other athletes at the junior college in Visalia, Calif. but many wound up transferring to Oregon or another elite track school.
“I was a little nervous about putting him out there because I knew the big dogs would come,” Frye said. “The first year he made the Pan American team, the big dogs came but his mother said because we believed in him, Quincy is going to South Carolina. I thought that was pretty good, then someone got his transcripts and had him visit everybody in the country and that scared me to death. But his mother stayed on it. She said, ‘you believe in Quincy, we believe in you.’ “She stuck to her word and Quincy stuck to his word and Quincy loves us, and he’s a Gamecock.” Hall said he honored his commitment to South Carolina because Frye and the Gamecocks had been loyal to him. “Coach Frye and the coaching staff built a bond with me before [and] outside of track,” he said. “They were the only school to recruit me out of high school when I didn’t have the grades to come to any other school. They were loyal to me and I was always taught to be loyal and be good to the people who have been good to you.” Hall had to overcome a lot of adversity to make it to South Carolina, from the disappointment
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of not qualifying for a D-1 school to having to work and pay his own way through junior college. Looking back, he’s now glad he took the route he did. “Junior college was a great blessing to me,” he said. “It taught me a lot, how to fend for myself and take care of my responsibilities.” It was an even bigger blessing to land at South Carolina, where Hall has grown as a man and a champion. “The University of South Carolina helped me become better educated and just a better person as a whole,” he said. “Just taking care of me and making my life easier for me, getting faster and getting stronger and just bettering my career.” The next step for Hall is to keep running, keep working and prepare for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. He is currently third in the world in the 400m hurdles and confident he can contend for the gold medal. He could also be a contender in the 400m. “If I get my stuff down, I know I can compete with them, if not beat them,” he said. So is Frye. “Quincy Hall will be an Olympian, and I think he can be
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the world record-holder,” Frye said. “That record, 46.67, people believe that will never be broken. But if he keeps with his commitment and follows through with the plan, then Quincy Hall is going to be an Olympian. But my dream is that he is the world record-holder in an event no one believes can be broken.” Frye believes Hall’s national championship run was only a sign of things to come. He compares him
to another former Gamecock great — a former football standout who has become a Super Bowl winner and NFL star. “He grew a lot in that race, but he never had any doubt. He knows how to win,” Frye said. “He’s a guy like Alshon Jeffery. You throw the ball in the end zone, no matter if there’s eight people, he is going to get it.” Quincy Hall and head coach Curtis Frye
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QUINCY HALL • TRACK & FIELD
Wadeline Jonathas finishes strong to win 400m national championship By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by SC Athletics & Allen Sharpe
n May 26, 2018 in La Crosse, Wisc., Wadeline Jonathas took gold in the Division-III National Championship 400m race. She won by 47 hundredths of a second over a runner from Stevens Institute and 68 hundredths of a second over a runner from Nebraska Wesleyan. Back then, Jonathas ran for UMass Boston. Fast forward a year and change, Jonathas found herself back at the national championship — albeit on the faster and grander D-I stage in Austin, Texas — with another shot at a 400m title. At the 33-second mark of the final heat, Jonathas — in lane four — trailed five runners. “Watch out for Wadeline Jonathas,” ESPN announcer Dwight Stones mentioned. “She’s always a late runner on this final home stretch. And here she comes.” By the time Stones finished the sentence, 10 seconds later, Jonathas was in second. “The kick is my strength, so even though I was in the back, I knew if I was close enough when
I got off the turn I was going to be able to win,” she said. “… I like to run through the finish line and not slow down. Even though I’m dying, I’m like, ‘Don’t slow down.’” She did win. Seven seconds later Jonathas was the Division-I 400m outdoor champion. “It didn’t feel real at first,” she said when meeting with reporters two days after the championship run. While the victory was rewarding, it was the culmination of a tough yet enjoyable year that also included an indoor national championship in the 4x400 relay. But it all, just as easily, could not have happened. Curtis Frye did not answer his phone the first few times Jonathas reached out to him about transferring to South Carolina. “I didn’t take the call the first few times,” the Gamecock head coach admits. “… But when it kept happening, to me, that meant it was meant to be.” Jonathas enrolled at South Carolina and got to work.
TRACK & FIELD • WADELINE JONATHAS
She never doubted she would have success on the D-I level, but had to overcome countless gutwrenching training sessions to get there. “Sweat, determination,” she said. “A lot of throwing up, for sure. Passing out a couple of times at practice. I had to get used to the heat.” She trained with team captain Aliyah Abrams, who finished 18th in the 400m at the national championships in 2018 and ran the race for Guyana at the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Abrams finished fifth, four spots behind Jonathas, in Austin.) “There were no days off,” said Abrams, who hosted Jonathas on the latter’s visit to South Carolina. “We don’t allow it. When we’re tired or we’re feeling fatigued, or just not into it one day, we’re always there to push each other through. “We’re always working hard and always trying to get better.” Jonathas mentioned how much easier it was to run a season at the D-I level, where training, meals and nutrition are all planned for her. “All I’ve got to do is just run,” she said.
“I’m just able to focus on school and training.” It made her more relaxed, and because of that a better runner. “We knew that if we could get her in an acceleration pattern, to set her race up, she could contend,” Frye said. “Never a doubt,” Jonathas said. “I always knew someday I would be there.” On June 8, she was. “To finally have this at the end, [it means] a lot,” she said. Jonathas rowed crew and played basketball and only began running at 16. (“I was trash,” she admits. “But I guess every year I got a little bit better.”) She began with shorter distances and then shifted to the 400. “Oh gosh, I don’t want to keep running this,” Jonathas thought early in her 400 career. “But I guess that was my strength.” It was. Jonathas spent two seasons at UMass Boston, where she won nine individual national titles: indoor 400m and outdoor 200m and 400m titles in 2017 with indoor 60m, 200m, 400m and long jump titles and outdoor 200m and 400m titles in 2018. “Coming from where I’m coming from a year ago, I didn’t think this would be possible this soon, but I knew I had it in me,” Jonathas said. “… Don’t limit yourself, that’s the message I want people to get. … If you keep working at it and you know what you want and never lose focus, you can accomplish a lot.” Toward the end of her chat with reporters, the personable Jonathas spoke about her family’s support. With a smile she said, “To them I’m like Usain Bolt.”
Back On Track Gamecock track & field speeding back toward nation’s elite By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe
he South Carolina Track & Field team enjoyed its best season in more than a decade in 2018-19, winning three individual national championships. The men’s and women’s teams both finished in the top 20 in the nation in both the indoor and outdoor national championship meets, with the women cracking the top 10 in both the fall and spring events. With the men finishing 12th and the women 10th in the recent outdoor championships, it marked the first time since 2003 that both teams finished in the top 20. Head coach Curtis Frye has one word to describe his team’s ascent back among the elite in track & field. “Facilities, facilities, facilities,” he said. In 2017, South Carolina opened the Shiela & Morris Cregger Track, one of the top outdoor track & field facilities in the nation. Two years later, Frye saw the opening of the new indoor track facility, which is
regarded as one of the fastest indoor tracks in the world. The new facilities played a huge role in South Carolina’s success in both indoor and outdoor events during the 2018-19 season. “We couldn’t have gotten this started without the commitment form the athletic department,” said Frye, who is in his 23rd season at South Carolina and delivered the university’s first-ever team national championship when the women’s team captured the outdoor championship in 2002. “[Athletics Director] Ray [Tanner] did a fantastic job with all the programs and he has given us the facilities necessary.” South Carolina won two individual SEC championships this year with Quincy Hall winning the indoor and outdoor title in the 400m. The indoor season was highlighted by the women’s 4x400m relay team winning the national championship. Ten South Carolina athletes earned All-American status. At the NCAA Outdoor Championships
in June, South Carolina topped that with Hall winning a national championship in the 400m hurdles and Wadeline Jonathas winning a national title in the 400m. The Gamecocks had five podium finishes and 10 more All-Americans at the outdoor championships. The men’s and women’s teams featured a total of 20 seniors. Frye credits the group with the team’s success this season. “This senior group … we’re going to put a special plaque up for them at the indoor facility in their locker room with their name where it will be a legacy,” he said. “They are the ones who returned and made the commitment. Aliyah Abrams stayed and came back for her senior year and people like Otis [Jones] came back for a fifth year to be on the mile relay. Those are the kids that stuck with us while we were going through the growing to get the return.” Abrams, who helped lead the 4x400 national championship team
and finished fifth in the 400m at the outdoor national championships, has seen the growth throughout her five years
in the program. “I’ve seen this team when they were first starting out and getting back into the rhythm of things and I can honestly say this group of girls we have and the boys is a whole new focused team and we are ready for anything,” she said. “This just shows that we are in the right building and going in the right direction. We are completely transformed from when I first started and there is more to come.” Hall, a junior college transfer who won a national title in his first year at South Carolina, credits seniors like Isaiah Moore and Abrams with helping him adapt to Division-I track. He sees the Gamecocks quickly catching the nation’s elite. “The University of South Carolina has always been a fast school, we just had a couple of down years the last couple of years, but I know we are on the rise and back again,” Hall said. “Coach Frye is working on rebuilding this team and getting the University of South Carolina Gamecocks back to the type of program we are.” Frye believes the Gamecocks are speeding toward another team national championship, with the women’s team possibly being a top contender next season. “Right now, we are a threat nationally, we are a threat for a national title,” he said. “We are a frightening group of people because we have something that nobody in the south has — the biggest, the fastest indoor track in the world. So we can sell that. “We have so many things to sell, we were just looking for a facility. And now that we have a facility and we have the word out that we are a top-10 or top-12 team, I would hate to be somewhere else watching the Gamecocks, because we are just lightening ready to strike.”
