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MARCH 2019 • VOLUME 41 • ISSUE 3

DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH After a life of hardship, Bianca Cuevas-Moore shines on and off the court

February 2019

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Publishing Schedule

Contents

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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.

8 ‘Down, set …’

To opt in or subscribe, email subscribe@ spursandfeathers.com or call 843-853-7678.

28 Atta Boy

The Gamecock Club and Spurs & Feathers thank you for your support. Below is our publication schedule for 2019: Jan. 23 Feb. 20 March 20 April 24 May 22 June 19

July 24 Aug. 28 Sept. 25 Oct. 23 Nov. 20 Dec. 18

GAMECOCK CLUB EVENTS Got a Gamecock Club event you’d like us to list? Email jowens@ spursandfeathers.com

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18 Scrapbook: Photos from spring practice

5 Spurs Up Tour ready

BASKETBALL

to hit the road

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7

Remembering a legend, pioneer

20 Survivor: CuevasMoore continues basketball journey

Gamecocks make statement vs. Clemson

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BASEBALL

10 questions for Spring Football

14 Secondary has bright future

30 Photos: CarolinaClemson rivalry series

16 2019 Spring Football Roster

32 Gamecocks in the Pros: A major-league roster

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

columns 38

Gunter: Kingston has team back on track

on the cover On the Cover: Bianca Cuevas-Moore Photo courtesey: SC Athletics Cover Design by Lisa Heinz

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36 News & Notes: T&F, S&D win SEC titles

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28 Second chance: Brett Kerry’s surprising start

13 A.J. Turner: Mr. Versatility

SPURS & FEATHERS (USPS 12779) (ISSN7454368X) is published 12 times a year, monthly January-December. The annual subscription price is $50 for non Gamecock Club Members. Members of the Gamecock Club receive a discounted subscription as a member benefit. Spurs & Feathers is published by Evening Post Industries, 1534 Main Street, Columbia, SC 29201. Periodicals postage paid at Columbia, SC.

34 California trio becomes Carolina girls

39 Girardeau: A March to remember

26 Chris Cullen comes up big

12 Yard markers: Offense looks to improve run game

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March 2019


Gamecock Club announces Muschamp’s Spurs Up Tour dates By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photo by Allen Sharpe

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outh Carolina head coach Will Muschamp is used to leading his football team onto the field before more than 80,000 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium. Muschamp appreciates that support and he likes to show it each spring by meeting with Gamecock fans. The Gamecock Club has announced its 2019 Spurs Up Tour, which features Muschamp visiting with fans at Gamecock Club chapters throughout the Carolinas and Georgia. This year’s tour begins April 23 in Augusta, Ga. and concludes May 14 in Charleston. It features nine different stops. “Our fan base is the most loyal, passionate fan base in the country. I appreciate their support,” Muschamp said. “They have been positive with us in our time here and it’s a very small token to say ‘thank you’ to them. I think it’s really important to go out and see them and show our appreciation.” The stops on this year’s tour are: April 23 in Augusta; April 24 in the Midlands (hosted by the Lexington County Gamecock Club); April 29 in Lancaster; April 30 in Greenville; May 2 in York; May 7 in Sumter; May 8 in Myrtle Beach; May 9 in Atlanta; and May 14 in Charleston.

March 2019

Each appearance will feature a photo opportunity with Muschamp, an update on the Gamecock football team and a question-and-answer session with fans. South Carolina’s spring practice, which began Feb. 28, will conclude April 6 with the annual Garnet and Black Spring Game. South Carolina finished 7-6 last season and played in its third straight bowl game. The Gamecocks have won 22 games under Muschamp, the most by any South Carolina head coach in his first three seasons. Muschamp’s goal each season is the same — “win the [SEC] East, win the state.” He says his message to Gamecock fans will remain consistent. “My message is always the same. We have to continue to improve and continue to take steps forward in the program,” he said. “We are excited about where we are and where we are headed.” Details on the location, time and ticket costs for each event will be released later. For more information, visit TheGamecockClub.com.

SPURS UP TOUR • GAMECOCK CLUB

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Gamecock Nation remembers South Carolina legend, pioneer Harold White By Brian Hand | Contributing writer • Photos by SC Athletics

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he term legend gets thrown around a great deal, but when talking about former South Carolina coach and administrator Harold White, the word does not fully do him justice. White was truly a pioneer and a legend at the University of South Carolina. When he passed away on Feb. 15 at age 78, it was easy to see just what the man affectionately known by many as just “Coach” meant to so many Gamecocks. South Carolina’s first AfricanAmerican coach, White was originally hired in 1971 as a graduate assistant by head football coach Paul Dietzel. He spent nearly four decades championing the University of South Carolina and, most importantly, student-athletes. “Over all of the years that I was there, I didn’t care if you were black, white, green or yellow. I wanted you to be successful,” White told South Carolina’s Brad Muller in 2016. “I started there because of black athletes, but once we moved on, the ‘black’ or the ‘white’ had nothing to

do with it. The joy of my career with the University of South Carolina Athletics Department was that I had the opportunity to help so many youngsters — black, white and whatever other color it may be.” White served as the head of academic support for Gamecock studentathletes from 1973-89 and then returned to that position in 1993. At the time of his retirement in 2007, he was the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Academic Support and Student Services. In 1993, White was awarded the prestigious Lan Hewlett Award by the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A) for his service in academic advising. White also had been the school’s NCAA compliance officer for two years after heading up the academic office. He also served as director of Carolina’s Wellness Program for 11 years from 1988-99. “The University of South Caro-

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GAMECOCK CLUB • HAROLD WHITE

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lina Athletics Department and its student-athletes have been blessed throughout history to be impacted by so many great people and positive influences,” South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner said. “Harold White stands at the top of that list. Former Gamecock studentathletes who have become successful owe a debt of gratitude to Harold for the mentorship and positive direction he provided them. We are better for having known him and will miss him immensely.” The Gamecock football program gives the “Harold White GPA Award” annually to team members recognized for academic achievement. In November 2013, South Carolina athletics held a special reception at the Frank McGuire Club at the Colonial Life Arena to honor its pioneers. White was in attendance and it was obvious just how much he meant to Gamecock student-athletes many years after departing the university. During the special evening, White pointed to a study that he did during the 1990s that found that since desegregation of studentathletes at South Carolina in 1969, African-American student-athletes had a graduation rate of 92 percent. South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley was in attendance at the reception for the Gamecock pioneers. “When you represent this special university, you want to hear about the heritage, you want to hear about the culture and how people’s experiences were to share with our student-athletes,” Staley told Spurs & Feathers in 2013. “They paved the way for so many African-American

[student-athletes] to attend South Carolina. They paved the way and they made life easier for some of the players I coach every day. Also, just being a representative of South Carolina, I am forever grateful that I can coach here, be employed here because of the efforts they have gone through.” Another one of the individuals in attendance was Casey Manning. Many know Manning as the analyst for the radio broadcast of South Carolina’s men’s basketball, but he was also the first African-American men’s basketball player for the Gamecocks. Manning knows just how much White meant to South Carolina. “Harold White helped everybody around him,” Manning told Muller in 2016. “Not just young black kids, he helped everybody. He always stressed academics.” Those thoughts were echoed by many after White’s passing. “Today Gamecock Nation lost one of the greatest Gamecocks ever,” Gamecock football legend Corey Miller wrote on social media. “He meant so much to so many young men at South Carolina. Coach White was one of the main reasons I succeeded as a football player and as a student-athlete.” “Harold was a pioneer as well as a mentor and father-type figure to many Gamecock student-athletes, across all sports,” said Charles Waddell, Deputy Athletics Director at South Carolina. “His impact on USC Athletics is tremendous.” Those thoughts illustrate the legacy left behind by Coach White, who was not only a legend and a pioneer but, above all, a Gamecock.

March 2019


Kingston’s Gamecocks make statement with series win over Clemson By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor

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hen Reid Morgan walked off the mound for the final time March 3, he was treated to a standing ovation like only a Founders Park crowd can deliver. The junior right-hander had just shut down Clemson for 6.2 innings and with South Carolina leading Game 3 of the rivalry series 14-3, Gamecock Nation rewarded him with what he called “the best moment of my baseball career.” A transfer from Kingwood, Texas, Morgan didn’t know much about the Carolina-Clemson rivalry when he arrived in Columbia. But after pitching the Gamecocks to their biggest win of the season, he suddenly understood what the hype was all about. “Being in a stadium full of people who are pulling for you and doing everything they can to get you going is pretty awesome. It was fun to get this one for everybody,” he said. There are few rivalries in the country that can match the passion and intensity of Carolina-Clemson. Mark Kingston calls the three-

Charlie Guarino

game series the best rivalry in college baseball. He reminded his players of that before Game 3. “This is the place that everybody in America would want to be playing, on this field, in this stadium,” he said. They took his pep talk to heart. “It really fired everybody up,” Luke Berryhill said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” This year’s showdown was as tense and dramatic as ever, with Clemson entering the series ranked in the top 20 and Kingston’s revamped squad looking to prove it still belongs among the nation’s elite. The Gamecocks quickly got the upper hand, winning at Clemson when freshman sensation Brett Kerry (see page 28) stifled the Tigers with a dazzling display of dominance. The Tigers bounced back the next day, winning 11-5 in front of a raucous, pro-Clemson crowd in Greenville. The rubber game was huge for both teams. Clemson was looking to win the series for the fifth straight year and deal the Game-

Frank Cannon

Jackee Moye

cock faithful another heart-breaking loss on their home field. But Morgan, Berryhill and TJ Hopkins were having none of that. Hopkins and Berryhill combined to hit three home runs and drive in nine runs. Morgan took care of the rest, baffling the Tigers with pinpoint control and a nasty slider. The bespectacled/goateed/tattooed Morgan was so hyped up that he stared down a Clemson batter after striking him out. After fouling off a pitch, Bryce Teodosio ran halfway down the first-base line, and then slowly strolled back to the plate. Morgan took offense to his nonchalance, and after setting him down swinging, glared at him as he walked off the field, pumping up his teammates and the home crowd. “That really fired me up,” he said. “It was fun to do that.” The Gamecocks not only wanted to win the series for the first time in five years, they were out to prove a point. Clemson’s Logan Davidson fired the first insult earlier in the week when he declared, “I feel like

Laurel Suggs

we have a better culture.” Clemson infielder Jordan Greene wore wristbands that read “Our State.” Kingston and his team got the final dig. “Probably a poor choice of words on his part,” he said of Davidson. “We have tremendous culture.” No one drove that point home more than Hopkins, the series MVP who hit three home runs and had nine RBI in the three games. A life-long Gamecock fan, he wanted nothing more than to beat Clemson in his final try. “It means everything,” he said. “It took three years of my college career to get it done, and it’s never felt better.”

Jeff Owens can be reached at jowens@spursandfeathers.com or on Twitter @Jowens_SpursUp.

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FOOTBALL

Renewed Focus 10 questions facing Gamecocks during spring football By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe & SC Athletics

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wo years ago, a lot of things went right for South Carolina as the Gamecocks finished 9-4 in Will Muschamp’s second season as head coach.