PROGRAM SUCCESS • TRACK & FIELD
TRACK & FIELD â€¢ PHOTOS
NCAA OUTDOOR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS PHOTOS BY SC ATHLETICS & ALLEN SHARPE
PHOTOS â€¢ TRACK & FIELD
Photo by SC Athletics
Raised to be
the Best Jaycee Horn follows in father’s footsteps, looks to become nation’s top DB By Josh Hyber | Staff writer
n the afternoon of Dec. 7, 2003, Joe Horn was chased across the living room of his suburban New Orleans home by his toddler son who did not want him to leave for work. It was a Sunday, and all his son wanted to do was play with his dad and older siblings.
16 FOOTBALL • JAYCEE HORN
“I was on my way out the door with my suit in hand, and I was rushing,” Horn remembers, along with the boy protesting, “I want to go! I want to go!” “He did a full-speed sprint to the front door, jumping over chairs. And he was crying. I told him, ‘You can’t go this time, but I’ll tell you
what, I’ll call you. I’m going to call you from the game.’” What 68,442 fans at the New Orleans Superdome and millions watching on “Sunday Night Football” saw was an elaborate celebration of a second-quarter touchdown. What people saw — Horn pulling a cell phone from under a
goalpost and making a mock phone call — was an ego-stroking moment that resulted in a $30,000 fine. But what his son, Jaycee, saw, was his dad, the Saints receiver, showing him love — the Venn diagram intersection of sports and family. “When he pulled out the phone, it was like an agreement, we all knew that was him calling us,” Jaycee says 16 years later. Jaycee now has a similar stage to showcase his football prowess — South Carolina, the SEC and Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks’ sophomore cornerback has proven his worth as a superstar in the making in the nation’s premier football conference. As a freshman last season, Jaycee Horn took the fast lane toward flipping the narrative of “he’s Joe Horn’s son” to Joe, the four-time Pro Bowler, being “Jaycee’s dad.” “That’s still to come,” the younger Horn said in a wide-ranging interview with Spurs & Feathers. “Some people still talk about my dad when they bring me up. That doesn’t really affect me. Guys can bring that up until however far I go with football. It’s still not going to affect me. I’m proud of what my dad did. There’s no envy or jealousy in my heart. It’s a blessing.” Jaycee Horn’s last name tells just part of his story, a journey that began in Kansas City and Louisiana and on peewee football fields in Atlanta, took a detour on the basketball courts of Mississippi and has stopped, for now, at 1125 George Rogers Blvd. Wherever it goes — to All-SEC or All-American status, possibly the NFL — Horn will do it all proud of the name on the front of his jersey as well as the back. “I’m talking first pick of the NFL Draft, that’s what I’m talking about, because I know that’s what he’s capable of doing,” Joe Horn told Spurs & Feathers. “He gets a little weary about me even talking about it, and that’s his humbleness, but I’m not that humble. At the end of the day, I believe my son is the best DB in the nation, right now, as we speak. He’s probably going to be [upset] when he sees this article, but I don’t [care]. Because I’ve seen him play, I’ve seen who he’s played against and I’ve seen the stats.
“My son should be, could be, the first pick of the NFL Draft in 2021 or 2022.” Joe Horn
“… You can say what you want to say, but at the end of the day you’ve got to go out and put your cleats in the dirt and play your best and do what you’ve got to do. “But my opinion, yeah, my son should be, could be, the first pick of the NFL Draft in 2021 or 2022. Whatever he decides to do.”
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Jaycee does not remember much from Joe’s playing days in the NFL (1996-2007), but does remember playing around with his dad at home. “I adored it,” he said. “I was small, so he’d get on his knees and we’d just tackle each other in the living room.” Even at 2 or 3, whenever Jaycee saw his older brother, Joe Jr., do something, he tried to do it better or faster. Jaycee even tried to out-do his all-world athlete dad. Even if that meant getting knocked down. “He’d see me hit balls in the garage and he would get a golf club and just
watch me,” Joe Horn recalls. “The first time he swung a club he hit a ball across the street, across the neighbor’s house. “So I knew he was real competitive. I knew he had quick-twitch muscles. I knew he had the handeye coordination to be special.” Jaycee began playing recreational football at age 7, in 2000, when the Horns moved to Atlanta before Joe’s final NFL season. Though Joe ran the league, he was mostly hands-off with Jaycee. He didn’t want to be an overarching helicopter parent. “I would sit in the back,” Joe said. “The coaches knew what I expected and my son, at home, knew what I expected. See, when you take your kids and you do things with them on your own, and you show them how it’s done, you don’t have to yell and curse when coaches are trying to do their job on gameday. “And that’s what I taught Jaycee. Me and Jaycee used to go on the field after practice or before practice, and then when he got to the real practice, I didn’t have to say a thing. I’m not one of those
Photos courtesy of the Horn Family
Photos courtesy of the Horn family
dads that’s going to sit in the stands and yell and curse. But I taught him growing up, ‘If me and you work on something for days and days and hours and hours, and you get to the point in the game where you don’t do what we practiced, I’m going to let you hear it.’ But I’m going to let him hear it behind closed doors.” Instead, Horn left that job to Geoff Terry, who coached Jaycee’s peewee teams. Instead of his dad’s position, Jaycee played quarterback and linebacker as a youth. He had the physical and mental tools to play anywhere, but at the end of the day he wanted to stick his nose in places and hit people. “I was putting the ball in the hands of the kid I trusted the most,” Terry said. “His football IQ was and is phenomenal. He could tell you different coverages. He could tell you different schemes. He could tell you all this at 12 years old. It wasn’t that he was the best athlete on the team, it was just that he was the best at understanding the game. “And it meant something to him. It meant something to him to win and to lose.” “I was Mike Vick all day,” Horn said. “Mike Vick and RGIII.” Vick, yes that Michael Vick, also happened to live in Horn’s neighborhood. (Though Vick lived nearby, Joe Horn said the two never socialized away from the football field.) Joe only took Jaycee to the Falcons’ practice facility from “time to time” to hang around, mostly during training camp. “When you see stars and someone who’s already successful, it’s going to rub off. It’s going to rub off on a young athlete who loves the game,” Joe Horn said. “Jaycee loves football. The love he had for football
made him want to be better than the stars in the NFL.” Though Jaycee asked his dad back then how he could wake up so early to practice, the younger Horn sees it clearly now. “Some of the things he told me back then, about nutrition, living right off the field and being in the film room, I didn’t take it too seriously when I was 13, 14 years old,” Jaycee said. “But when I got to college, I saw how important it is.” But Jaycee took a football sabbatical when the Horns moved to be closer to Joe Jr. at Northeast Mississippi Community College. Jaycee played basketball at Mooreville High School outside Tupelo, where he was part of a state finalist as a freshman. As a 5-10 sophomore, he had some interest from JUCOs and D-II colleges. “Man, you can’t play football,” his basketball teammates told him. “They thought I was all basketball,” he said.
To be clear, Jaycee never abandoned his dream of playing in the NFL when the Horns moved to Mississippi. He still attended camps and trained with his dad. The plan was always to return to Atlanta for high school football. Jaycee continued to play quarterback in youth ball, and with his superior IQ, it seemed like the position he would pursue. Receiver was Joe’s position, as well as Joe Jr.’s. JAYCEE HORN • FOOTBALL
“I could have easily put Jaycee at receiver and Jaycee could probably be an All-American receiver right now,” Joe said. “I know without a shadow of a doubt that, if he switched to wide receiver, he would probably be an All-American wide receiver. But … I wanted him to play cornerback because I just didn’t want all my boys playing wide receiver.” Along the way Joe talked with Jaycee about cornerback, and the younger Horn kept an eye on eighttime Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson and current Gamecock teammate Jamyest Williams, another Atlantaarea DB. Then came the ultimatum. “We stopped on the side of the road one day and we just started working on DB drills,” Joe said. “We were in Mississippi. We were coming from somewhere in Memphis, Tennessee. And we just stopped at some football field, almost near Oxford, and that was the day I said, ‘You know what, you’re going to be a DB. You’re going to play DB. You’re not going to be a wide receiver.’ But we did wide receiver drills and DB drills, so he could have done either/ or.” “It’s natural,” Jaycee said about playing corner. “Just put me anywhere on the football field and I’ll try to make a play. … I’d rather hit than be hit. Receiver is fun, but I like DB because you can make your own play.” But the younger Horn had doubts. He questioned his height. When he finished his sophomore year at Mooreville, he was faced with a decision. “What do you want to do?” Joe asked him.
THE MAKING OF A DB
Jaycee Horn could not backpedal. “He had this drive like no other, but at first he couldn’t even backpedal,” Terry, the youth coach, said. “He had never played defensive back. He was a quarterback and a basketball player, but I knew he had that itch. He had this tenacity and want to be great. He didn’t want to be average.” So when Joe asked Jaycee what he wanted to do, the younger Horn’s mind was set: He wanted to return to Atlanta and conquer his football dreams. Terry, a coach who has sent 40plus players to Division-I schools, had taken over as defensive backs
coach at Alpharetta High School. Jaycee enrolled there during the spring of his sophomore year. It took Jaycee that summer to master the skills he needed to be a successful DB. “He’s going to be a defensive back, and he’s going to be an All-American when he leaves here,” Terry told Joe. It felt strange putting on football pads for the first time since eighth grade, but Horn felt locked in by the second practice, when he perfectly read and blew up a screen pass. “To be honest, it didn’t really strike me at the time how huge of an addition he was going to be to our program and how great of a player he was,” Alpharetta head coach Jacob Nichols said. “He got on the field for spring practice and we knew right away. We knew we had a pretty special player.” Horn did a little bit of everything for the Raiders. More than anything, he brought intensity and a relentless work ethic. He was a natural leader — spiritually, emotionally and physically — and someone Nichols could count on. He wasn’t the fastest player, but he broke on balls and was able to see places on the field he wasn’t responsible for. Horn reminded Nichols of Jeff Francoeur, the former Major League Baseball player with the hometown Atlanta Braves. Nichols played with Francoeur at Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga., where the former was a four-star defensive back who committed to Clemson. Like Francoeur back in the day, offenses quit throwing to Horn’s side of the field, so he moved to safety. “His instincts, his intuition and knowledge of the game, those were always things that set him apart,” Nichols said. “And his physicality too. He wasn’t the biggest, strongest guy out there, but he was fearless. That’s the way he played and the way he practiced. “His job was shut his kid down and we’ll play ten on ten. And that typically worked out pretty well.” Horn’s first high school interception was the product of film study with Terry. “He read it like no other,” the coach said. “And took it back 95 yards.” In week three of his senior season against area powerhouse Centennial, Horn had two interceptions and held one of the state’s star players, Blane Mason, to only a couple of catches. “The kid didn’t
have a catch the entire first half,” Terry said. “Not even targeted.” “I felt like I had to prove a point,” Horn said. Playing defensive back, instead of quarterback or receiver, also allowed Horn to fly under the radar and avoid comparisons to his father. “He didn’t want anyone to know Joe is his dad,” Terry said. “He didn’t want that shadow. He didn’t want anyone saying, ‘You’re just doing this because of your dad.’ “He made a name for himself.”
NOT JUST A FOOTBALL PLAYER
A few people around Jaycee, who asked not to be named, say the son of the man who ranks 73rd on the NFL’s all-time receiving list is more like his mom, LaCreshia, who was a cheerleader and played basketball. “She contributed to the hard work too,” Jaycee said. “I feel like if I’m out there doing something, I’ve got to do it 110 percent.” LaCreshia was strict on his grades. “If I came home with a C, it’s no video games, no phone,” Horn said. “… She was really the disciplinarian.” Pollye Bostick taught Horn’s American Literature class his junior year. An Irmo High School graduate and a South Carolina fan, she went to basketball games at the Carolina Coliseum and recalls a game-win-
ning last-second field goal against East Carolina in the 1980s. She has photos of Williams-Brice Stadium on her wall. To her, Horn was a talented athlete, but also a respectful student. He was quiet. Confident. He read a biography on Emmitt Smith. “Where most people show you stress, or excitement, those all look the same on him,” Bostick said. “He never complained. Ever.” Even if she had to tell him to put away his phone a few times. One time, though, she couldn’t help but laugh at Horn’s response. “Ms. Bostick, I have to tweet out something I just got from Nick Saban,” he told her. In Bostick’s class, a state test counts as the final exam. Horn scored an 85, higher than some students who could have taken honors or AP classes. “I want you to find a place they’re going to appreciate all of you,” Bostick told him. “Not just football player you. You’re more than just a football player. And I think he understands that there were a lot of people that saw him as just a football player.” Then Horn visited Columbia for a South Carolina-Clemson game. Though Horn originally committed to Tennessee, South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris
Photo by Jenny Dillworth
FOOTBALL • JAYCEE HORN
“I feel like we need to start winning games and
establishing ourselves as one of the best teams in the SEC and get back to that winning culture.” Jaycee Horn
Photo by SC Atheletics
Robinson kept in touch and came to Alpharetta as often as allowed. “I could tell by the conversations they were having that they connected on all the right levels,” Nichols said. “T-Rob didn’t blow smoke and tell Jaycee a bunch of lies. He told him, shared with him, all of his theories, style of play, and I think that’s what really, in the end, what sold him.” Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp was honest and loyal, too. “Their record and their résumés speak for themselves,” Joe Horn said of Robinson and Muschamp. “They have guys they’ve coached in the NFL that are having great careers. But to be honest, it was a loyalty thing with South Carolina. “The loyalty they showed, by coming to Alpharetta to see my son, I told them, ‘Hey, that’s the cloth I’m from. I’m from the loyalty cloth.’”
Horn impressed his South Carolina teammates and coaches from the jump. “He looks like a young Patrick Peterson,” safety Steven Montac said days into training camp last season. “He came to me one day and said, ‘Hey man, if it’s one-on-one with Bryan [Edwards], just throw it up,’” quarterback Jake Bentley said. Bentley said Horn intercepted him a couple of times during camp, although the quarterback winked and added that Horn might have just gotten lucky. “You just look at, ‘Wow, that’s a big-time play,’” Bentley said. “He made those all camp.” “I think he’s going to be a real special player here,” Edwards said then. “He’s long, he’s rangy. He has great ball skills. He’s definitely making a name for himself.” At one point during camp, Muschamp asked Edwards and eventual San Francisco 49er second-round pick Deebo Samuel who impressed
them most. Their response: “Jaycee is good, coach.” Horn, a 6-1, 200-pounder, became the seventh true freshman to start for South Carolina in a season-opener (the first since 2009), joining Edwards, Stephon Gilmore, Jadeveon Clowney, Marcus Lattimore, Bryson Allen-Williams and Al Harris Jr. Despite South Carolina leading 28-3 at the start of the third quarter of its season-opener, Coastal Carolina had momentum and brought the ball to the Gamecocks’ 34-yard line. But Horn took off on a blitz and sacked Chanticleer quarterback Kilton Anderson. Two plays later Horn and Javon Kinlaw combined for a tackle on third down to force Coastal into a 45-yard field goal attempt. “Jaycee is one of those guys, you can just tell he has it,” Allen-Williams said. “On the field, he doesn’t get nervous. A lot of the guys, freshmen, they get nervous. They lose their technique and stuff. … With Jaycee, when he’s on the field, he’s locked in. He’s different.” “I thought he was calm. He’s a very mature young man,” Muschamp said after the opening game. “… Young players struggle the most [knowing] when to focus and when to relax. He’s a guy who knows when to focus. “When we’re in the meeting rooms, he’s dialed in. When we’re in walkthroughs, he’s dialed in. When we’re at practice, he’s understands those things.” And the performance wasn’t just an outlier against lesser competition. Horn had five tackles against Georgia the following week and four each in games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. In the third quarter of South Carolina’s dramatic win over Missouri, Tiger running back Damarea Crockett took a handoff and dashed toward the end zone for what would have been a touchdown to give his team a nine-point lead. But out of nowhere came Horn, who forced
Crockett out of bounds at the 11-yard line. Seven plays later the Tigers fumbled a punt and turned the ball over. The play essentially saved the game. “I think he hit 22 miles per hour on his Catapult system on that play, so that was pretty impressive,” Muschamp said, referring to the team’s device that tracks player’s change of speed, workload and directional changes. Horn was named SEC Freshman of the Week, and it wasn’t just because of the crucial stop. He had four pass breakups — a seasonhigh — and was a key factor in the Gamecocks holding Drew Lock, a second-round pick in April’s NFL Draft, to just 17-of-36 passing for 204 yards. Horn followed with a seasonhigh seven tackles against Texas A&M. He suffered a lateral sprain of his ankle on the first play of the game against Chattanooga and missed games against Clemson and Akron. He returned to make six tackles and a sack in the team’s Belk Bowl loss to Virginia. Horn’s final stat line for the season: 45 tackles, two sacks and eight pass breakups. “I can’t say it surprised me. Just because of my path and what I went through,” Horn said of his success. “I’ll say I had a decent year. I mean, I left some plays out there on the field. I think I can be way better.” Muschamp also wasn’t surprised. “Physically, he’s very gifted. He has great length, runs very well and has really good ball skills,” he said. “He’s also certainly a willing tackler and is very intelligent. He can play multiple spots in the secondary, which he did as a true freshman, which is extremely difficult to do.” What impresses Muschamp most, however, is Horn’s competitive edge. “He competes and he works, and his work ethic has positively affected our defense and our football team,” he said. JAYCEE HORN • FOOTBALL
who do it when the coaches aren’t watching.”
DRIVE TO BE THE BEST
Photo by SC Atheletics
It was Horn’s work ethic and coachability that first stood out to Muschamp. Last August during training camp Muschamp checked in on players to see if they made curfew. The two guys missing were Horn and fellow cornerback Israel Mukuamu.
“It turns out they were back in the film room watching practice,” Muschamp said. “Those are the kind of things I’m talking about when it comes to his intangibles. Because at the end of the day, when it comes to the really good players I’ve been around, [the best] are the ones
During Horn’s junior year at Alpharetta, he took a visit to South Carolina. “Ms. Bostick, Deebo Samuel is a beast,” he told his teacher when he returned. “He’s huuuge.” Two years later the two were teammates and were captured in another photo together. “Look who’s the big dude now,” Bostick messaged Horn. “We expected this, me and Joe,” Terry said. “We knew it when we saw it. We looked at each other and went, ‘Whoa.’ He’s a natural. He’s long. He’s rangy. He’s athletic. And he has the smarts. “Now his drive is to win a championship. The drive in the meetings rooms. The drive in the weight room. His drive is to bring a championship back to South Carolina.” Some believe that Horn — who in two years set the Alpharetta records for interceptions and pass breakups — and Mukuamu eventually could become one of the nation’s best cornerback tandems. “I believe it,” Nichols said.
“I’m expecting a big year from him,” Muschamp added. “We obviously need for him to continue to perform at a high level, which I thought he did as a freshman. I thought he had an outstanding spring.” As a sophomore, Horn expects to excel and lead his team. “I’m focused on establishing our team as one of the best teams in the SEC, because I feel like we don’t really get the respect we deserve in the SEC,” Horn said. “It’s kind of embarrassing. And it hurts me a lot. “… I feel like we need to start winning games and establishing ourselves as one of the best teams in the SEC and get back to that winning culture. I definitely feel like we’re going to do that.” Horn will be front and center, playing for the name on the back of his jersey and the name on the front. He’ll be out to establish his own legacy. “A hard worker. A leader. A guy who gave his all every play, every game. A great guy,” he says. “And the best DB to ever come through the University of South Carolina.”