That created plenty of momentum and high expectations entering 2018. But, in year three, a lot of things went wrong for the Gamecocks, who suffered a rash of injuries and a series of heartbreaking losses in a disappointing 7-6 season. That leaves Muschamp and his staff plenty of issues to address during the offseason. As spring practice began Feb. 28, Muschamp outlined five critical areas his team will focus on: turnovers, explosive plays, field position, red-zone execution and winning the fourth quarter. “You look at those five critical factors in every game, when we’re able to win three of those five, those are the seven games we won,” he said. “When we didn’t win at least three, those were the six games that we lost. That’s really indicative of how we were, very inconsistent at times in all three phases. That’s where we’ve got to make large 8

SPRING FOOTBALL • KEY QUESTIONS

improvements, and that’s the emphasis for our team.” Here’s a look at 10 key questions facing the Gamecocks during spring camp:

1. What’s the most important issue?

When Muschamp opened his spring press conference, the very first thing he talked about was turnovers. Creating them on defense, and not turning the ball over on offense. “Looking at our points of emphasis, improving from last year, the number one thing that jumps out at you is turnover margin,” he said. “We didn’t do a good enough job, number one, of taking care of the ball. Number two, we squandered a lot of opportunities of getting the ball off people [and] ending drives.” Two years ago, the Gamecocks were second in the SEC in generating turnovers and second with a turnover margin of +11. That led to the 9-4 season, which featured six wins by eight points or less. Last year, they were minus-5 in turnover margin, minus-6 in SEC games. They won the

turnover margin in six of the seven games they won. Defensively, the Gamecocks had just six interceptions and recovered only 10 of 21 fumbles by the opposition. On offense, they had 14 interceptions and fumbled the ball away seven times. “Just far too many self-inflicted wounds,” Muschamp said. “Taking points off the board, field-position issues, different things, it creates momentum for your football team in a negative way. … It really hurt our football team.” Defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said the defense had plenty of opportunities to generate turnovers but just didn’t come up with them. On the first day of spring practice, he showed his players video from last year’s 35-31 loss at Florida, where the Gamecocks blew a 35-14 lead in the fourth quarter. He pointed out several turnover opportunities the defense missed. “For us to be the football team that we want to be and that we are capable of being, we have to make those plays,” he said. “We have to get the tips and overthrows. When the ball is on the

March 2019


He understands that, and that’s the number one area where we’ve got to make improvements as a football team.” Though Bentley’s job seems secure, Muschamp emphasized there are no guarantees with any position. “I want the best quarterback that we can [have] at the University of South Carolina, and we’ll see how that presents itself as we move forward,” he said. “Right now, he’s our best quarterback on our roster. [But] he needs to play well, and he understands that. … If somebody comes in here and outplays him, then we’ll go with another guy.”

3. Who replaces Deebo Samuel?

Jake Bentley

ground, we have to come up with the football. We had our opportunities and we didn’t cash in on them. So we have to do a better job as a coaching staff and we have to do a better job as players getting the football. That’s something we talk about on a day-to-day basis.”

2. WHERE does quarterback Jake Bentley need to improve most? Bentley, a three-year starter, considered entering the NFL Draft before deciding to return for his senior year. He entered the spring as the starting quarterback, but was challenged to improve in several areas after the Gamecocks struggled in some key games and got shut out by Virginia in the Belk Bowl. “Jake could stand up here and give you a laundry list of things he could work on,” Muschamp said. At the top of the list is limiting turnovers. Bentley had his best season statistically, passing for 3,171 yards and 27 touchdowns and leading the offense to 30 points and 426 yards per game. But he threw 14 interceptions, including six in the red zone, and the offense often sputtered inside the 20-yard line. “Whether if it’s three or seven [points], you know, it needs to be three or seven, and not zero,” the quarterback said. “That’s the big thing we’ve talked about, me and coach Muschamp. I understand that. I’ve got to take care of the ball better, especially down there.” Bentley is under pressure to make better decisions in crucial situations and play better in big games. He is 11-8 in SEC games and has never beaten Clemson, Georgia or Kentucky. “The number one thing is we’ve got to take better care of the ball,” Muschamp said. “We had 14 interceptions. They’re not all on Jake … but that’s far too many turnovers from that position.

March 2019

Nobody produced more explosive plays the last four years than Samuel, who will take his versatile, multi-faceted game to the NFL. Samuel is fourth in school history with 28 career touchdowns, including 13 last season. He led the Gamecocks in receiving and was an All-American and All-SEC performer as an all-purpose player. “[We need] game-breakers,” Muschamp said. “Deebo Samuel is not in the building anymore, so we’ve got to find some guys.” The Gamecocks will have plenty of options at wide receiver. Bryan Edwards had 55 receptions and seven touchdowns last year and has 16 career TDs. Shi Smith caught 45 passes and scored four touchdowns and will likely slide into Samuel’s role as a slot receiver and open-field playmaker. Josh Vann flashed at times last year, while sophomore OrTre Smith returns from injury and veterans Chavis Dawkins and Chad Terrell are also back. The biggest challenge is finding a kick returner with the explosiveness of Samuel, who had a school-record four kickoff returns for touchdowns. Smith, Vann and Edwards, last year’s punt returner, will each get a look, along with running back A.J. Turner and defensive back Jamyest Williams.

4. Is there depth on the defensive line?

The most critical area on defense is stopping the run. The Gamecocks gave up 194 yards rush-

ing per game last year and opposing teams averaged 4.87 yards per carry and 6.6 on perimeter screens. A deeper, more talented defensive line should help. Robinson calls the defensive line “our most talented unit” and a group that finally has some depth. It will be led by new defensive line coach John Scott Jr., who coached the D-Line at Arkansas and has NFL experience. The unit returns four starters in defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, ends D.J. Wonnum, Aaron Sterling and Keir Thomas, who can play both inside and out. The key is more depth than the unit has had in Muschamp’s three seasons. Senior Kobe Smith was a key backup at defensive tackle last year while J.J. Enagbare and Rick Sandidge both got valuable playing time as freshmen. Junior-college transfer Davontae Davis and freshman Zacch Pickens will compete for playing time. Robinson says Jabari Ellis, who joined the team as a transfer last year, has made big strides in the offseason. The strength may be at defensive end, which will be counted on to produce a better pass rush. Wonnum and Sterling return along with backups Danny Fennell and Brad Johnson, who both played a lot last season. Enagbare moved to end in the spring and there are several others players who can play inside and outside, including Pickens, Davis and Ellis. Freshmen Joe Anderson and Rodricus “Hot Rod” Fitten are also expected to challenge for playing time. Robinson believes Scott’s experience will also bring some fresh ideas and new techniques to the unit. “We recruited the right guys, we have the right guys in the building and we are excited about it,” he said. “I think we have a chance to be good up there.”

5. Will the secondary be better?

One of South Carolina’s biggest weaknesses last season was a secondary that was completely decimated by injuries, forcing the Gamecocks to play several freshmen and inexperienced players. The rash of injuries took such a toll that by the second half of the bowl game, the secondary featured three true freshmen, a walk-on and

Rick Sandidge

KEY QUESTIONS • SPRING FOOTBALL

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compete for the backup job with true freshman Ryan Hilinski, a four-star recruit from California. Muschamp planned to give all three players plenty of reps during the spring, including turns running the first-team offense. He said there is no timetable for naming a No. 2 quarterback. “All three guys have had really good offseason programs and worked extremely hard and put themselves in this position,” he said. “Now you’ve got to go out there when there are 11 on the other side and perform well, and certainly I think all three are capable. … We’re looking forward to seeing those guys make good decisions and lead our offense.” Ryan Hilinski

running back A.J. Turner, who had to move to defense to help out. The good news is that despite the loss of three seniors, the secondary is now loaded with talented players who gained valuable experience last year. Cornerback Jaycee Horn started 10 games and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team. Fellow freshmen Israel Mukuamu and R.J. Roderick also started in the second half of the season, with Roderick finishing fifth on the team with 56 tackles. All three are expected to start and play big roles next season. Junior Jamyest Williams, who started as a freshman, will also be a key player when he returns from a shoulder injury. Horn and Mukuamu are expected to start at corner or nickel, with Roderick and Williams at safety. Horn (6-1) and Mukuamu (6-4) give the Gamecocks good size at corner and the ability to play man-to-man coverage, something the Gamecocks have struggled to do the last three years. Robinson, a former defensive back who played in the NFL, says Horn “has a chance to be a dominant player in our conference.” “I think we can be two of the best corners in the nation,” Horn said. “That’s our expectations. That’s what we’re shooting for.” “I think we can definitely be the best tandem in the country,” Mukuamu agreed. Roderick, a high school quarterback who had never played safety before, showed vast potential last season and Robinson calls him a “highly intelligent guy who understands ball really good.” Williams, one of the group’s most versatile players, can play corner, nickel or safety. “We have some talented guys right now that are really thriving in the program,” Robinson said. “You look at Jaycee Horn, you look at Israel, you look at R.J. Roderick, Jamyest Williams, those guys are talented players who know our system and have played a lot of football and played very well. I’m excited about those guys.” There also should be plenty of depth with the return of safety Jaylen Dickerson and corner Jonathan Gipson, who both played last year, as well as fifth-year senior J.T. Ibe and sophomore Jamel Cook, a transfer from Southern Cal. 10

SPRING FOOTBALL • KEY QUESTIONS

7. Who can spark the running game?

Dakereon Joyner

They will be challenged in the fall by talented freshmen Cam Smith, Shilo Sanders, Jammie Robinson and John Dixon, a group that Robinson believes can compete for playing time right away. “We have already played a bunch of freshmen, so we are not scared to play freshmen at all, we just have to get them ready,” he said.

6. Who’s the backup quarterback?

One of the biggest losses from last season is fifth-year senior Michael Scarnecchia, who led the Gamecocks to a thrilling 37-35 win over Missouri when Bentley was hurt and played well when given an opportunity. Now the Gamecocks have little experience behind Bentley and a key emphasis in the spring is finding a backup quarterback. Sophomores Dakereon Joyner and Jay Urich ran the scout team last year and both got brief playing time in the blowout win over Chattanooga. They will

Another key emphasis is improving the running game, which has been a struggle the past two years. The Gamecocks averaged just 153 yards per game (12th in the SEC) and 4.5 yards per carry. Muschamp says that number needs to be closer to 5.5. “We need to continue to run the ball better versus good people. We’ve struggled to maintain balance against the good defenses in our league,” he said. He says the Gamecocks need backs who can break tackles, run through contact and create more explosive plays. Enter new running backs coach Thomas Brown, who played and coached at Georgia and has also coached running backs at Miami and Wisconsin, where he worked with Heisman Trophy runner-up and NFL star Melvin Gordon. Having played in the SEC, Brown understands the importance of the run game. “That’s what the SEC is about,” he said. “You’ve got to have a balanced running attack. That will set up everything else.”

Damani Staley

March 2019


Brown calls South Carolina’s running back stable “a mixed bag” that under-performed last season. The Gamecocks used a host of backs, led by Rico Dowdle, who rushed for a team-high 654 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. He has battled injuries, however, and was limited in spring practice. Mon Denson, who also has struggled to stay healthy, came on strong late in the season and rushed for 432 yards and 5.0 yards a carry. They were supplemented by versatile A.J. Turner (294 yards), who plays a variety of roles, and Ty’Son Williams (328 yards), who decided to transfer after the season. Freshman Deshaun Fenwick rushed for 115 yards in a limited role late in the season. He joins redshirt-freshman Lavonte Valentine and newcomer Kevin Harris as backs who could push for playing time. Brown prefers to use two backs and says competition will determine who rises to the top. “Competition solves most of your problems,” he said. “I’m going to be on them every single day and hold them to a standard and put the best guys on the field.”

The key will be finding a center and replacing Bailey at the other guard spot. Junior Chandler Farrell and redshirt-freshman Hank Manos, who started in the Belk Bowl, are competing at center and Muschamp said “we feel very comfortable” with both players. Sophomore Eric Douglas and Jordan Rhodes made big gains during the offseason and entered the spring as the frontrunners at right guard. Defensive tackle M.J. Webb also moved to offensive guard at the start of spring camp to see if he can help there. The strength of the line is versatility, with Hutcherson, Stanley and others capable of playing multiple positions. “[Offensive line coach] Eric [Wolford] does a really good job of introducing different concepts to his guys as far as being able to play inside and outside … so we have some position flexibility as far as those guys are concerned,” Muschamp said. “We need to find some more quality guys as far as depth is concerned.”

9. Where will Zacch Pickens play?

Pickens, a high-school All-American and the No. 2-rated defensive end in the country, is the first five-star recruit Muschamp has 8. Who’s the starting left tackle? landed at South Carolina. The 6-3, 293-pound The Gamecocks lost two big linemen in NFL freshman arrived with a lot of hype and huge prospects Zack Bailey and Dennis Daley and expectations. key backups in Blake Camper and Malik Young. Robinson cautioned that Pickens looked Bailey played every position on the offensive like a freshman in the early days of spring line during his four-year career while Daley practice. “He’s running around like a chicken played the crucial left-tackle position the last two with his head cut off,” he said. seasons. But there is no question that the coachGuard Sadarius Hutcherson moved to left ing staff has big plans for Pickens, who will tackle during the spring while two-year starter be used at both defensive tackle and defenand sixth-year senior Donell Stanley moved sive end. Robinson believes Pickens can be a from center back to left guard. Dylan Wonnum, disruptive force inside while also swinging who made the SEC All-Freshman team last year, outside and supplementing the pass rush. returns at right tackle. He compares him to some of the best defensive linemen in football. “You ever seen that guy that plays for the Eagles, No. 91, Fletcher Cox?” he said. “Probably something like that guy. That would be my ideal scenario, just disrupt everything. Aaron Donald and those type of guys, which he has the capability to do one day. “The ideal player I want him to be, I want him to be really good and be the best in our conference and have a chance to Rosendo Louis Jr. help us up front.”