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FOOTBALL • JAYCEE HORN
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Next to Lowes
Giving Back Connor Shaw using camps to give kids passion for sports By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photo by Josh Hyber
onnor Shaw wears many hats: Dad, husband, Colonial Life employee. But in late June at one of his renowned Shaw Camps, at River Bluff High School in Lexington, the South Carolina football legend (2010-13) played the role of coach to more than 130 campers. “It’s just a give-back initiative where we set up a platform, an outlet, for kids to come compete with their peers,” Shaw said. “We have a great group of staff here. It means a lot to me to not only have good instructors, but good men.” That included former Gamecock quarterback Michael Scarnecchia, who has enrolled in South Carolina’s School of Law. Shaw won 27 games at South Carolina and is the school’s career leader in completion percentage (65.5 percent). He ranks second in career passing touchdowns (56) and fourth in career passing yards (6,074). He spent 2014 and 2015 with the Cleveland Browns — and started
one game — but missed the 2015 season due to a thumb injury. He was signed by the Chicago Bears in 2016 but missed the season due to a broken leg and was waived in May of 2017. After leaving the NFL, Shaw joined the Furman coaching staff as tight ends coach but left after spring practice in 2017. Spurs & Feathers and other media outlets caught up with Shaw before the event. Here’s an excerpt from the Q&A. Why did you start this? Shaw: Football has given a lot to me, so it’s just a way to use football as a vehicle to give to our youth, which is inevitably our future. My goal behind this thing is to ignite a passion, to get these kids in some sort of competitive sport, it doesn’t have to be football. I think it holds us accountable and forces us to become better. It’s just a great fellowship out here. We’re promoting kids to stay active, to stay healthy. When you were a youngster, did you come to camps like this?
Shaw: I sure did. That’s really why I love to do it, because those ignited a passion for me as a little kid. Being able to learn from high school coaches and guys who played collegiately and professionally, I think the kids will get a lot out of it and it’s something we look forward to every summer. What has your post-NFL transition to life after your playing career been like? Shaw: It has been a challenge, just because football has been my life since I was 6. I was raised by two coaches, essentially, in a locker room. It has been a great new challenge for me working with Colonial Life. I’m all over the state working with different companies. I really enjoy meeting new people and building new relationships. It’s been busy. Doing the [football] camps here this summer. I’ve got a 5- and 3-year-old, just about, so life is good. Do you think you’d ever want to get back into coaching? Shaw: You know, I’ll never say never. My brother is a head coach in
Georgia. I don’t see it in the near future, but maybe at the high school level sooner or later. What do you think of Jake Bentley going into his senior year? Shaw: I think there will be a lot expected from him, but that’s a good thing. He’s a senior. He’s a veteran. He’s going to hold a gavel in that locker room. I think right now [the team] is just focusing on themselves and letting the chips fall where they may in the fall. But he’s got a good supporting cast. He’s a smart kid and has a great skill set and I’m sure he’s ready to play some ball. Do you think it’ll be difficult to replace a guy like Deebo Samuel? Shaw: Sure. That’s hard to replace. But you know what? You always have guys who step up. Bryan Edwards is going to come back. You’ll find out real fast who those contributors are going to be early in the season. But [Jake] has enough weapons around him. He’s got a good front five. And the defense is coming back. Staying heathy, that’s the name of the game. But I’m excited. I think we’ve got a good chance. Tough schedule, but that’s the way you want it. You’ve got to beat the best to be the best. So much has been made about the schedule with Alabama, Clemson and Georgia. How daunting is it when you look at it that way? Shaw: I honestly think you just focus week to week. You don’t pay attention to the strength of schedule. You’ve got to play the big dogs anyway in this league and compete to the best of your ability every Saturday and trust your coaches’ gameplan and go play ball and compete your tail off. Is it easier for a guy like Bryan McClendon to install more in year two of his offense? Shaw: Completely. And he’s got some good guys in [quarterbacks coach Dan] Werner, who has been there done that, to kind of help him gameplan. But I’m a big fan of B-Mac. I think he’s doing great job and I love the offense that he’s been able to implement, around the skill set of his players. So I think we can expect a lot from him this year. And we’re going to have to score some points.
CONNOR SHAW Q&A • FOOTBALL
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Talent To Burn Martin excited about returning players, talented group of signees By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe & Jenny Dilworth
fter back-to-back 20-win seasons, including an historic Final Four appearance in 2016-17, Frank Martin has experienced two straight 17-16 seasons and missed the postseason both years. But South Carolina could be poised for another big season in 2019-20. With eight players returning, plus the addition of seven new signees, Martin believes he could be on the verge of having one of his best teams. “I think we have a lot of talented pieces. I think from top to bottom, one through 14, it’s as talented a team as I’ve been a part of,” he said. 22
The Gamecocks, which finished 11-7 in the SEC but missed the NCAA Tournament last year, lost seniors Chris Silva, Hassani Gravett and Tre Campbell, while two players, Felipe Haase and Jason Cudd, chose to transfer. But they return three starters in forwards Maik Kotsar and Keyshawn Bryant and guard A.J. Lawson, who flirted with the NBA Draft after making the SEC All-Freshman team. They will be bolstered by the return of Justin Minaya, a starter before suffering a season-ending knee injury, and point guard T.J. Moss and forward Alanzo Frink, who both also missed time with injury. Joining the group will be George Washington transfer Jair
MEN’S BASKETBALL • 2019 SIGNEES
Bolden, who sat out last season, and highly recruited guard Jermaine Couisnard, who was ineligible last year. The 2019-20 team will welcome five incoming freshman and grad transfer Micaiah Henry. Martin also made a big splash in June when he picked up North Carolina transfer Seventh Woods, a Columbia native who will bring valuable experience to the bench while sitting out next season. While Martin is excited about his new class of signees, it’s the experience and potential of his returning players that have him optimistic during offseason workouts. “Last year’s team learned to win, regardless of all the adversity
and immaturity and injuries. Last year’s team never ran away from it,” he said. “New guys don’t get me excited for the upcoming year. The old guys do. The returning guys give me an enthusiasm that they are going to be so good as players and people that they are going to help the new guys so the new guys are better prepared. But the talent level in totality is probably the best I’ve had since I’ve been here.” Martin is careful to point out, however, that he’s had plenty of experienced teams that looked good statistically and on paper. (“Numbers don’t have to sit in the same room and communicate with each other.”) It doesn’t guarantee a 20-win season or another Final Four appearance. “P.J. [Dozier] and those guys took it to a different level when we got to October,” he said of the 201617 team. “Will this team do that? I don’t know that yet. But right now, they’re fun to be around. We have got some talented freshmen coming in.” Martin signed three players in the early signing period last fall he believes could have an immediate impact. The trio features point guard Trae Hannibal, who Martin says “has a chance to be a star.” The 6-1 guard from Hartsville was the South Carolina 4A CoPlayer of the Year after averaging 26.8 points per game, including 62 in his final high school game. Martin likes everything about Hannibal after getting his first look at him during summer workouts. “His talent, his personality, his willingness to learn, his room for growth. He’s athletic, strong, explosive, has feel,” he said. “He has made some decisions and passes with an explosiveness and preciseness; I haven’t had anyone here who passes the ball like that. “He brings a talent along with a personality that is pretty powerful and grabs you right away.” Trey Anderson is a 6-5 swingman from San Diego who averaged 16.7 points and 7.4 rebounds as a high school senior, and then 10 points and seven rebounds during a post-grad season at Woodstock Academy. He’s known as an excellent shooter and strong perimeter player.
“Trey is a 6-5 athletic wing that can shoot the basketball,” Martin said. “He’s very competitive and multi-talented defensively, so we’re excited about the possibilities of what he can contribute right away.” Wildens Leveque, a 6-10 forward/center, was rated as the No. 2 high school player in Massachusetts after averaging 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks at Gould Academy. Martin is excited about the big man’s athleticism. “He is a rim protector, he’s a runner and he has real good hands, so he can figure out a way to help on offense and defense from the word go,” he said. Martin added two more players after the season when Cudd and Haase both decided to transfer. Assistant coaches Bruce Shingler and Chuck Martin both loved Jalyn McCreary, a 6-8 forward from Marietta, Ga. When assistant Perry Clark saw him play in a tournament in Myrtle Beach, he immediately called Martin and said, “Frank, this guy is really good.” McCreary, who averaged 18 points and six rebounds as a high school senior, visited South Carolina in January and wanted to commit immediately but Martin did not have a scholarship available. When Cudd decided to transfer, Martin and his staff went after McCreary. “Jason made a decision that kinda caught me off guard but as soon as he made that decision, we aggressively went after Jalyn, who we had already built a relationship with and he knew a lot about us,” Martin said. Martin calls McCreary an aggressive forward who is “freakishly athletic.” “In the open court, he is a finisher from the mid-range and he is a dunking highlight reel, a lot like Keyshawn Bryant,” Martin said. When Haase decided to transfer, Martin wanted to replace him with an experienced big man and honed in on Henry, a 6-9 forward/ center from Tennessee Tech. Henry averaged 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds as a senior and shot better than 50 percent from the floor in each of his three seasons with the Golden Eagles. Martin says Henry is a solid rebounder who excels offensively in the post. “Micaiah is naturally a post player, a back-to-the-basket guy. That’s where he is most comfortable,” he said. “He knows how to
use his body, he knows how to seal, he knows how to catch, he knows how to score in there, so his adjustment is going to be fairly simple there because our guards are trained to pass it in there.” Martin believes Henry and McCreary will help the Gamecocks on the boards, where they struggled as a team last year. “Micaiah Henry is a pretty good rebounder; that’s not his strength but when he wants to go get it, he goes and gets it,” he said. “Jalyn McCreary is real good at what I call chasing the ball. When he sees that ball, he goes after that ball, whether it’s on the rim or on the floor.” Martin also added walk-on Mike Green, a 6-1 guard who scored more than 2,000 points during his prep career at Christian Academy in Myrtle Beach. Green is known as a strong shooter with excellent vision. “Mike turned down numerous scholarship offers because of his belief in who we are as a basketball program and his willingness to play for his state,” Martin said. “He has come here paying his own way and doing everything in his power to earn a scholarship as we move forward.” The final addition was Woods, a highly recruited guard who signed with North Carolina out of Hammond Academy in Columbia. After getting limited playing time during his three years with the Tar Heels, Woods decided to transfer and chose to return home. He will sit out next season before playing his senior season in 2020-21. “Seventh has been under a microscope since he was 13,” Martin said. “When he was 14, every time he dribbled, every gym was sold out and every critic was out there criticizing everything he did wrong. I have no idea how that young man has been able to keep the class that he lives life with under those circumstances.” Martin decided to redshirt Woods to get him out of the spotlight, “take a deep breath and regain his swag.” “And the most important part, let’s he and I get to know each other as a player and coach,” he said. “We got to know each other as people during the recruiting process. Let’s get to know each other as a player and coach so when he is eligible to go he doesn’t have another year and he can maximize who he is.”