March 2019

10. Who provides depth at linebacker?

The Gamecocks return both starting linebackers in T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Greene but depth and experience were a problem there as well last year. Redshirt-freshman Damani Staley and true freshman Ernest Jones and Rosendo Louis Jr. all played but lacked experience. All three should be prepared to play a bigger role this season. Brunson, a senior and two-year starter, missed spring practice while recovering from a knee injury while Louis was limited with a shoulder injury. That gave both Jones and Staley an opportunity to gain more experience. Robinson is excited about their progress last season and during the offseason. The coaching staff is also hoping fifth-year senior Eldridge Thompson will be granted another year of eligibility after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury. They are also excited about true freshman Derek Boykins, who Robinson said is “smart, he can run and he’s powerful, the three things we are looking for in every linebacker we recruit here.” “He fits,” Muschamp said. “He’s a guy that we’re excited about.”

Zacch Pickens

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Gaining Ground Gamecocks focused on improving rushing attack, yards per carry By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photo by Jenny Dilworth

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hirty-four yards. It might not seem like a substantial amount when it comes to the hundreds of yards college football teams average every game, but it’s one number — one distance — South Carolina coaches believe can substantially help their team. Specifically, 34 total yards equates to one more yard per run for the Gamecocks. It’s a goal head coach Will Muschamp has pointed to as one of his team’s main areas of focus this spring and next season. “From a team standpoint, we need to continue to run the ball better versus good people. We’ve struggled to maintain balance against the good defenses in our league,” the coach said. South Carolina’s offense ranked seventh in the SEC in yards per game (425.6) last season, but checked in at 12th (152.8) when it came to rushing yards. The Gamecocks also ranked 91st in the country in rushing yards per game. With a new position coach in Thomas Brown, returning running backs Mon Denson, Rico Dowdle, A.J. Turner, Deshaun Fenwick and Lavonte Valentine, as well as incoming freshman Kevin Harris, have a new voice and a fresh start. “Competition solves most of your problems,” Brown said in January. “I’m going to be on them every single day and hold them to a standard and put the best guys on the field.” Offensive lineman Donell Stanley said the difference this coming season will be running well against good teams. 12

SPRING FOOTBALL • OFFENSE

“As anybody can see, when we played against Georgia, Clemson, Kentucky, we didn’t really move the ball as well,” the Gamecocks’ projected left guard said. “That’s the next step we need to take. “We know we can throw the ball, but when we can pound on a defense and get them worn down, and then take advantage and throw the deep ball over their heads, it just makes the offense better.” “For one, it’s getting creative. It’s getting creative in our play calling, getting creative in how we block some things,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “But I also think it’s just a mindset thing. Understand that if it’s thirdand-one or third-and-two, we’ve got to go get the first down. Whatever it takes to go get it. I think guys are really developing that mindset.” Muschamp also said he wants to see more consistent ground game production. The Gamecocks rushed for 263 yards against Coastal Carolina in its season-opener and then just 54 yards against Georgia. It then rushed for 273 yards at Vanderbilt and then 128 yards at Kentucky. It rushed for 128 yards again the next week against Missouri, but went for only 76 yards against Texas A&M. It rushed for just 43 yards in the 28-0 Belk Bowl loss to Virginia. “[It’s about] being able to run through contact and create some explosive runs. In our league, you’re not going to be able to block everybody. There is going to be a free hat in the box at some point, and you’ve got

to be able to make a guy miss,” Muschamp said. “That’s something we need to do better consistently.” South Carolina’s running backs will be working behind a revamped offensive line this season, a unit that has lost mainstays Dennis Daley and Zack Bailey and key backups Blake Camper and Malik Young. While the Gamecock offensive linemen rotated through multiple positions during spring camp, Muschamp mentioned a projected starting line that includes Sadarius Hutcherson (left tackle), Stanley (left guard), Chandler Farrell or Hank Manos at center, Jordan Rhodes or Eric Douglas at right guard and Dylan Wonnum (right tackle). “Finishing blocks,” offensive line coach Eric Wolford said. “And that’s everybody, and we take a lot of pride in that. There’s an emphasis on getting better in the run game and finishing blocks and that’s been a big point of emphasis with that this spring. “A lot of times we get on blocks against good people. We want to work on maintaining them with hand placement. … That’s what we’ve been stressing.” Stanley said the Gamecocks didn’t have the right mindset heading into the Virginia matchup. “That game is in the past, but at the end of the day we can’t let that happen again,” he said. “Everybody has the mindset of getting stronger from a physical and mental standpoint. We won’t have days like that again.”

March 2019


A.J. Turner shows his versatility, value with switch to defensive back By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photo by Allen Sharpe

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hen A.J. Turner lined up at cornerback for the first time against Virginia in the Belk Bowl, he was as lost as a kicker trying to make a tackle. “There were times when he was out there and he had no idea what the call was,” defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said. “He would look at me and I would tell him to back up, back up. It was tough.” Turner, who played mostly running back in his first three seasons at South Carolina, moved to defense just before the Belk Bowl because of a rash of injuries that had depleted the secondary. He practiced at defensive back throughout the week and finally took the field on defense in the second half of the game. “I was like, ‘Whoa, I got to really get on this,’” he said. “It was kind of an eye-opener, like, ‘Man, I have got to really be on my horse at this position.’ It’s not something you can be lackadaisical with and just run around.” Though the Gamecocks should have much more depth in the secondary entering the 2019 season, Turner started spring camp playing cornerback. He was expected to work there the first five practices before moving back to running back, where he will start the season in the fall. The spring work will better prepare him to play defense again if needed.

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“It’s hard to teach a guy all of the concepts of what we do at any position in one week, but if he’s had some experience playing the position, if we keep his hand in it a little bit, he’s able to help us,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “He’s certainly a guy that is more than capable of playing really good corner for us or really good nickel for us.” Turner was already one of South Carolina’s most versatile players. He has started 11 games at running back, rushing for 1,322 yards with three 100-yard games. He has scored 11 touchdowns and also plays on just about every special-teams unit. “He’s a competitor,” Robinson said. “That’s one thing about A.J. He might not be the biggest guy, he might not be the biggest running back, he might not be the biggest corner, but he’s going to compete in everything we do. He’s always going to be first and he’s doing a really good job. He’s the ultimate team guy.” Turner had no qualms about moving to defense late last season or working with the secondary early in spring camp. To him, the experience makes him even more versatile and possibly increases his chances of playing at the next level. “I didn’t mind at all,” he said. “It shows how versatile I am. It’s all about the team, so I am definitely doing it for the team, but sometimes you can look at things for you, what’s going to

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help you, and I saw this opportunity and I never backed down from it.” Muschamp singled out Turner before spring camp, using him as an example of the ultimate team player. “That’s one thing that Coach Muschamp put out in front of the team. Here’s a senior who is probably going to compete to be our starting running back and for the first five practices he’s going to come out and he’s going to play corner. That says a lot about a guy,” Robinson said. “He didn’t say one thing, he didn’t complain, you haven’t heard anything in the locker room, he just came out and did it and he’s competing at it and he’s learning it and he’s doing a good job. I appreciate his efforts and I appreciate him for what he’s doing for our football team.”

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A.J. TURNER • SPRING FOOTBALL

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Jaycee Horn Israel Mukuamu

The Future is Now Wealth of young DBs ready to step up in Carolina secondary By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Allen Sharpe & SC Athletics

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aycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu looked almost attached at the hip during South Carolina’s early pregame warm-up sessions last season. They ran the perimeter of fields together, stretched together and played receiver for each other as they worked on backpedaling. Those who watched the cornerbacks got a peek into the skill level and committment the two young Gamecock cornerstones possess. But in reality, it was a peek at the team’s present. “Jaycee is an ultimate, talented guy, and Israel is right there working to try to beat him in everything they do. They push each other,” South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said during spring camp. “I’m excited to have those two guys with that kind of length out on the edges. “We have a chance to be really good that way.” Because of a slew of injuries to the South Carolina secondary last season, Horn (10 starts), Mukuamu (two starts) and fellow freshmen R.J. Roderick (five starts) and Jaylin Dickerson all received extended playing time. Will Muschamp called it both a curse and a blessing — a curse because young players with little experience had to play, a blessing because they got to learn what it takes to compete on the college level before most of their peers.

14

SPRING FOOTBALL • DEFENSE

Israel Mukuamu

Now comes more of the blessing. Fast-forward a few months, the Gamecocks now have four experienced sophomores in addition to redshirt-senior J.T. Ibe, junior Jamyest Williams and redshirt-junior Jamel Cook, who sat out last season after transferring from Southern California. “We have some talented guys right now that are really thriving in the program,” Robinson said. It’s not only a talented unit, but a young group as well, proving the validity behind one of Muschamp and Robinson’s go-to mantras: “If you are the best player, you will start. If you are good enough, you will play. If you are not, you won’t.” Here’s what Robinson had to say during spring camp about the Gamecocks’ defensive backs.

“Israel is a unique guy. He’s 6-5 and he’s playing corner. He’s not a safety. He’s a true corner. He can move his feet good. The one thing about Israel that people don’t know is his work ethic. He’s a great human. This guy does everything right. He is always in the building. He’s never missed one thing, always done right, and it shows on the field, because he always does right on the field. He knows what to do and he’s very intelligent. “You look at the Clemson game when he was thrown out there and had to cover some of those guys and did a really good job of competing and battling. He’s smart and he works. I’m a big believer if you are a good person, good things will happen to you. And that’s him.”

Jaycee Horn

Jamyest Williams

“I expect the world out of Jaycee. I think he is a really good football player and has a chance to be a dominant player in our conference. That’s his expectation and that’s definitely our expectation of him. … We’re looking for him to do some big things. I don’t think Jaycee got an interception [last season], so that’s not good. He needs to get the ball off some people.”

“Jam is a safety/nickel. I think that’s his best position for us. Jam has been in the system. We were talking a little trash in a meeting. He’s the Godfather back there now. It seems like he just got here, but he’s a guy who is always in here looking at tape. Players were talking the other day about who has played the most, and he said check the X/0s. That’s the film [system we use]. Jam has

March 2019


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Israel Mukuamu

played a lot of football for us. … We are excited about him.”

Jaylin Dickerson

“Jaylin, if he can stay healthy, he will be a really good player for us. That’s one of the things we know. He’s a guy that hits and runs really well. When he got a chance to play safety, he did some nice things. He just didn’t have a bunch of reps. He needs reps. He’s got to stay healthy and we’ll see where he goes.”

R.J. Roderick

“R.J. is really smart. He’s highly intelligent guy and he understands ball really good. It’s funny because he played all quarterback in high school. He didn’t play safety at all. It’s funny to see how fast he was able to grasp everything the way he was. You give a kid an opportunity and you will be surprised at times what they can do. He got some opportunities to go out there and make plays and he made plays. … R.J. has a chance to be really good.”

Jamel Cook

“We changed his position so he will play some safety more than corner and I think that will be a good place for him. He’s got a lot to learn; he hasn’t had reps. Last year he was

March 2019

on the scout team playing receiver. He was doing all the different things to help us, so this was really our first time getting to work with him at safety. “He’s getting stronger. He’s starting to take the weight room seriously. … He’s just got to continue developing. … He will tackle, he’s a physical guy and he’s an intelligent guy and he’s trying.”

Freshman DBs John Dixon, Jammie Robinson, Shilo Sanders and Cam Smith

“Obviously, to play in our system, to play corner in our system, a guy has to be able to cover man to man. That’s what we want to do and what we want to be. At times, in previous years, we weren’t able to do that. I think those guys are really good shutdown man-to-man guys. We had all those guys in [summer] camp, we moved them around, we saw those guys so I’m excited about them. And I know people that they know, and that’s big to me. I’m excited about those guys and believe that they will come in and compete to play.”

Jammie Robinson

“He can run and hit. When he came to [prospect] camp, we do [a running drill] and you can see some of the five-star and four-star guys shy away. Jammie jumps right in there. He was the first person in line every drill. We look at character traits that we like: guys who are going to have the work ethic, guys who aren’t prima donnas and guys who are going to come in and compete. And Jammie is a competitor. That’s important to us. He has a chance to be a really good football player.”

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DEFENSE • SPRING FOOTBALL 15


2019 Spring Roster 16

NO. NAME 3 *Ryan Hilinski 3 Javon Kinlaw 4 Jaylin Dickerson 4 Darius Douglas 5 Rico Dowdle 5 Keir Thomas 6 T.J. Brunson 6 Josh Vann 7 Jaycee Horn 7 Dakereon Joyner 8 Randrecous Davis 8 D.J. Wonnum 10 R.J. Roderick 10 Jay Urich 11 Corbett Glick 11 Eldridge Thompson 12 Kevin Pickens 13 Shi Smith 14 Deshaun Fenwick 15 Evan Hinson 15 Aaron Sterling 16 *Rodricus Fitten 16 Bailey Hart 18 OrTre Smith 19 Jake Bentley 19 Brad Johnson 20 Joseph Charlton 21 Jamyest Williams 23 *Derek Boykins 24 Israel Mukuamu 25 A.J. Turner 26 *Zacch Pickens 28 Joe Thomas 29 J.T. Ibe 30 Damani Staley 31 Jamel Cook 31 Lavonte Valentine 32 Caleb Kinlaw 33 Zay Brown 33 Slade Carroll 34 Mon Denson 35 Trey Adkins 35 Daniel Fennell 36 Jonathan Gipson 36 Christian Kinsley 39 *Kevin Harris 39 Dawson Hoffman 40 Eddie Buckhouse 41 Caleb Jenerette 42 Rosendo Louis Jr. 42 Alexander Woznick 43 Parker White 44 Sherrod Greene 45 Spencer Eason-Riddle 45 Bailey Rogers 46 Patrick Reedy 46 Noah Vincent 47 Cole Hanna 47 Jordan Villafane 48 Sean McGonigal 48 Will Thommie 49 Collin Brunch 49 Khris Pam 50 Griffin Gentry 50 Sadarius Hutcherson 51 Maxwell Iyama 51 Donovan Wirt

POS. HT/WT QB 6-3, 230 DL 6-6, 302 DB 6-1, 190 QB 6-0, 196 RB 6-0, 210 DL 6-2, 276 LB 6-1, 235 WR 5-10, 192 DB 6-1, 200 QB 6-1, 205 WR 5-10, 190 DL 6-5, 255 DB 6-0, 200 QB 6-5, 205 QB 6-1, 200 LB 6-1, 215 DB 5-8, 185 WR 5-10, 186 RB 6-1, 225 TE 6-4, 235 DL 6-1, 246 LB 6-1, 235 QB 6-3, 185 WR 6-4, 224 QB 6-4, 220 DL 6-2, 245 P 6-5, 193 DB 5-8, 176 LB 6-1, 226 DB 6-4, 205 RB/DB 5-10, 190 DL 6-3, 293 WR 5-9, 180 DB 5-10, 195 DB 6-0, 220 DB 6-4, 202 RB 6-0, 195 RB 5-10, 190 DB 5-11, 207 RB 5-9, 202 RB 5-10, 210 WR 5-11, 169 DL 6-2, 245 DB 6-1, 190 P 6-2, 250 RB 5-10, 235 DB 5-11, 204 PK 5-8, 160 TE 6-2, 228 LB 6-2, 247 PK 5-11, 158 PK 6-5, 201 LB 6-1, 228 LB 6-0, 225 WR 5-9, 169 TE 6-7, 248 LB 6-1, 220 PK 5-7, 178 DB 5-10, 175 LB 6-1, 225 PK 5-10, 160 LS DB 6-0, 180 DL 6-1, 270 OL 6-4, 312 OL 6-5, 315 LB 6-2, 240

SPRING FOOTBALL • ROSTER

YEAR FR SR SO-RS SO-RS SR SR SR SO SO FR-RS JR-RS SR SO SO-RS FR-RS SR-RS SR-RS JR FR-RS JR-RS JR FR JR-RS SO-RS SR JR SR-RS JR FR SO SR-RS FR FR-RS SR-RS JR JR-RS FR-RS SR-RS SO-RS JR-RS SR-RS FR-RS SR-RS FR-RS JR-RS FR FR-RS FR-RS SO-RS SO JR-RS JR-RS JR JR-RS JR-RS FR-RS FR-RS FR-RS SO-RS SO-RS SR-RS FR JR-RS JR-RS JR-RS FR-RS JR-RS

HOMETOWN Orange, Calif. Charleston, S.C. Southern Pines, N.C. Moncks Corner, S.C. Asheville, N.C. Miami Columbia, S.C. Tucker, Ga. Alpharetta, Ga. North Charleston, S.C. Atlanta Stone Mountain, Ga. Summerville, S.C. Greenville, S.C. Columbia, S.C. Houston Anderson, S.C. Union, S.C. Bradenton, Fla. Deltona, Fla. Atlanta Atlanta Mount Pleasant, S.C. Mount Pleasant, S.C. Opelika, Ala. Pendleton, S.C. Columbia, S.C. Dacula, Ga. Concord, N.C. Bossier City, La. Clifton, Va. Anderson, S.C Hoschton, Ga. Mansfield, Texas Columbia, S.C. Miami Melbourne, Fla. Goose Creek, S.C. Athens, Ga. Lexington, S.C. LaGrange, Ga. Simpsonville, S.C. Loganville, Ga. Hoschton, Ga. Lexington, S.C. Hinesville, Ga. Spartanburg, S.C. Florence, S.C. Aynor, S.C. Deerfield Beach, Fla. Greenville, S.C. Mount Pleasant, S.C. Rocky Mount, N.C. Raleigh, N.C. Piedmont, S.C. Columbia, S.C. Buford, S.C. Norcross, Ga. East Stroudsburg, Pa. Myrtle Beach, S.C. Greenwood, S.C. Pendleton, S.C. Blythewood, S.C. Birmingham, Ala. Huntingdon, Tenn. Murfreesboro, Tenn. Raeford, N.C.

52 Kingsley “J.J.” Enagbare DL 52 *Jaylen Nichols OL 53 Ernest Jones LB 53 Jackson Locklier 54 Jovaughn Gwyn OL 57 Jazuun Outlaw DL 59 Alex DeLoach LB 60 Chandler Farrell OL 61 Cameron Johnson OL 68 Wyatt Campbell OL 70 Hank Manos OL 71 Eric Douglas OL 72 Donell Stanley OL 73 Summie Carlay OL 75 Jordan Carty OL 76 Jordan Rhodes OL 79 Dylan Wonnum OL 81 Darius Rush WR 82 *Keshawn Toney TE 83 Chavis Dawkins WR 84 Kyle Markway TE 85 Michael Almond K/P 86 Chad Terrell WR 87 Kiel Pollard TE 88 Will Register TE 89 Bryan Edwards WR 90 Rick Sandidge DL 92 Tyreek Johnson DL 93 *Joseph Anderson DL 94 M.J. Webb DL 95 Kobe Smith DL 97 Devontae Davis DL 99 Jabari Ellis DL * Freshman mid-year enrollee

6-4, 265 6-5, 315 6-2, 230 6-2, 305 6-2, 235 6-3, 210 6-3, 289 6-6, 310 6-6, 310 6-4, 287 6-4, 300 6-3, 322 6-5, 295 6-7, 323 6-4, 325 6-5, 311 6-2, 185 6-2, 235 6-2, 220 6-4, 243 6-3, 222 6-3, 216 6-1, 232 6-4, 245 6-3, 215 6-5, 295 6-3, 255 6-3, 270 6-3, 294 6-2, 297 6-3, 284 6-3, 272

SO FR SO FR FR-RS JR-RS SO-RS JR-RS JR-RS FR-RS FR-RS SO-RS SR-RS SO-RS SO-RS SO-RS SO FR-RS FR SR JR-RS SR-RS SO-RS SR SO-RS SR SO FR-RS FR SO-RS SR JR JR-RS

Atlanta Charlotte, N.C. Waycross, Ga. Lexington, S.C. Charlotte, N.C. Dillon, S.C. Summerville, S.C. Summerville, S.C. Bennettsville, S.C. Elgin, S.C Chapin, S.C. Charlotte, N.C. Floydale, S.C. Laurens, S.C. Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. Fairburn, Ga. Tucker, Ga. Kingstree, S.C. Williston, S.C. Duncan, S.C. St. Louis North Augusta, S.C. Bogue Chitto, Miss. Moultrie, Ga. Chapin, S.C. Conway, S.C. Concord, N.C. Sumter, S.C. Murfreesboro, Tenn. Rutledge, Ga. Lawrenceville, Ga. New Ellenton, S.C. Vance, S.C.

6-0, 195 5-11, 180 6-4, 292 6-3, 180 6-3, 242 6-3, 190 6-5, 285 6-1, 206 6-3, 290 6-0, 193 6-3, 302 6-0, 186 6-0, 171 6-2, 314

FR FR FR FR FR FR FR FR FR FR FR FR FR FR

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Tampa, Fla. Miami, Fla. Sylvania, Ga. Monroe, N.C. Mullins, S.C. Nokesville, Va. Memphis, Tenn. Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Leesburg, Ga. Hampton, Ga. Cedar Hill, Texas Bylthewood, S.C. Winter Park, Fla.

OTHER 2019 SIGNEES

(Scheduled to report in May or summer) Jahmar Brown John Dixon Mark Fox Tyquan Johnson Traevon Kenion Xavier Legette Jakai Moore Keveon Mullins Vincent Murphy Jammie Robinson William Rogers Shilo Sanders Cameron Smith Jaquaze Sorrells

LB DB OL WR TE WR OL WR OL DB OL DB DB DL

COACHES

Will Muschamp — Head Coach Bryan McClendon — Offensive Coordinator/WR Travaris Robinson — Defensive Coordinator/DB Bobby Bentley — Tight Ends Thomas Brown — Running Backs Coleman Hutzler — Special Teams/LB Mike Peterson — Outside Linebackers John Scott Jr. — Defensive Line Dan Werner — Quarterbacks Eric Wolford — Offensive Line Jeff Dillman — Strength & Conditioning Kyle Krantz — Special Teams/LB

Rico Dowdle

March 2019


FT3-1772274-1

March 2019

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SPRING FOOTBALL • PHOTOS

March 2019


GAMECOCK FOOTBALL SPRING PRACTICE PHOTOS BY ALLEN SHARPE

March 2019

PHOTOS • SPRING FOOTBALL

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BASKETBALL

All Basketball content sponsored by: Yesterdays

From NYC to CLA ...

Basketball is life for South Carolina’s Bianca Cuevas-Moore By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by SC Athletics & Artie Walker Jr.

Bianca Cuevas-Moore has lived her life like a hard, nose-tothe-grindstone drive to the basket. Guided by the picks of life — her family, coaches and teammates — she has rolled through the lane with her head down, bounced around obstacles and always put up her best shot. Eyes always on the prize. 20

There have been roadblocks in Cuevas-Moore’s life larger than a lane packed with the best defenders she has ever seen. But the 5-6 go-getter has shaken them off, just as she does defenders with killer crossovers and up-and-unders. South Carolina’s fifth-year senior guard has snuck behind the defense of life and found just

BASKETBALL • BIANCA CUEVAS-MOORE

enough room to hoist a 3-pointer. It may have bounced off the rim once or twice, but it has nonetheless swished through the net. In life, Cuevas-Moore has dealt with incredible loss and become a major university graduate. On the court, she has lived up to the billing of a child prodigy and become a national champion.