Martin says Woods’ experience and leadership will help his team during practice and off the court. “He backed up two lottery picks. It’s not like he went [to North Carolina] and didn’t play. He was a rotational player on a national championship team,” he said. “He got some experience there and he’s such an incredible kid that you can argue he was their favorite teammate up there. He’s going to bring that to our team too, even though he’s not playing.” Martin says he gained valuable experience last season coaching an injury-riddled team forced to rely heavily on freshmen like Lawson and Bryant and grad transfer Tre Campbell, who each played about
30 minutes per game late in the season. “I had no other option so I had to learn to be a lot more patient than I have probably been my whole coaching career from that standpoint,” he said. “And I realized that patience sometimes is a good thing in the case of learning. … That’s why that team was so much fun to be around. We messed up a lot of stuff, but their enthusiasm to get better and go out and do it again the next day, it was never rattled. “I learned to be patient and I’m going into next season with that same mindset. I will tell you in November how good that patience stuff is working out.”
2019 SIGNEES PLAYER Trey Anderson Mike Green Trae Hannibal *Micaiah Henry Wildens Leveque Jalyn McCreary **Seventh Woods
POS HT F 6-5 G 6-1 G 6-1 F/C 6-9 F/C 6-10 F 6-8 G 6-1
HOMETOWN San Diego Myrtle Beach, S.C. Hartsville, S.C. Decatur, Ga. Brockton, Mass. Marietta, Ga. Columbia, S.C. *Grad transfer ** Senior transfer who will sit out next season. 2019 SIGNEES • MEN’S BASKETBALL 23
Huge Expectations Nation’s No. 1 recruiting class focused on living up to hype By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Allen Sharpe
uch has been made about the 2019 South Carolina women’s basketball signing class — about it being the best collective group one school has ever gotten in a single haul. In any sport. Ever. In all, the class includes four of the top 11 freshmen (Laeticia Amihere, Brea Beal, Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke), according to ESPN, the South Carolina High School Player of the Year (Olivia Thompson) and a highly-touted Big 12 transfer (Destiny Littleton). Expectations are high, and the group did not shy away from them in early July when meeting with local reporters for the first time.
“Every year we want to go to the Final Four,” Cooke, a two-time high school state champion, said. “This year and every year that I’m here, that’s my goal. … I just want to keep repeating and getting rings on my fingers. “… And winning a national championship. That’s what you come to college for.” When asked what she wants to accomplish in her four years, Amihere listed several goals. “I’m setting goals really high,” she said. “Championships. I want to go to the Final Four every year. Getting better with my team and proving we really are the number one recruiting class.”
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL • 2019 SIGNEES
“[But] we definitely know we have to work to get to that point,” Beal said. “It doesn’t just come handed to us. That’s something we all realize we have to work toward. That’s the goal in the long run, but we still have to [meet] those individual goals first.” For now, though, it’s all hype. And potential. Molly Binetti, the team’s sports performance coach, reminds the group that the “number one recruiting class” moniker doesn’t matter much anymore because it’s only based on high school accomplishments. “We have that, we’re proud of that, but right now we have to focus on being the best team we can
be,” Amihere said. “We know that we have a chip on our shoulder, but a lot of teams do. We’re not really thinking about being the number one recruiting class.” “A lot of people expect us to come out and be stars, but we have to work up to that,” Boston said. “And we will. … I’m excited to see the journey we take to get there.” Right now, the group has focused on working hard and blending into a team that returns guards Ty Harris and Destanni Henderson and forwards Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Victaria Saxton. As Boston said about the journey, the makeup of the 2019-2020 Gamecocks has not shaken out yet. Lineups and combinations are
still months from being set. Players who were stars in high school will be relegated to complimentary roles or even limited playing time off the bench. “I think it’s going to be a change, but at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We all want to win,” Boston said. “I think we all have that mentality that this is what we need to do. “We need to win. We need to win. We need to win.” The team has only had a handful of practices together, although Beal, Boston and Cooke played together, and started, on the same McDonald’s All-American Game team. “It’s just good basketball players coming to a good school, in my opinion, and I feel like the girls feel the same,” Cooke said. “We’re a very good team and it’s only going to get better.” “For me to come to college and know I can rely on my teammates … and to know it’s a bunch of great players around me and I can get them the ball and be OK with letting them score,” Cooke said. “… I don’t have to play the whole game now. … We have the talent to get it done.” The group knows the hype that surrounds them. “It’s comforting, but at the same time there’s pressure,” Boston said. “Comforting because we have so much talent, but it’s also a little bit of pressure because everyone’s going to have their eyes on us and they’re going to be looking to see what we can do. “We embrace it and keep working.” Asked if starting in the McDonald’s game was a warning sign to the rest of college basketball, Boston smiled and laughed. “Take it how you want it,” she said. “We’re just here to play and win.”
(Ontario, Canada) — The 6-3 forward made headlines when, at 15, she became the first Canadian woman to dunk in a game. The No. 10 recruit in the 2019 class and the No. 2 forward in the group, Amihere tore her left ACL last year and enrolled early at South Carolina. She helped Canada to a bronze medal at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup, during which she averaged 11.7 points and 7.4 rebounds. Amihere was ranked the No. 2 recruit in the 2019 class prior to an injury ending her 201718 season.
(La Jolla, Calif.) — Littleton, who played the last two seasons at Texas, has two years of eligibility. A 5-9 guard, Littleton started 12 games last season with the Longhorns and averaged the thirdmost minutes on the team (24.2 per game). The 2017 McDonald’s All-American averaged 8.4 points per game and was the Longhorns’ second most efficient 3-point shooter. Littleton helped the U.S. to a 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Cup bronze medal. She was the No. 33 overall recruit in the Class of 2017. She became the first girls’ basketball player in California high
(Rock Island, Ill.) — The 6-foot Beal was the No. 3 wing in the 2019 class and No. 11 overall. She has twice earned Ms. Basketball honors in Illinois (2017, 2018) and is a three-time all-state selection. She took part in the USA Basketball U18 National Team Trials in May.
(Lexington, S.C.) — A 5-8 guard, Thompson led South Carolina high school hoops with 105 3-pointers last season and was named the state’s Basketball Coaches Association Class 5A Player of the Year. She averaged 21.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists as a junior, becoming the all-time leading scorer in Lexington High School history and earned Class 5A All-State honor For more on South Carolina’s 2019 signees, visit spursandfeathers.com
(Worcester, Mass.) — The 6-4 forward was the No. 3 overall recruit in the 2019 class and the top post player. She has already collected three gold medals with USA Basketball — 2017 FIBA U16 Americas Cup, 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup, 2018 Youth Olympic Games 3x3. Boston earned MVP honors at the FIBA U16 Americas Cup.
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(Toledo, Ohio) — Cooke is the No. 7 overall recruit in the 2019 class and the No. 2 point guard in the group, according to ESPN. Cooke helped her Rogers High School squad to the 2018 Division II state championship, posting 33 points and 14 rebounds in the title game. She won a pair of international gold medals with USA Basketball at the 2017 FIBA U16 Americas Cup and the 2017 U17 World Cup.
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2019 SIGNEES • WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
The Next A’ja? Aliyah Boston welcomes comparisons to Gamecock great, WNBA star By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Allen Sharpe
t’s too difficult to ignore the obvious lineage of star players manning the post for South Carolina. From Alaina Coates to A’ja Wilson and beyond, the low block, for about five seasons, has been a place the Gamecocks have thirved. Enter Aliyah Boston. The 6-4 forward comes to South Carolina as the No. 3 overall recruit in the 2019 class and the top post player. From Worcester, Mass. via the U.S. Virgin Islands, Boston has three gold medals with USA Basketball and earned MVP
honors at the FIBA U16 Americas Cup. “Just to see where [A’ja] came from her freshman year to now, in the WNBA, all the accolades, it just made me realize that if I put in the work, I can be as good as A’ja Wilson or even better,” Boston said when meeting with reporters in late-June. “Aliyah is an elite talent with an extremely high ceiling and an understanding of what it takes to win,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. Boston knows with great ability comes great expectations.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL • ALIYAH BOSTON
“There will be comparisons, but I know I just have to keep up with what I’ve been doing and not slack off,” she said. “It just encourages me to keep working, because I see where they’re at and know where I want to be. You want to be like A’ja? You want to be as strong as Alaina Coates? Keep working and keep going.” In a video posted in February to the YouTube channel Overtime — an outlet where current basketball stars watch highlights of up-and-comers — Wilson commented on Boston’s game.