“What you see is a city kid that’s surviving,” Gamecock head coach Dawn Staley said. “She only knows how to survive.” Basketball has been a lifeline, a shoulder to lean on. “As soon as I stepped on the court and started playing, I promise you, that’s all I wanted to do,” Cuevas-Moore said in a wide-ranging 40-minute conversation with Spurs & Feathers in late February. “It’s always been my thing.” “The love she has for basketball is unreal. Some people say they eat and sleep basketball, that basketball is life, and that’s truly the meaning of hers,” Cuevas-Moore’s mom, Shamara Hendrickson, said. From the time she signed her letter of intent in November 2013, Cuevas-Moore has given her heart and soul to South Carolina basketball. She went from a roleplaying freshman and sophomore to starting in a national championship game as a junior, from tearing her ACL and missing a season to becoming a catalyst for the Gamecocks as a fifth-year senior. Off the court, Cuevas-Moore has matured. Those around her say she’s less stubborn and a better communicator. She’s still shy around people she doesn’t know, but she’s funny around those she does. Goofy even, her orange braces always on display through her wide smile. Lauren Best, who coached Cuevas-Moore in high school and AAU ball and was a motherly figure in her life, called her pupil resilient, someone who’s going to survive anything and everything. “Under the most tough situations, she’s definitely a diamond,” Best said. “Pressure creates diamonds, and the pressure of her life has turned her into a diamond.”

A PRODIGY AND A MAESTRO

“The heart of NYC is packed into this point guard’s game. … Inside of what appears to be a slight 5-foot-6 frame, she has brought together a mix of show-stopping skill, brash confidence and maestro-like point guard ability.” — ProspectsNation. com. Cuevas-Moore remembers having a basketball in her hands at 3 years old and playing on her first organized team in New York City

March 2019


in elementary school. “I was a baby,” she said. “I lived across the street from a park, so I was always there. “New York is about basketball.” “There were times when I’d be looking for Bianca and she’d be at a park playing with boys,” Hendrickson said. “Anywhere she can find a basketball, she goes. It’s like a magnet.” As schoolyard games in cities go, games were played with boys, girls, men and women of all ages. It was normal for Cuevas-Moore to venture over to Mullaly Park or 218 Park, which was across the street from her Bronx home, to play in games with boys. “That’s all I knew,” she said. Because of her slight frame, Cuevas-Moore had to become a master ballhandler in order to get around stronger defenders and create enough space to shoot over taller players. Someone told her she needed to work on her left hand, so she stopped dribbling with her right altogether until both hands were equally as comfortable to use. She scored 20, 30 and 40 points in games and thought to herself, “Is this real?”

March 2019

It was in seventh grade when Cuevas-Moore first heard “prodigy” associated with her name. “Everybody was talking about me,” she said, speaking boldly, yet without a hint of braggadocios. “I was the big thing in New York in middle school, and in high school, too.” “I had coaches who were interested in her, ‘Can she play for my team? Can she play for my team? Everybody wanted her to play for their team,” Hendrickson recalled. But Cuevas-Moore didn’t care about the hype. “I always knew I was really that good when I got older, but more than anything I just wanted to play basketball,” she said. So she did. Rodney Russell, the dad of one of her teammates, took her to Robert “Apache” Paschall, coach of the renowned Exodus NYC AAU team. Paschall — whose program has produced eventual WNBA players Epiphanny Prince, Kia Vaughn and Bria Hartley — told Hendrickson that keeping Cuevas-Moore with girls her own age would stunt her basketball growth.

So Cuevas-Moore, 11 at the time, competed against the area’s best high school players. “Bianca was easily the same caliber player as them,” Best said. “She was definitely a prodigy. Definitely special. Very, very smart. To be 11 years old, to understand the game the way she did … And she probably weighed like 16 pounds. She was so little.” “She would go down the middle and attack. And there’s some big girls in there,” Hendrickson said. “And she was never afraid. That’s one thing with her. She’s not scared when it comes to basketball.” Cuevas-Moore played on the 13-U Exodus squad for a little over two years before moving up to the program’s high school team as an eighth grader. “Even though she was the smallest little thing on the court, she still held her own against any competition,” Exodus teammate Brianna Butler said. “She was 12 years old, but she played like she was 16,” added Exodus teammate Taylor Ford. “You could tell she was from the Bronx and played in the park with guys. Her confidence was really high up there. … From day one she had that intensity that basketball was her life.” It did not take long before Cuevas-Moore dominated local tournaments. She made the Rose Classic in Brooklyn, one of the nation’s premier events, her own personal playground. “Always giving the crowd a show,” Butler said. “Whether that was making a crazy pass, making some fall, or knocking down a big shot. In the Rose Classic games, she was in her own element.” At Nazareth High School in Brooklyn, a school she traveled an hour-and-a-half by train or bus to get to and from, she shined. Though her team lost to heated rival Christ The King twice during her senior season, she answered the call in a playoff game against the Royals. “I’ve never been scared to play anybody,” Cuevas-Moore says now, reflecting on the game, which her team trailed by double-digits in the second half. “[The other team’s coach] put his whole starting five on me, his bench on me, and I had like 50 points. And we ended up winning.” “She wasn’t afraid of anything or anybody. Even at 11, when we brought her into the gym, she didn’t back down,” Best said. “She didn’t care how many times she got hit or

anything. She’s tough as nails. She’s a tough Bronx kid.”

‘THINGS HAPPEN … IT’S LIFE’

When people use the word “overcome” when it comes to Cuevas-Moore, Hendrickson politely disagrees. “Bianca wasn’t going through any big struggle, not having food or clothes or anything,” she says. “[Her path was] not tougher than some people’s, but there aren’t many like hers,” Best says. Cuevas-Moore’s birth mother died when she was 2 and her biological father has never been part of her life. One grandfather died when she was 11. In 2012, Paschall, who had become a father figure, died of cancer, and an uncle died eight months later. “I’ve just got to be strong about it because I’ve lost so many people in my life,” Cuevas-Moore said in a video produced by Gamecock Athletics in 2014. “I’m proud of myself because I got through it, but there were people around me that helped me get through it,” she says now. “I always had people in my corner to help me. There were people who cared about me and wanted the best for me. “They pushed me to be successful.” Two of those people were Paschall and Best, who describes Cuevas-Moore as, “like my daughter.” The two, especially Paschall, became sounding boards and kept her close. “She beat every odd you could possibly beat,” Best said. “When she could be in the streets of the Bronx, she decided not to.” Paschall taught Cuevas-Moore how to love and gave her confidence. She felt at the time people loved her just because she played basketball, not because of who she was as a person. But “Pache” did. But Cuevas-Moore’s teammates did not know much about what she was going through. “We knew she had a lot of stuff going on, but she didn’t really show it,” Ford said. “She was always fun. She always made jokes. She was always goofy. I think that was a big thing for her. Everyone knew about her, basketball-wise. She didn’t want to bring her personal life into it. “Whenever something bad did happen, she never brought it up. It never affected her play.” Said Butler, “You would never know how much Bianca has overcome or gone through based on

BIANCA CUEVAS-MOORE • BASKETBALL

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how she carries herself. She never allowed herself to be a victim of anything that she has had to go through.” Cuevas-Moore did that by keeping a smile on her face and making sure those around her did too. “I saw so much happy Bianca that, if I did see bad Bianca, I’ve blocked it out,” Ford said. “Because that’s not who I know. That’s not what she showed me.” But then Paschall died when she was a high school sophomore. “I was his heart,” Cuevas-Moore said. “I was his heart. His everything. … But I’m strong when it comes to stuff like that. “Yes, you’re going to be mad at the moment, but eventually you’ve got to get over it. … I was close with him. I understood that. But I couldn’t just stop everything I was doing [and dwell]. Deep down in my heart I knew how I felt, and I used that as motivation. “Things happen. It’s life. You know what I’m saying?” As Best and Ford point out, Cuevas-Moore’s story isn’t unlike many who grew up where she did. “People that really grow up in the city, nothing really fazes them in that manner, because you’re in survival mode,” Staley said. “Nothing’s too hard to overcome. You’re in survival mode. Every day is survival.” “It wasn’t that it was common, but that was something we all had experienced,” Ford said. “It wasn’t something to be sad about. It was just something that was like, ‘OK, this kid needs role models.’” Cuevas-Moore had that in Paschall and Best and Hendrickson and all the older Exodus players. And she had basketball. “Without basketball I don’t think I would have gotten through half the stuff I got through,” Cuevas-Moore said. “I think basketball was really my platform to get through everything. “Period.”

HEADED DOWN SOUTH

Staley watched Cuevas-Moore for a long time — “A long time”— thinking South Carolina had no chance of landing her. “I just didn’t think we had a close enough relationship,” Staley said. “She’s one that needs trust. She needs somebody to be there for her through her good times and her bad times.” Cuevas-Moore wasn’t too fond of the recruiting process either. Again, she just wanted to play ball. It took Nazareth coach Ron Kelley tricking her to get her on the phone with Staley, one of only two college coaches she seriously talked with. (Matt Insell, who was at Kentucky at the time, was the other.) Staley and Cuevas-Moore won’t divulge too much of what was said, other than that they talked for about an hour about “a lot,” including the similarities of where they come from. CuevasMoore reminded Staley, a product of inner-city Philadelphia, of herself. “You see basketball as a safe haven,” the coach said.

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BASKETBALL • BIANCA CUEVAS-MOORE

Photo courtesy of Brianna Butler Brianna Butler (13) and Cuevas-Moore (1).

Even though Cuevas-Moore agreed to check out South Carolina, it was still a struggle to get her out of bed the morning of her visit. “And we had a plane to catch,” Hendrickson said. “Little girl, I took the day off,” her mom told her. “We’re going.” Cuevas-Moore was upset on the plane ride down and wasn’t in the best mood when Gamecock coaches greeted her at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, so Staley asked Hendrickson what was wrong. “I’m not going to lie to you. She did not want to come on the visit,” Hendrickson told her. “All you have to do is keep it real with her and everything will be fine,” Hendrickson reassured. “I guarantee you she’s going to want to come here.” “Are you sure?” Staley asked. “She’s thoughtful. She’s a feeler,” Staley says now. “And she knows when you’re blowing smoke at her. That’s what I really liked about her. Because a lot of people threw a lot of smoke at her, and she was able to see through it and come to a decision that was best for her.” Staley admits to this day that as a basketball decision, it may not have been the best choice for Cuevas-Moore to choose South Carolina. Says the coach, “I just know, from a life decision, it was best for her.”

DAWN STALEY’S KRYPTONITE

Despite she and Staley talking about their similarities in that recruitment phone call, Cuevas-Moore shies away from admitting just how similar they are. Points guards from major cities. Shy around strangers but sociable around friends. Stubborn at times. “Every time people try to tell her that she’ll say, ‘No. We’re nothing alike,’” Hendrickson said, jokingly imitating a whiny voice that her daughter would use to say it. “‘I don’t see that. Why do y’all keep saying that?’” “Now that I’m older, I see it a little bit,” Cuevas-Moore admits. “Maybe the stubbornness part. And yes, a little bit of basketball too. … And our attitudes. I don’t like to show my emotions

and feelings in front of people, and that’s how she is too. “I hide my emotions inside.” “The only time she gets emotional and cries is when it comes to basketball,” Hendrickson said. “You could sit there and tell her you’re very disappointed in her or you don’t like the things she’s doing, and she would stare at you and not open her mouth. “But the day you tell her she can’t step foot on the court, she would cry like it’s the end of the world.” That stubbornness made her clash with Staley at first. It reminded the coach of her own college days when she clashed, at first, with Virginia coach Debbie Ryan. “I’m quite sure I wasn’t like a peachy cream, relationship-type player either,” Staley said. “But over time you let your guard down a little bit because you see your teammates and coaches want to help you. They’re not the enemy. But you have to grow to understand that. “I had to be in it to win it with Bianca.” Did Staley discipline Cuevas-Moore? Yes. Did she tell her she was off the team indefinitely? Yes. “We had knock-out, drag-outs. She’s gotten kicked out of the dorm. She’s gotten placed in another dorm. And she could have easily left and said, ‘Nah, this is it for me,’” Staley said. “But when you’re in the trenches with somebody, you’re surviving, and you figure it out. “To be with Bianca, to be there for her, is to be there through good and bad. … But it was all to help her, to understand that this is a valuable experience, being on our team and abiding by the rules.” Cuevas-Moore wanted to come home almost every weekend when she arrived in Columbia, but her mom reminded her why she was there: to get an education and play basketball. Paschall and Best had always preached education, and that if basketball failed for any reason, her education would always be there for her. “She was able to stick through, with me being a discipline one, and was able to mature and grow,” Staley said.

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After South Carolina beat Syracuse — with Butler and Ford — in 2015, the three childhood friends chatted on the court. “I don’t know who this Bianca is,” Ford remembers thinking. “I can talk to you and have a full conversation without you making a joke,” Ford told her. “You are actually growing up.” “She sounded like an adult,” Ford said. Cuevas-Moore began to bond with her teammates, especially Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, whose mom, like Cuevas-Moore’s, is from the Caribbean island St. Kitts. It also turns out their uncles, also from the island, are best friends. “I used to play basketball with him,” Herbert Harrigan says. “I just didn’t know it was him.” “I get irritated, but I don’t mind being around her,” Herbert Harrigan said. “We both try to keep each other on the right path.” South Carolina was ousted by Notre Dame in the Final Four and Syracuse in the Sweet 16 in Cuevas-Moore’s first two seasons on campus, and as a junior she was relegated to the bench. During that time, she and Staley had heartto-heart conversations over a few lunches. “She just kind of opened up a lot more,” Staley said. “… She let her guard down for a little bit. … And I think the things she was telling me, she was full of it. When you’re full of it, you got to release it or nothing else can come in and it just stifles your growth. I think she reached that point. “Now you’re with a team that cares about you,” Staley told her. “Your teammates are sisters to you. You’ve got us coaches who are mentors who are trying to help you figure life out.” Cuevas-Moore returned to the starting lineup and averaged 3.3 assists per game in the SEC Tournament. She scored five of her seven points in the NCAA semifinal against Stanford during a 13-0 third-quarter run that turned a seven-point SC deficit into a six-point lead. She scored five points and had just two assists in the national championship game, but turned the ball over just once in 29 minutes.

But then came a setback. Cuevas-Moore began her senior campaign by tearing her left ACL in an exhibition game against Coker on Nov. 3, 2017. “I knew it would work out eventually, but I was nervous in the beginning because this was my first injury,” Cuevas-Moore said. “I had never been injured before, so I didn’t know really how my body was supposed to feel.”

GUESS WHO’S BACK?

On May 12, 2018, Cuevas-Moore graduated from South Carolina with a criminal justice degree. “I couldn’t even speak because of how proud I was of her,” Hendrickson said. “She did it.” It was time for something new, so CuevasMoore decided to play a graduate season at West Virginia. Two days later, Cuevas-Moore was at rehab working on her knee when her phone started to blow up. When she was done, she saw missed calls from her mom, Staley and Herbert Harrigan. “I called Kiki first and she says, ‘Dawn wants you to come back,’” Cuevas-Moore explained in a post on GamecocksOnline.com. “My heart dropped because this was definitely added stress. There were a trillion things going through my head. … Coach Staley always says that I’m her kryptonite because whenever we bump heads, she always has a string on her heart bringing me back.” Staley, who admitted even then she had reservations about bringing Cuevas-Moore back, had a few conversations with her point guard, including one final one in her office. “I wanted to sit down and look her in the eye, have her look me in the eye and say, ‘There’s a way we can work this out,’” Staley said. “Bianca was always a fighter. She grew up a different way than other kids grew up,” Ford said. “But it doesn’t surprise me. She’s not the kind of person to quit on something. When she said she was going back to South Carolina I said, ‘OK, this is the Bianca I know.’ “Because when things get tough, she sticks it out. She finds a way to navigate. She finds a way to make things beneficial for her.”

RETURN TO FORM

Cuevas-Moore received a rousing ovation from the Colonial Life Arena crowd when she came off the bench to start the second quarter of South Carolina’s game against Dayton on Nov. 28, 2018. “Sometimes when people get injured, they don’t come back as well as they thought they would,” Cuevas-Moore said. “I was kind of feeling like that during the beginning of the season. And then, as time went on, I started feeling real good.” A month and a half later, Staley told CuevasMoore she earned a spot in the starting lineup for the team’s Jan. 10 game against Florida. That Thursday night she was, simply, vintage Cuevas-Moore — the fan favorite Gamecock fans had gotten to know so well. Midway through the first quarter, she picked off a pass,

March 2019

sidestepped a defender and dribbled from halfcourt in for a layup. Five minutes had not been played, yet Cuevas-Moore had eight points and SC led 19-0. She finished with 16 points. “Oh my gosh, my knee feels amaaazing,” she said with a wide smile after the game. “As you can see. It really feels good, though. I haven’t felt like this in a long time.” “She’s a difference-maker for us,” Staley said. A month later, Cuevas-Moore set a careerhigh with 28 points against Tennessee.

ONE FOR ALL

During a 17-minute conversation, Staley said getting to know Cuevas-Moore is like putting notches on a belt. You’ve got to keep putting them in, because sooner or later she “breaks down and gives you all of her.” “But it takes a long time.” She’s still shy, but she’s way better with the media than she thinks. She can be engaging and accommodating. “This year has been like a true blessing,” Staley said. “She gets it now. Like a lightbulb went off. She’s a pleasure to be around. If things get too heated, she will joke or say something to break the ice and you can laugh in that moment. She’s hilarious. “And a great teammate who has a great understanding of what we want.” Said Best, “She’s able to make better decisions, and she’s put the right people around her. … She’s that wonderful kind of kid and a person, you have to love her. Even if you don’t want to love her, you have to. She won’t allow you not to love her.” When Cuevas-Moore did the interview with Gamecocks Online as a freshman, she said she had been depressed around the time she signed with the Gamecocks. But she wasn’t. “I wasn’t depressed, it was more like there was too much stuff going through my head,” she says now. She still believes that back then people only wanted to be around her because she was good at basketball, but says now those around her at South Carolina actually care about the person she is. She didn’t always see that. “When you’re around people a lot and they genuinely show you love every single day, I think you build relationships that you know are loving and caring,” she says. “I really wasn’t wise enough to think how I think now.” “She’s endearing,” Staley says. “Every time she did something disapproving, it was like magnetic. She pulled me in because I wanted her to get it so badly. Because I know that, with Bianca, because she’s a college graduate, because she’s a national champion, she can go back and impact masses of people in New York. “I want her story not to be a fairytale story, but true to who she is as a New Yorker. So she can go back and tell her New York story in her accent. “The good, the bad and the ugly.” BIANCA CUEVAS-MOORE • BASKETBALL

23


Home Away From Home

Toronto’s A.J. Lawson fits right in as premier freshmen in SEC

By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Jenny Dilworth

A.J. Lawson’s hometown in his Home and Native Land sits 13 or so hours due north of Colonial Life Arena. It’s about an 850-mile trek from Columbia to Toronto, the longest distance any of the 12 North American-born players on the Gamecock roster have to travel home. But Columbia may be more of a home for Lawson and his family than for most. “I talked to his dad,” South Carolina assistant coach Chuck Martin told head coach Frank Martin during Lawson’s recruitment. “You know he’s from South Carolina?” “Wow, what a coincidence,” Frank Martin thought. “A.J.’s dad loved the Gamecocks as a kid,” the head coach said in mid-February. “… A.J. wasn’t going to come because his dad was born and raised in South Carolina. But once there was a relationship of trust, which is 24

BASKETBALL • A.J. LAWSON

what I work to build in recruiting, … once that was in place, and you add the caveat that there’s still family [here], it made it for a powerful moment.” Fortunately for the Gamecocks, because Lawson has been a revelation this season, earning the respect of SEC coaches as one of the league’s premier freshman. “How’s A.J. not in the conversation for [SEC] Freshman of the Year?” Martin asked after Lawson scored 15 points, tied for a then season-high nine rebounds and dished six assists in a win over Ole Miss. Lawson was averaging 13.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game when he went down with an ankle injury on Feb. 26. When Chuck Martin was hired as an assistant at South Carolina in June of 2017, he gave Frank Martin the names of two players from Toronto he should be on the lookout for.

One of them was Lawson. The head coach traveled north and watched Lawson at an AAU tournament, but Lawson was only a high school junior at the time. Frankly, he was still raw. “We started recruiting, but not as engaged as we needed to,” Martin said. But then the process heated up, literally and figuratively. On the way to Florida for a tournament, Lawson and his team took a detour to Columbia, where Gamecock coaches took him on a tour of the team’s facility. It was then that Frank Martin got a sense Lawson wanted to reclassify as a senior and get to college right away, so conversations became serious. Along the way, the coach learned that South Carolina administrative assistant John Reynolds’ mom was a teacher at A.J.’s dad’s high school, Scott’s Branch High School in Summerton.

“There were other schools that were hot and heavy for him, and we were worried,” Martin said. “When we got that call, we were really happy. We always thought A.J. had a chance to be really, really good.” Fast-forward not even a year and Lawson has brought a steady presence to the Gamecocks. Not just with steady, run-of-the-mill performances either, but reliable stat-sheet-stuffing performances. There was the aforementioned game against Ole Miss, in which Lawson made his signature play of the year. Running unguarded from the 3-point arc, it took the guard four short strides to reach the rim. The 6-6, 172-pounder then ascended, perfectly timing his apex as Felipe Haase’s straight-on 3-pointer bounced off the rim. Lawson flew above Maik Kotsar’s back, snagged the rebound with two hands and, in one motion, threw down a dunk with his right hand.  “If I had to rate it, I’d give it an 11 out of 10,” South Carolina resident high-flyer Chris Silva said of the first-half slam. Said Lawson, “Once I caught it I knew I was going to flush it in.” “He’s just too good a kid. He’s got so much to give,” Martin said of Lawson after the game. “I think he’s going to become one of the more unbelievable defenders I’ve ever coached. “… His aggression, just being in attack mode. When you turn him loose in the open court, my God, he’s so fast. With his size and athleticism …. his length, his ability to move side to side, his toughness, his mind, his instincts. I mean, he’s got all the qualities.” There was the 23 points he scored against Stony Brook in his second career game, and the 18-point, eight-assist, six-rebound performance in the next game against Norfolk State. Or the 19-point, nine-rebound, five-assist showing two games later against George Washington. Or the career-high 25 points against Coastal Carolina. Thought the numbers were a product of lesser competition in non-conference play? Lawson had 24 points on the road in a three-point win over Vanderbilt, led the Gamecocks in scoring (18) against LSU, scored 24 points against Arkansas and 23 against Texas A&M.

March 2019


“He’s talented and can do a lot of different things,” Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said. “You look at his stat line, it’s all the way across. He’s got assists. He’s rebounding. He does a really good job of playing with pace. “He’s one of the better freshmen in this league. … He doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses.” “He stretches the floor,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “And he’s got a quick release.” He’s not only a reliable scorer and passer. Martin said that, other

than Silva, Lawson is the player he trusts most to rebound. He’s also a leader. Lawson has taken the podium for at least seven of the team’s postgame news conferences, including six during conference play. He also met with reporters four times during pregame sessions, including once by himself. Martin also partially credited the strong play of Hassani Gravett to Lawson’s improvement, with how the freshman has pushed the senior in practice. But the head coach said there will still be a learning process for Lawson to overcome and more strength to add to his frame. He still needs to be more physical at the point of attack. “[But] he works his tail off in the weight room and he eats like an ox [with] the amount of food that young man eats,” the coach said.