Wilson called the youngster “one of my babies” and agreed with her co-host that Boston will make an impact for the Gamecocks. When she saw it, Boston couldn’t help but smile. “It means a lot, because of how important she is in the basketball world and for women,” Boston said. “When I watch WNBA games, I’ll see what she does and see how I can improve my game.” Since then, the two have met several times — including at the Jordan Brand Classic — and have exchanged text messages.
“I’m very dominant in the post. That’s my strong suit and I know that.” Aliyah Boston
of Boston’s family know Mikiah Herbert Harrigan’s family who live in St. Kitts, 150 miles from St. Thomas.) “I thought I was dominating, but my mom told me, ‘Until you’re shining in the states, then you’re not shining,’” Boston said. “I knew I was shining in St. Thomas, but it was just motivation for me to keep getting better.” So when she was 12, Boston packed up — with her older sister of three years — and left her parents and moved to Massachusetts to live with an aunt. “The next thing you know I was going to school in Massachusetts,” she said. “I came up here and everything got kicked up a notch. But I was excited and I was eager to learn.” Boston started working out more and focusing on her craft. In two years, she was back to dominating. “Maybe I am OK,” she thought. Boston said “everything” sold her on South Carolina. “I took all my visits, I talked to all the coaches and, at the end of the day, I thought Coach Staley could get me to where I need to be,” she said. “And I just really loved the vibe I got with the team.” Originally Boston was going to wear number 00 with the Gamecocks, but a few days before coming to campus told her dad she was going to wear 4. It was a joke. But then the number, which her sister wore in AAU, became available, so she took it. “It’s a lucky number, so that’s what we went with,” she said. Boston, like Wilson, has a bubbly personality. She’s confident, too, as evidenced by the answer she gave to a question about where she sees herself in four years. “Four years, WNBA, overseas, endorsements coming at me one after the other,” she said with an ear-to-ear smile. “And just getting better every day.”
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ALIYAH BOSTON • WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
But it’s about more than just a mentorship. Their games are similar too. “I’m very dominant in the post,” Boston said. “That’s my strong suit and I know that. I like to get to the free-throw line. I also can hit the mid-range jump shot. I’ve developed my 3 game pretty well. And I’m working on my ball handling to beat people off the dribble here and there.” She also likes to play physical. “I like to put a body on someone so I can feel them, where they are,” she said. “I think that’s going to help me, because I’m not going to back away from contact. I 100 percent will [welcome it]. If there’s contact, I will try to make my way through it so I can get to the freethrow line.” “Aliyah is the strongest person I’ve met so far,” said fellow Gamecock freshman Brea Beal, who has played with Boston in a couple of high school all-star games. “She’s so strong and she’s constant. She’s consistent with what she does. She makes those easy layups.” Boston envisions herself playing alongside South Carolina sophomore forward Victaria Saxton, who shined in last season’s NCAA Tournament. “In practice I can see that we work pretty well together, working high-low, or even just watching cuts,” Boston said. “Like if I’m just posting and she cuts down and I dish her the pass. I think we can really work well with each other.” Boston said she needs to work the next couple of months on balancing her game. She also wants to get in better shape to be able to get down the court easier and play more minutes. “Finishing and developing my outside game a little bit more,” she said. “Really it’s just been about growing, basketball-wise.” Boston was born and raised in St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. (By happenstance, some
Electrifying guard Zia Cooke already attracting attention
By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Allen Sharpe
ia Cooke had no Twitter account and few Instagram followers last December when she began her senior season at Rogers High School in Ohio. That was, fortunately for her social media clout, until video clips from her 43-point performance against East Kentwood (Michigan) went viral. The Euro-step up-and-under finished with a swished jumper in the lane, the crossover that made a defender in front of her fly several feet back — 290,000 people saw it all. “I had been crossing people up and getting nice layups, but nobody ever saw it because it wasn’t on tape. It was never recorded,” Cooke said. “So for that to be recorded, it showed me, ‘Wow, I am kind of good. Wow, people really are watching me.’” Not just any people. “Oh she’s cold,” Dwyane Wade tweeted with a link to the video. “She nice nice,” Blazers’ star guard CJ McCollum wrote. “Swaaaaaaag,” long-time NBA player Jason Terry posted. John Wall and Chance The Rapper also chimed in. Six months later, Cooke has taken her talents to South Carolina, where she’s out to recreate that viral magic with her electric skill set. Cooke was the No. 7 overall recruit in the 2019 class and the No. 2 point guard, accord28
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL • ZIA COOKE
ing to ESPN. She’s a two-time high school state champion and won a pair of international gold medals with USA Basketball at the 2017 FIBA U16 Americas Cup and the 2017 U17 World Cup. “Zia [joins] our program with a full toolbox and an eagerness to make an immediate impact on both sides of the ball,” Gamecock head coach Dawn Staley said. “She is an electrifying lead guard that can score with confidence and put our team in a position to win. “She is the perfect balance of both her parents, who modeled strength, hard work and confidence. She is a fighter and a competitor who Gamecock Nation will be excited to watch.”
While the viral clips portray her in the mold of Wade, McCollum and Terry, Cooke points to two other players she models her game after. “I see myself being like an Asia Durr, Kelsey Mitchell,” she said, referring to the two dynamic WNBA scorers and former college stars. “… I can see myself being like one of them two. I look up to them a lot. They play like boys, you know? I’ve listened to some stories about them. And they’ve played with boys. Their stories are not too different from mine. “Both of their dads are in their life. My dad is in my life. He helped me develop as a player. … I just like girls that aren’t normal. I feel like I’m not normal.” Cooke has been billed as someone who can compete right away with Ty Harris and Destanni Henderson for minutes in the Gamecock backcourt. “Zia is that very quick point guard who can get past you,” said fellow South Carolina freshman Brea Beal, who played in the same starting lineup as Cooke at the McDonald’s All-American Game this past season. Added Gamecock freshman forward Aliyah Boston, who was also in that starting lineup, “Zia can be a point guard, Zia can be on the wing and Zia can shoot it.” “On the court, it’s grind time,” Cooke said. Cooke said she chose South Carolina because it felt like home and Staley was always real and honest with her throughout the recruiting process. “We built a very close relationship,” Cooke said. “And not just coach Staley. With all the coaches. We all got close with each other. That’s what led me here.” Like Staley, Cooke enjoys fashion, especially when it comes to sneakers. The day Cooke committed to South Carolina, she wore an “exclusive” multi-colored pair of Gucci shoes with black straps and what looked like red light-up gems. “My mom, she’s into fashion,” Cooke said. “And my dad is. So I’ve got a lot of different drips to me, you know? And that’s another thing. Coach Staley, she’s got some drip too, so I pay attention to that.” In other words, Cooke has a diverse fashion sense. Like Beal, Cooke mentioned how coming to South Carolina — with its star-studded recruiting class and already-deep roster — will ease her transition to college ball. She called it a “relief” that she can come in and be surrounded by other great players who can score. She’ll be able to distribute more and trust the players around her. “We have the talent to get it done,” she said. “We just have to work hard in order for it to happen.” And Cooke has goals. “Going to the Final Four every year and winning the national championship,” she said. “That’s what you come to college for, you know? And just getting better as a player. I have bigger goals. I want to get a national championship and sooner or later I want to go to the WNBA. “And develop as a person. I want to become a better person and be whatever I can for the team.” If all that happens, Cooke should see another dramatic spike in social media followers. This time, though, it won’t come as a surprise.
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Building Blocks Breaking down South Carolina’s 2019 signees and how the 2020 team might look By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe & Jenny Dilworth
hen the MLB Draft began June 3, Mark Kingston and his staff were watching closely, anxiously awaiting the results so they could see how their 2020 roster would take shape. The Gamecocks had two seniors that would be drafted, as well as a few sophomores and juniors in the mix. But they were most anxious about hanging on to most of what Kingston called a “really good” 30
BASEBALL • 2019 SIGNEES
recruiting class. It’s the incoming recruits they worry about, because those are the future, the players the next two or three teams will be built around. South Carolina coaches knew they would likely lose at least two high-profile recruits. Shortstop prospects Tyler Callihan and Ivan Johnson were expected to go in the early rounds, and they did. Callihan, a top-100 high school prospect,
went in the third round to the Reds and Johnson, who played a year of junior college, went in the fourth round, also to the Reds. There were a few others they were worried about losing, primarily a trio of junior-college pitchers and a couple of rapidly rising prep stars. Kingston hoped to retain as many as possible. As it turned out, the draft went reasonably well for the Gamecocks,
which lost five current players and three signees. Seniors TJ Hopkins and Jacob Olson both got picked, Hopkins in the ninth round by the Reds and Olson in the 26th round by the Cubs. Junior pitcher Reid Morgan was a 13th-round pick by the Mariners, while Ridge Chapman was drafted in the 34th round by the Angels. James Nix, a juniorcollege transfer who committed to the Gamecocks just before the draft, also decided to turn pro, signing with the Astros in late June. South Carolina then suffered a big blow when catcher and cleanup hitter Luke Berryhill, a 13th-round pick, signed with the Reds on July 12, the last day for draftees to sign a professional contract. The rest of South Carolina’s signees all planned to come to school after going in the late rounds. Kingston then fortified the class with the addition of four new signees, including two experienced grad transfers, after the draft. A class of 18 new players — nine freshmen, seven junior-college transfers and two grad transfers — will join a host of returning players, including five starters in the field and several pitchers who threw significant innings last year. Most importantly, South Carolina should have plenty of depth, both on the mound and in the field. “A lot of impact players coming in,” Kingston said. “… When you look at what we are losing compared to what is coming in, I think we can safely say there is going to be some significant improvement just from a numbers standpoint.” With 20 or more players possibly returning, Kingston also has to play a numbers game. College teams can only carry 37 players on the roster, so several could lose roster spots. Five players — Jacob English, Quinntin Perez, Nick Neville, Jordan Holladay and Ian Jenkins — chose to transfer, joining redshirt freshman Logan Chapman, who left the program during the season. Junior pitcher Sawyer Bridges decided not to return as a player due to injury and more may wind up leaving before fall practice. With things mostly settled, here’s how the newcomers mix with the players expected to return going into the summer and how position
battles might look going into fall camp.