Lawson, though, rolled his ankle during the second half of the team’s home loss to Alabama. Though the Gamecocks trailed at the time and eventually took the lead, not having him on the floor hurt the home team. “I don’t want to say he’s our closer,” Martin said. “But with the game in the balance late in the game, I’m usually putting the ball in his hands. And we didn’t have that, so we struggled.” On the flipside, it was Alabama freshman Kira Lewis Jr., another player who reclassified in high school to get to college earlier, who led the Crimson Tide to victory. “Think about him and A.J. Lawson. Those two kids, they should be high school seniors this year,” Martin said. “And for those two kids to have the kinds of seasons they’ve had up until this point, at the point guard spot, that’s pretty impressive.” Lawson has said all along that the biggest learning curve for him and the biggest adjustment to college ball has been the physicality. “I think I’ve kind of gotten used to it now,” he said before the Alabama game. “When I got here, I wasn’t used to everyone being

as strong as me and the same speed as me. Now I’m looking for consistency and having every game be a good game. No ups and downs anymore.” Sometimes Lawson thinks, “Man, I could be in Canada right now in high school,” but he’s more focused on the future — about practicing hard and competing hard every night, putting up extra shots and watching extra film. He’s even shedding his northof-the-border wardrobe staple, a bubble jacket, something he told Martin he loves wearing. “I’ve got one. I just never use it because there’s no need to use a bubble jacket in South Carolina,” Martin joked with him. “Well I’m going to use mine every day,” Lawson told him. “So it would be 60 degrees in the fall and he’d be walking around with a bubble jacket,” Martin explained to reporters. Now? “I don’t think I like that cold air anymore,” Lawson told the coach when he returned to South Carolina after winter break. Said the coach, “I haven’t seen him with that bubble jacket very often anymore.”

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March 2019

A.J. LAWSON • BASKETBALL

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BASEBALL

Big Transformation Offseason work, move to first base rejuvenates senior Chris Cullen By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe & Jenny Dilworth

W

hile most of his teammates were playing summer ball during the offseason, senior catcher Chris Cullen was at Founders Park, working out every day with trainer Billy Anderson. Cullen would spend part of each day going through baseballspecific workouts and then stick around for extra work on the treadmill, jump rope and other exercises. Anything to drop some weight and get his body in better shape. “Anything to get my heart pumping,” Cullen said. “Even when I’m at home, if it’s late at night, I will get up and run around the neighborhood or do some ab exercises. It was not just what Billy had on the board, but having that motivation to do extra.” The extra work paid immediate dividends when Cullen arrived at preseason camp. Having lost 25

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BASEBALL • CHRIS CULLEN

pounds, he was in the best shape of his four-year career and led the Gamecocks in hitting throughout preseason scrimmages. “This is as healthy as I have ever seen him look,” said South Carolina assistant coach Stuart Lake, who works with the team’s catchers. “He has really worked hard to put himself in shape. I am excited to see him play.” Entering the 2018 season, Cullen was considered one of the best catching prospects in the country. After a solid sophomore season, he was rated the No. 7 prospect in the SEC for the 2018 MLB Draft, according to Baseball America. But the year turned into a disaster for Cullen. Still recovering from knee surgery late in his sophomore season, the 6-5, 215-pound catcher struggled at the plate, hitting just .190 with three home runs, 15 RBI and a .294 on-base percent-

age. Though he filled in at times at first base and third base, he lost the starting catching job to senior Hunter Taylor, who became the No. 1 catcher during the SEC season. While Cullen was struggling, Taylor had a career year, batting .261 with nine home runs, 34 RBI and developing into one of the best defensive catchers in the country. Cullen and his coaches hoped the work he put in over the summer would lead to the same type of transformation and comeback during his senior season. “We’re hoping he very much has a transformation like Hunter Taylor did last year,” head coach Mark Kingston said. “Chris knows this is his last go-around. He knows it’s do well now or maybe baseball is over, so he has made a major commitment physically to get himself in the best shape he has ever been in and by far the best shape I have

seen him since I have been here. You can see there is more life in the body, there is more energy, there is a better attitude on a daily basis and he has been swinging the bat well and he’s catching better.” “This is a huge year for me,” Cullen said. “After battling injuries and finally coming back, I’m feeling pretty healthy, so having a big year this year would be huge for me. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, but I have put in the work and I’m getting in the best shape I can. I definitely want this to happen.” Cullen entered the season expecting to share catching duties with junior-college transfer Luke Berryhill. He started on opening day but Berryhill caught the next two games while Cullen sat out. When the Gamecocks took the field for their fourth game of the season, Cullen was at first base, replac-

March 2019


ing freshman Josiah Sightler and sophomore Jordan Holladay. Cullen started the next three games at first base and, after a slow start at the plate, finally erupted in Game 2 against Utah Valley, belting his first home run of the season. The next day, he hit two more home runs and drove in five runs. “That’s the Chris Cullen we need,” Kingston said. With Berryhill batting cleanup and playing well behind the plate, Kingston moved Cullen to first base to get his bat in the lineup and his leadership on the field. With him in the lineup, South Carolina pounded Utah Valley 31-11 in the three-game series to start the season 7-1. After eight games, Cullen had three home runs, seven RBI and was slugging .824. “Chris needs to be a key part of our team this year,” Kingston said. “He’s playing really well at first base. To get some offense out of that position is going to be important for us.” With Cullen struggling and Taylor thriving in 2018, Kingston gave Cullen a few starts at first base and third. He excelled defensively at first base in one of the Super Regional games against Arkansas. So with Berryhill off to a strong start, he didn’t hesitate to make the move again. “At this point, as the senior, as the guy who really does a nice job around the bag, I think he deserves the right to get that opportunity,” Kingston said. “His defense has been really, really good. He gives us a veteran presence. With so many new players playing for us right now, it’s nice to have a veteran presence on the infield to try to keep a steady ship.” Cullen was fine with the move and quickly embraced it. “Playing first base has been comfortable for me,” he said. “I haven’t practiced over there too much but I just go out there and

March 2019

have some fun playing it. I play relaxed when I’m out there.” He was feeling even more comfortable after the three-homer weekend. “I feel extremely comfortable right now,” he said after his two-homer day. “Since the season started, I feel like I have been seeing the ball extremely well and I have been putting great swings on it. Whether I get hits or not, I have been confident in my approach and confident in what I’m doing. I’m going to continue to work hard and continue to feel good, hopefully. I’m just going to keep preparing and keep building my confidence and hopefully keep putting good swings on the ball.” Cullen admits the 2017 and 2018 seasons were frustrating, especially the knee surgery that cost him 26 games in 2017. He was coming off surgery when last season started and never got on track. “Chris has dealt with a lot of injuries that are hard,” Lake said. “Knee injuries for catchers are hard and he had to fight through them.” His coaches and teammates never lost faith in him, however. “Any time you deal with injuries, it’s extremely frustrating. But you just have to try to put all that past you,” Cullen said. “It’s been frustrating, but I’ve had a lot of support around me with teammates, friends, family, coaches, trainers. They have done a great job around me. They believe in me and they want me to get back to how I can play. That’s been awesome for me and has picked up my spirits, for sure.” His teammates say he has handled the setbacks and the challenges from his coaches well. “He’s responding really well and he’s really taking it all in and getting after it and staying real positive,” said senior Jacob Olson, Cullen’s roommate. “We’re all proud of him.

He is a gamer. Chris is going to go out there and give you everything he’s got and he’s playing really well.” Cullen and his teammates hope he can continue having the type of bounce-back season that Taylor and Madison Stokes had last season. After struggling as juniors, both Taylor and Stokes had big senior seasons to lead South Carolina to the NCAA Tournament. After the season, they were rewarded by being selected in the MLB Draft. Cullen is hoping to follow the same path. “That was awesome to see and it gives the seniors this year that extra chip on their shoulders and a lot of motivation going into this season,” Cullen said. “We want to go out with a bang. It’s our last year on campus and wearing this Gamecock uniform and it’s going too soon. But we are going to try to step up this year and be in the best

shape and be prepared the best we can so we can have a big year and leave campus with a smile on our faces and something to be proud of.”

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27


Brett Kerry thrives in second chance, leads impressive group of freshmen pitchers

Brett Kerry

Answering The Call By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe & Jenny Dilworth

When fall baseball season wrapped up last October, Brett Kerry wasn’t really in Mark Kingston’s plans as far as pitchers he was counting on this spring. After a lackluster debut, Kerry was somewhere near the bottom of Kingston’s list of 15 pitchers competing for key roles in the starting rotation or bullpen. But by the time the 2019 season began in February, Kingston was willing to give Kerry a shot. After South Carolina’s opening day loss to Liberty, Kerry pitched the final inning of a 13-7 win in Game 2. After watching Kerry strike out the first two batters he faced in a 1-2-3 inning, Kingston was so impressed 28

BASEBALL • BRETT KERRY

he decided to go back to the young pitcher again on Sunday. With the teams locked in a tight 2-2 battle, Kingston called on Kerry in a tense situation. The true freshman delivered again, hurling two scoreless innings and picking up the win when the Gamecocks scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. On opening weekend, Kerry wasn’t the same pitcher Kingston saw last fall. Suddenly, after a dramatic transformation, he was the shutdown reliever the Gamecocks needed in the pen. “He came back with renewed vigor,” Kingston said. “After the fall, we challenged him that he needed to be better than we had seen up to

that point and he came back with a chip on his shoulder. That’s good to see. When you challenge guys you want to see how they react.” After an eye-opening introduction to college baseball, Kerry was determined to prove he could pitch at an elite program. He returned from winter break throwing harder and, unlike typical freshmen, not afraid to attack hitters. “They just sat me down and said obviously something needs to change,” Kerry said. “I think it was more mental. I just had to sit down with myself and be like, ‘I can’t be scared to go out there and if I get hit, if I walk people, it is what it is, but I just need to go out there and compete every time’.”

It took Kerry just two appearances to prove he could not only compete but dominate. “Coming in as a freshman, to an SEC program, and getting to pitch two times opening weekend and even getting a win is unbelievable,” he said. Things only got better for Kerry, who emerged as one of South Carolina’s biggest surprises and most important pitchers early in the season. After getting his feet wet against Liberty, he developed into a dominant force and a shutdown reliever. He started the season with 9.1 scoreless innings with 18 strikeouts. He allowed just four hits in his first nine innings and didn’t walk a single batter. His biggest moment and most impressive performance came at Clemson in Game 1 of the Palmetto Series. With South Carolina clinging to a 5-4 lead, Kingston called on Kerry with two out and a runner on base in the bottom of the sixth inning. Kerry came in to face preseason All-American Logan Davidson, Clemson’s most dangerous hitter. He went right after Davidson, forcing him to tap a weak grounder back to the mound for the final out of the inning. In the seventh inning, Kerry gave up a leadoff single to Grayson Byrd, who had homered in the first inning. He then struck out two of the next three batters to get out of the inning. In the eighth, the young freshman blew away three straight batters, causing his teammates to erupt from the dugout as he walked off the mound. “I was so hyped up,” Kerry said of igniting his team and quieting a raucous Clemson crowd. “I was just so happy that all my guys were there and they were getting hyped with me and we’re trying to win. I was ecstatic.” With many expecting Kingston to turn to closer Sawyer Bridges in the ninth inning, he sent Kerry back to the mound to finish the job. “He was cruising,” Kingston said. “The way he was pitching at that point and with who they had coming up, that was our best move.” In the ninth, Kerry faced the top of the Clemson order. After getting leadoff hitter Sam Hall to pop up, Davidson singled, putting the tying run on base. With the game on the line, he had to face the Tigers’ No. 3 and 4 hitters.

March 2019


“I was just thinking, I’m just going to keep throwing strikes, and that gave me even more motivation,” Kerry said. “I was, ‘Alright, I can get this strikeout for us.’” He did, striking out Byrd and cleanup hitter Davis Sharpe to end the game and seal the 5-4 win for his team. “The kid has big heart and he’s a very focused, determined kid now,” Kingston said after the game. “He’s gotten his game up to another level from what we saw in the fall. Now he’s a very important piece of this puzzle.” Kerry, a right-hander from Clemmons, N.C., was an outstanding high school pitcher at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, going 10-1 with a 0.60 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 69.1 innings as a senior and leading his team to three straight state championships. But when he arrived at South Carolina last fall, he was throwing in the mid- to high-80s and was having trouble commanding his breaking pitches. Kingston, who loves power pitchers with high velocity, saw Kerry lagging behind his other young pitchers and juniorcollege transfers. He challenged Kerry to step up his game and work harder during the offseason to get stronger, increase his velocity and work on his command. When he returned in the spring, he had gained two to three mph on his fastball and worked with pitching coach Skylar Meade on developing a sharper curveball and slider.