AROUND THE HORN
With Chris Cullen graduated and Holladay transferring, the first base job is wide open and likely will come down to two new veterans and two young players. Sophomore Josiah Sightler is the only natural first baseman on the roster but he must make big strides in his development over the summer to maintain his roster spot. A 12th-round pick by the Reds last summer, he turned down a big signing bonus to come to South Carolina. He arrived with huge expectations and flashed some power potential in the fall but struggled when the season began, batting just .067 and striking out 18 times in 30 at-bats with no home runs and two RBI. Sightler may be pushed by Wes Clarke, who also struggled most of his freshman season before flashing potential and earning at-bats down the stretch. Clarke can catch and DH, but with Berryhill back and four new catchers coming in, he may need to switch positions to get on the field. A switch to first base seems like a natural move. The two late additions, grad transfers Dallas Beaver and Bryant Bowen, can both play first base, catch and play other positions. And they can both hit. Bowen hit .341 with 11 home runs and 51 RBI last year for Southern Miss, an NCAA Tournament team, while Beaver hit .316 with 12 home runs and 56 RBI for Central Florida. Both of them will probably be in the lineup somewhere, and it seems likely one of them will win the first base job.
Kingston and the Gamecocks desperately need Noah Campbell to fulfill his vast potential. He entered the season as a preseason All-
American but was in a funk most of the year and hit just .239. He returns at second base in his draft-eligible season and needs to be a catalyst at the top of the Gamecock lineup. There’s plenty of options behind Campbell. Junior-college transfers Jeff Heinrich and Shane Shifflett can both play second, as can highly regarded freshman Brennon Milone. Utility player Jonah Beamon, who provided a spark off the bench at times last year, also looks to be back.
With Olson and Perez both gone, third base is wide open. But, like first base, there are plenty of options. Millone and Heinrich could wind up battling for the job, but Bowen and Beaver could also play there. Milone, a 28th-round pick by the Dodgers, was an elite hitter in high school who was expected to go much higher in the draft. He could force his way into the lineup right away and may enter the fall as the favorite to win the job. Heinrich also has a solid bat and can play multiple positions.
and hit in the middle of the lineup, combining with Berryhill to give South Carolina two power bats to build around. Allen started 55 games as a freshman and produced with 18 extra-base hits and 30 RBI. But he was inconsistent and hit just .210. He will need to progress over the summer to keep his starting job. The biggest challenge will be replacing Hopkins, a four-year starter in centerfield. Junior-college transfer Noah Myers will likely earn the job. Myers, a 30th-round pick by the Blue Jays, can hit at the top of the order and brings a nice combination of speed and pop. He hit .397 and led the nation with 77 stolen bases last year, while scoring 92 runs and driving in 60 in 59 games. After losing Nix, Kingston immediately replaced him with another junior-college transfer who can hit. Anthony Amicangelo, a former Washington State commit, batted .492 with six home runs and 68 RBI in 55 games last year at Johnson County Community College. He can play all three outfield positions, including centerfield. Sophomore Joel Brewer, who played sparingly as a freshman but is a solid defender, could also be in the mix. Andrew Eyster
George Callil returns and enters the fall with the inside track after playing 43 games last year. He was excellent defensively but hit only .214. With an offseason to develop, he figures to be better offensively next season. He will be pushed by Shifflett, another solid glove man, freshman Braylen Wimmer and possibly Milone. The one that hits likely will earn the starting nod. Or if the rest of the lineup shows promise offensively, Kingston may be able to go with defense over offense at the position.
Two starters return in Andrew Eyster and Brady Allen. Eyster led the team in hitting as a sophomore, batting .309 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI. He will start in left or right
The loss of Berryhill hurts but Kingston signed four catchers to bolster the position. Beaver and Bowen both caught more than 20 games for D-1 teams last year and can help replace Berryhill’s bat. Freshman Jax Cash from Spartanburg could be the future at the position after he recovers from Tommy John surgery and Kingston added another freshman catcher in late signee Colin Burgess. Cash and Burgess, a former Wichita State commitment, are both considered strong defensive catchers. Clarke could also be an option if he improves defensively.
A big weakness on last year’s team was the bench, which didn’t have a single player hit better than .239 and had five who hit below .200. The addition of nine new position players should give the Gamecocks more options and some valuable competition next season. A host of players could fill the DH role — Beaver, Bowen, Clarke, Sightler, Allen and Millone. There will be plenty of depth in the infield, five players who can catch and a host of outfield options. More importantly, the new arrivals will create competition all around the diamond, making the Gamecocks deeper and more versatile.
The Gamecocks took their lumps on the mound last year (5.51 ERA) with a young and injurydepleted pitching staff. But several young pitchers got vast experience and South Carolina will enter 2020 with an ace and a ton of potential. Brett Kerry was named to three freshman All-American teams after his marvelous 2019 season, which included four wins, seven saves and a 2.62 ERA. Kerry was the team’s best reliever but started the regularseason finale and shut down No. 3 Mississippi State. He will be given an opportunity to start and could emerge as the team’s Friday night starter. If not, he’s either the closer or a key reliever capable of pitching multiple innings and making multiple appearances in a weekend series. Friday night starter Carmen Mlodzinski, who made just three starts before suffering a broken foot last year, likely has the inside track on a weekend role but must take another step in his development this summer. He is expected to be challenged by two or three juniorcollege pitchers. Thomas Farr, a 6-1 righthander, chose South Carolina over Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. 2019 SIGNEES • BASEBALL
He was considered the No. 7 juniorcollege player in the country with a fastball that topped out at 97 mph. He pitched just three times last year before suffering a forearm injury but maintained a throwing program and is expected to be healthy when he arrives on campus. Brannon Jordan, a 6-2 righthander, was the No. 35-rated JUCO player in the nation last year and had an outstanding sophomore year, going 9-2 with a 1.43 ERA and a 1.49 batting average against. He struck out 76 batters in 56.2 innings and has a fastball that reached 94 in the spring. Andrew Peters, another 6-2 right-hander, was the No. 4-rated JUCO player in the country but pitched only one game last spring due to an elbow injury. Peters, whose fastball touches 97, had Tommy John surgery and likely won’t be available until the spring. If he remains on schedule with his rehab, he could emerge as another rotation candidate. Left-hander Dylan Harley, who started last season as the Saturday
starter, and redshirt-freshman Julian Bosnic, another left-hander, could also get a shot at the weekend rotation or wind up as a mid-week starter. The Gamecocks also had four other pitchers who made multiple starts last season. With plenty of rotation options, the bullpen could also be deep. The key will be finding a closer if Kerry moves to the rotation. An intriguing option could be fifth-year senior Graham Lawson, a key reliever on the 2018 Super Regional team. Lawson, who was drafted by the Nationals last year, had Tommy John surgery and spent last season rehabbing at South Carolina. Kingston said his rehab has gone well and he’s expected to have a major role next season. The Gamecocks also have eight other pitchers who pitched last season and are expected to return. Cam Tringali, TJ Shook, Wesley Sweatt and Daniel Lloyd each started and pitched out of the bullpen. If they don’t win rotation spots, they could each fill key roles in middle relief or at the backend
2019 SIGNEES *Anthony Amicangelo **Dallas Beaver **Bryant Bowen Colin Burgess Jax Cash RJ Dantin
*Thomas Farr *Jeff Heinrich *Brannon Jordan Jonathan Machamer Will McGregor Brennan Milone *Noah Myers *Andrew Peters *Shane Shifflett Brett Thomas Trey Tujetsch Braylen Wimmer
“It’s a process. You have to build it brick by brick,” he said. “You have to continue to recruit well, you have to continue to tweak things within your program and just let them know this is a program that has been good for a long time and it will be good for a long time.”
POS HT/WT HOMETOWN OF C/IF IF/C C C P
P IF P P P IF OF P IF P P IF
BASEBALL • 2019 SIGNEES
5-10, 205 6-2, 219 5-11, 208 5-10, 185 6-2, 195 6-3, 175
Bremerton, Wash. Kissimmee, Fla. Shreveport, La. Lexington, Ky. Spartanburg, S.C. Spartanburg, S.C.
6-1, 195 Niceville, Fla. 6-0, 200 McHenry, Ill. 6-2, 195 Arkansas City, Kan. 6-4, 200 Massillon, Ohio 6-2, 175 Anderson, S.C. 6-0, 170 Woodstock, Ga. 6-2, 175 Mount Carmel, Ill. 6-2, 185 Carterville, Ill. 5-11, 180 Bradenton, Fla. 6-5, 220 Atlanta 6-0, 165 Charlotte 6-2, 170
* Junior-college transfer ** Grad transfer
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of the bullpen. Hayden Lehman, a junior-college transfer who pitched only seven innings before suffering an arm injury, could also be back, along with John Gilreath, Parker Coyne, Cole Ganopulos and possibly fifth-year senior Gage Hinson. South Carolina also has five freshman pitchers coming in. The best of the group is 6-5 right-hander Brett Thomas, who had a big senior season and wound up among the top 100 high school players. With a fastball that tops out at 94 and a big curveball, he could contend for a spot in the rotation or at the backend of the bullpen. Kingston has one of the best junior-college recruiting classes in the country and at least two freshmen (Milone and Thomas) who could make an impact right away. Adding experienced players like Beaver and Bowen to the mix could also be huge. After a disappointing 28-28 season in 2019, he believes his third season at South Carolina will be better and the two-time national champions will take another step toward returning to the postseason and the nation’s elite.
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Championship Club Gamecock Lacrosse wins club national championship By Josh Hyber | Photo by Chris Lohoff-Gaida
ames Harkey was at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte in March 2018 when the University of Maryland Baltimore County became the first No. 16 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to upset a No. 1. But for the UMBC alumnus, the jubilation he felt that day pales in comparison to the feeling he felt on May 11. The South Carolina club lacrosse coach and his team won the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) championship that day, capping a 21-2 season with a 13-8 championship game victory over California in Salt Lake City. “Each week we figured some things out and got a little bit better and grew as a group,” Harkey said. “I think we really peaked first in Atlanta [at the conference tournament] and then in Utah. “We played as well as a group, as a team, as a unit, at the end of the year as we had all year. That’s the best you can ask for.” In a three-day span South Carolina beat Chapman (15-12)
and Liberty (9-6), two club teams it lost to earlier in the season, in national semifinal and quarterfinal games before toppling the Golden Bears. The Gamecocks beat Santa Clara (9-5) in the opening round of the tournament after gaining an automatic bid after winning the Southeastern Conference tournament. After falling in a 2018 national tournament semifinal to Chapman, South Carolina was determined to get over the hump and win two more games in 2019. The team had a knack for coming out on the right end of close games all season, winning seven by three goals or fewer. “One of the great things about this team was that we were a very, very good team,” Harkey said. “We had a lot of contributors.” Sophomore attack Sam Weis, a Charleston native and a transfer from D-I Bellarmine, led the Gamecocks’ club team with 73 points (55 goals, 18 assists), the most points in a single season since the team was founded in 1973.
“He was on fire at the end of the year,” Harkey said. “He really came into his own as a vocal leader on the field. … Once he got used to the guys and got a feel for everybody, he was a heck of a player for us.” Junior Jono Durham had 64 points (38 goals, 26 assists) — including one goal in the title game that made SportsCenter’s Top 10 — while senior Griffin Giles had 62 points (43 goals, 19 assists). Sophomore Griffin Bailey had 31 points (24 goals, 7 assists), fourth highest on the team. Eight other players had at least 15 points. Senior team captains Frank Fiorino and Ryan Fallen as well as defenders Chris Greenberg and Hank Chastain were also key components and leaders of the team. Senior goalkeeper Colin Hains, one of three team captains, allowed 6.68 goals per game and was named an All-American and the league’s Most Outstanding Player. “He was just a brick wall and a phenomenal communica-
tor,” Harkey said. “And he played his best lacrosse at the end of the year.” Over spring break, the team took a three-game trip to California and played Chapman (a 15-10 loss), UC Santa Barbara and BYU. “It was our first big trip of the year, so you always wonder how the team is going to handle [it],” Harkey said. “… We took away some good lessons, not only on the field, but lessons in how to be ready for tough situations.” Two weeks later the team traveled to a tournament in Tennessee, where it beat 2018 national club champion Michigan State. In Atlanta in April the team beat club teams from Georgia, Liberty and Georgia Tech to win the conference tournament. “I told the guys in 2015 when I first got involved, ‘You guys have the potential to do whatever it is you want to do,’” Harkey said. “I told those guys if we can figure out how to do it as a group and can work hard consistently, we could do it.
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Gamecocks flying under radar heading into 2019 By Bill Gunter | Contributing writer
uly means two things in the South — Atlanta Braves baseball and SEC Football Media Days. SEC Media Days was a different event for Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks this year, and to me that was not a bad thing. Last year, the Gamecocks were coming off a nine-win season highlighted by a victory over Michigan in the Outback Bowl. Expectations were high and some viewed the early September game against Georgia as a battle for the SEC East. Of course, we know what happened that September day in Columbia and honestly, the Gamecocks were never heard from again the remainder of the season. Between that game and the bowl loss to Virginia, plenty of good things happened, but the Gamecocks were never really relevant again in 2018 and, for many, that has carried over to the 2019 preseason. But I am a pretty positive person so I tend to get excited because I love college football, have grown up going to South Carolina games and enjoy all the things associated with a fall Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. Still, I head into 2019 with the belief that the Gamecocks are flying under the radar and that this team is being judged on their final game of last season and not on the full body of work from 2018 (which I understand wasn’t spectacular).
Let me present my optimistic point of view heading into 2019. Maybe it will brighten your day. South Carolina returns a veteran team. Seniors Jake Bentley, Bryan Edwards, Rico Dowdle and Donell Stanley have been around the block in the SEC and this is their final trip. They know what to expect in the second year of Bryan McClendon’s offense. Bentley, Edwards and Dowdle all need to be more consistent and bring their best to each game, but those three should provide senior leadership on offense to go along with solid contributors like Shi Smith, Kiel Pollard, Dylan Wonnum and Sadarius Hutcherson. In 2018, McClendon’s offense showed flashes of the high-powered attack Muschamp wants and with another year of experience, along with a few talented newcomers, it should be ready to take another step forward. On defense, the return of Javon Kinlaw and D.J. Wonnum is the first thing that jumps out along the defensive front. With those two players, combined with experienced contributors in Kobe Smith and Keir Thomas, the Gamecocks should have a bigger and stronger front line. Depth should be improved as well with sophomores Rick Sandidge and J.J. Enagbare and incoming freshmen Zacch Pickens and Joseph Anderson. The Gamecocks enjoyed success at the beginning of this decade when the defensive line was
the strength of the team. It finally appears to have taken the shape of what Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson envisioned when they arrived in Columbia. Heading into 2019, I see a group that has all the ingredients to be a solid football team and win at least eight games, which would be a solid year. I also see a team without the fanfare and hype it received last year. This Gamecock team will fly under the radar at least until the Alabama game as national analysts won’t reinvest time in a team that did not perform up to standards last year. With most thinking the schedule is too tough, that Muschamp and the Gamecocks are still a few years away and with the bowl loss still on the minds of many, I actually believe that is a good thing. We will see what happens soon but count me in the group that is positive about the upcoming season.
Bill Gunter is the co-host of the Early Game on 107.5 The Game in Columbia. Follow him on Twitter @WillGunter.
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Remembering the year SC beat Alabama, Clemson and Georgia By Ed Girardeau | Contributing writer
Enter Alabama vs. South Carolina. The last time the two played was 2010. Who can forget that game? I’m not particularly interested in watching replays but once I started watching that game, there was no stopping. No. 1 Alabama, the defending national champion, was led by Julio Jones, 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and Greg McElroy, who had not lost a game at quarterback since he was in junior high school. Carolina beat this group? South Carolina starred Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore on offense and Melvin Ingram and Stephon Gilmore on defense. Throw in the game of quarterback Stephen Garcia’s career and South Carolina not only won, it dominated 35-21. But it wasn’t easy. With the Gamecocks up 21-9, Garcia ran down a bad snap and fired it out the back of the end zone for a safety. I had erased that from my memory but at the time it seemed like “here we go.”
But Carolina continued to fight and led 28-14 at the end of the third quarter. I’ve been going to the stadium for 50 years and I have never heard it like it was at that moment. It was exploding. When McElroy threw a slant to Darius Hanks for a 51-yard touchdown, it was 28-21 and fans were like “oh no.” When Carolina got the ball back, Garcia hit Jeffery, who bobbled the ball into the hands of an Alabama DB in Gamecock territory. Not again. Nope. Not again. The defense stiffened and Alabama lined up for a fake field goal. The pass was incomplete as the defense had it covered. South Carolina took the ball down the field and Lattimore took it in for his third score. Now I was fired up. That’s the opportunity that presents itself this year. The Gamecocks will have to be better, but 2010 was Steve Spurrier’s only SEC East championship and those years were followed by three straight 11-2 seasons. It was Spurrier’s sixth season at South Carolina and the first winning at least nine games.
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That video was followed by the 2012 Georgia game at WilliamsBrice. Had to watch that. That game was highlighted by Ace Sanders returning a punt 70 yards to put South Carolina up 21-0. The goose bumps watching that rivaled the Alabama game as SC won 35-7. What a night! The next video was South Carolina at Clemson later that year. Led by Dylan Thompson playing for the injured Conner Shaw, the Gamecocks won 27-17. Go find the videos. They are guaranteed to fire you up for this season. It’s a great way to get through the summer. With loyal devotion, remembering the days …
t’s summertime and the living is easy. So the song says. Not if you’re a college sports fan. What gets us through it? The fact that football is not far away with players reporting in early August and practice not far behind. Time heals all wounds and the flat tire that was the Belk Bowl is a distant memory. In fact, I don’t remember it at all. Yeah, South Carolina has a tough schedule but with a tough schedule comes an incredible opportunity. Most preseason polls have Alabama, Clemson and Georgia ranked 1, 2, 3. It is our good fortune to get all three and the chance to shock the world three times, not to mention two other top-10 teams in Florida and Texas A&M. Three of those five games are in Columbia. So how do we as fans get ready? YouTube. Not only is the website good for looking up how to change the brake lights on your truck, you can look up football games of the past.
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