“It was really more of a mental change,” Kerry said. “I knew I could be this type of pitcher, it was more a mental part of the game. You have to have that mindset of this is what I want to be able to do one day.” With a wipe-out slider and a low-90s fastball he can elevate and sneak past hitters, Kerry focused on attacking batters and throwing strikes. That was his most remarkable statistic early in the season — no walks in his first 9.1 innings. “Just getting ahead early, it really gives you the ability to just throw strikes and throw your off-speed stuff and they really don’t know what is coming,” he said. “When you get behind in counts, then you usually throw them fastballs, so it’s nice to get ahead.” Clemson head coach Monte Lee was not surprised to see Kerry dominate his team in Game 1. He recruited him in high school and knew what Kerry could do. “He’s a strike-throwing machine,” he said. “He’s a guy who commands his fastball and breaking ball away. We tried our best to get our guys in the mindset that, ‘Hey, you have to be super-aggressive with this guy because he’s going to come right after you. He’s going to fill up the strike zone.’ … He was pretty dang good.” Kerry is one of five freshmen pitchers who got off to strong starts for South Carolina, giving the Gamecocks a strong and deep bullpen. While freshman lefthander Dylan Harley earned a spot in the weekend rotation, redshirt

Cam Tringali

freshman Cam Tringali and true freshmen Wesley Sweatt and Daniel Lloyd joined Kerry as key relief pitchers. During the Gamecocks’ 10-3 start, the bullpen compiled a 7-1 record with a 2.48 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 54.3 innings pitched. The freshmen were a big part of that, with Tringali allowing just one earned run and striking out 14 batters in 13.2 innings. Sweatt had a win and 1.35 ERA in his first four appearances and Lloyd also flashed vast potential. Sweatt, Tringali and Kerry combined to hold Clemson to just one earned run over 6.2 innings in Game 1 and Tringali hurled another scoreless inning in the 14-3 win in Game 3.

“They have earned that trust,” Kingston said after the Clemson series. “They have pitched very well this year and you are going to have to win big games at some point with those guys. You might as well do it now.” “It’s a testament to the coaches and how well they have prepared us,” Kerry said. “Like Coach Kingston told us, it’s no more pressure than a regular game, and I just think that’s how we all look at it. We are going to just pitch like it’s just a regular game.” Through 13 games, Kerry and his classmates pitched extremely well, giving the Gamecock pitching staff a bright future.

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29


SC vs. Clemson PHOTOS BY ALLEN SHARPE & JENNY DILWORTH

30

BASEBALL • SC VS. CLEMSON

March 2019


March 2019

SC VS. CLEMSON • BASEBALL

31


By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor

J

GAMECOCKS

ackie Bradley Jr. and Steve Pearce put South Carolina in the national limelight again last year when they led the Boston Red Sox to the 2018 World Series championship. Bradley, the ALCS MVP, and Pearce, the World Series MVP, thrilled Gamecock fans by starring on baseball’s grandest stage and garnering national attention for the Gamecock baseball program. “To have an ALCS MVP and a World Series MVP, you have to pinch yourself and say, ‘wow,’” said Ray Tanner, who led the Gamecocks and Bradley to back-to-back national championships in 2010 and 2011. “It couldn’t have been a better World Series for me, that’s for sure.” Bradley, a 2016 all-star and 2018 Gold Glove center fielder, and Pearce, one of the game’s best clutch hitters, will be back with the Red Sox again this season. They will be one of at least nine former Gamecocks in the major leagues and one of more than 30 in professional baseball. With so many Gamecocks in the big leagues, or knocking on the door, we decided to put together a major-league roster of all Gamecocks. Here’s our starting nine, starting rotation and bullpen, with a host of hot prospects on the way.

LEFT FIELD Steve Pearce

AROUND THE HORN

C Grayson Greiner — Expected to be starting catcher for Detroit Tigers. A strong defensive catcher, he hit .248 with 30 home runs in five minor-league seasons. 1B Justin Smoak — A career .233 hitter with 169 career home runs, including a career-high 38 for Blue Jays in 2017. 2B Whit Merrifield — A career .293 hitter, he led the majors in hits (192) and stolen bases (45) last year. SS Peter Mooney — The AAA (New Orleans) shortstop for the Miami Marlins, Mooney is a strong defensive infielder who has hit .246 in seven minor-league seasons. 3B Max Schrock — A natural second baseman, Schrock soared through the minors and was invited to spring training with the Cardinals. Has hit .304 with a .352 on-base percentage in four minor-league seasons. LF Steve Pearce — A 12-year veteran who has played OF/1B/DH for six different teams. A career .257 hitter with 90 home runs, including a career-high 21 in 2014 with the Orioles. CF Jackie Bradley Jr. — A 2016 all-star and 2018 Gold Glove winner, Bradley is one of the best center fielders in baseball. He has 70 career home runs, including a career-high 26 in 2016 and three in the 2018 ALCS. RF Evan Marzilli — Signed as a free agent by the Cubs during the offseason and sent to the team’s AA team in Tennessee. A .255 career hitter, Marzilli has 22 home runs and 80 stolen bases in seven minor-league seasons. DH Christian Walker — Competing for starting 1B job with Arizona Diamondbacks. Has 125 home runs while hitting .285 in seven minor-league seasons. Had 32 home runs and 114 RBI in 2017 at AAA Reno. Six homers in 61 MLB at-bats.

ROTATION

Jordan Montgomery — Could be in Yankees rotation after Tommy John surgery. 11-7 with a 3.84 ERA in 35 MLB starts. 25-14 with a 2.57 ERA in four minor-league seasons. Taylor Widener — A top prospect for Arizona who could wind up in D-Backs rotation this year. Led AA Southern League with 176 Ks last year with 2.75 ERA. Has a 11.1 K/9 rate in three minor-league seasons. Wil Crowe — A second-round pick by the Nationals, Crowe has flown through the organization, climbing to AA last year. 11-5 with a 3.33 ERA in two minor-league seasons. Opponents are hitting .239 against him. Braden Webb — A third-round pick by the Brewers, he climbed to AA last year. Has a 4.04 ERA with 218 Ks in 207 innings in two minor-league seasons. Opponents are hitting .227 against him. Jack Wynkoop — A sixth-round pick by the Rockies, Wynkoop has reached AA. The left-hander is 23-27 with a 4.30 ERA in 450 minor-league innings.

BULLPEN

Sam Dyson CL — A key reliever for the San Francisco Giants, Dyson has 57 career saves and a 3.41 ERA in seven big-league seasons. Pitched for four teams with a career-high 38 saves for Rangers in 2016. One of few players to win College World Series and World Baseball Classic. Tyler Webb — Pitched for four different major-league teams before settling with the Cardinals, where he had a 1.76 ERA in 18 appearances last year. A situational lefty, he has a 4.76 ERA in 31 games the past two seasons. Bryan Harper — 16-7 with a 3.66 ERA and 15 saves in seven minor-league seasons with the Nationals. He’s spent part of two seasons at AAA. Joel Seddon — 31-30 with a 4.34 ERA and seven saves in five years as both a starter and reliever in the Oakland A’s system. Tyler Johnson — A fifth-round pick by the White Sox, Johnson has moved rapidly through their minor-league system in two seasons. 2.15 ERA with 16 saves and 126 strikeouts in 83.2 innings at the Rookie and two Class A levels. 32

BASEBALL • GAMECOCKS IN THE PROS

March 2019


IN THE PROS Center FIELD

RIGHT FIELD

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Evan Marzilli

shortstop

second base

Peter Mooney

Whit Merrifield

Photos by Allen Sharpe & SC Athletics

third base

Pitcher

Max Schrock

First Base Justin SMoak Rotation

bullpen

Jordan Montgomery

Sam Dyson

Taylor Widener

Tyler Webb

Wil Crowe

Bryan Harper

Braden Webb

Joel Seddon

Jack Wynkoop

Tyler Johnson

DH catcher Grayson Greiner

Prospects (2018 team)

Gene Cone, OF — AA Binghamton (Mets) Tanner English, OF — AA Chattanooga (Twins) Dom Thompson-Williams, OF — AA Trenton (Yankees)* Kyle Martin, 1B — High-A Clearwater (Phillies) Marcus Mooney, INF — High-A Florida (Braves) John Parke, LHP — High-A Winston-Salem (White Sox) Madison Stokes, INF — Low-A Lakewood (Phillies) Jonah Bride, INF — Short-Season/Rookie Vermont (A’s) Carlos Cortes, INF — S-S/Rookie Brooklyn (Mets)

March 2019

Christian Walker

Eddy Demurias, RHP — S-S/Rookie Billings (Reds) Alex Destino, OF — S-S/Rookie Great Falls (White Sox) Adam Hill, RHP — S-S/Rookie Brooklyn (Mets)** Cody Morris, RHP — S-S/Rookie Arizona (Indians) Josh Reagan, LHP — S-S/Rookie Vermont (A’s) Clarke Schmidt, RHP — S-S/Rookie Staten Island (Yankees) LT Tolbert, INF — S-S Rookie/Hillsboro (D-Backs) *Thompson-Williams was traded to the Mariners during the offseason. **Hill was traded to the Brewers during the offseason. GAMECOCKS IN THE PROS • BASEBALL

33


SOFTBALL

Kennedy Clark

Mackenzie Boesel

Alyssa Kumiyama

From California to Carolina Southern Cal girls glad to be playing for the ‘real USC’ By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Allen Sharpe

B

everly Smith has said before she wants to build a theoretical wall around South Carolina to keep in the Palmetto State’s best softball recruits. In her 10 years as Gamecock skipper, she has, bringing in three state Gatorade Players of the Year and much of the region’s top talent. But if Smith’s recruiting class hauls are any indication, it seems she’s also trying to establish a footprint in the state of California. The Gamecocks have had 11 players from the Golden State during Smith’s tenure, including three — Kennedy Clark, Alyssa Kumiyama and Mackenzie Boesel — on 34

this year’s squad. South Carolina’s 2017 and 2018 teams both had more players on them from California than from South Carolina. “Certainly it’s the weather and the numbers, just the sheer population,” Smith said. “In California, their ability to play at a young age and play year-round has made them successful.” Five of the 11 — Clark, Kumiyama, Boesel, Kaylea Snaer and Hayley Copeland — all played for the renowned SoCal Athletics program. “Southern California is kind of a hotbed for softball,” said Boesel’s dad, Terry. “I think the [South Car-

SOFTBALL • CALIFORNIA GIRLS

olina] coaches realized that if they get someone from southern California who has played on a high-level club team out here, they’re going to get a pretty well-developed player.” Kumiyama said California lends itself to a year-long softball schedule, whether its travel season or high school season. “That’s really where the competitive aspect comes from,” the sophomore said. “We had to practice our best at all times.” “You really don’t stop playing,” Clark said. Kumiyama’s team joined the Athletics’ program when she was 14, but it wasn’t until she joined the

program’s 18-and-under squad that she played with Clark and Boesel. “We were always one of the top-five teams at [Premier Girls Fastpitch],” Clark said, referring to a premier end-of-the-season travel ball tournament in California. “Bev was at our games a lot,” Kumiyama said. Copeland, who was already at South Carolina, relayed her experiences back to the group, especially Clark. “I kind of had an insider’s take on it, per se,” Clark said. Though Clark signed in November 2014, Boesel in November 2015 and Kumiyama in November 2016, the three knew long before those dates that they would eventually play college ball at South Carolina together. Boesel wrote on Twitter as far back as November 2013 about her “future teammates” Copeland and Clark. It almost became a running joke within the Athletics’ program. “Oh, there’s another one South Carolina got,” Clark said. “[But] I think they [South Carolina] saw we had this common mentality and played a game that they like. That’s how it became a tunnel for South Carolina.” Though Clark, Kumiyama and Boesel had already known each other before they teamed up with the A’s, the three grew a comfort level during their time playing together and spoke often about their impending college careers. “If they can do it, I can do it,” Kumiyama said. “Because three thousand miles away from home is a lot.”

THE REAL USC

“I grew up a USC Trojan fan,” Kumiyama admits. “So when South Carolina fans [used to] tell me, ‘We’re the real USC,’ I got a little [iffy], but I sat there and pled the fifth. I pled the fifth.’ “Now, I’m like, ‘Well, you know what, we are the real USC.’ Even though I’m a die-hard USC Trojan fan, I will still bleed garnet and black to the day I die.” The three current Gamecocks gave differing but similar takes on “The Real USC” debate between fans of the University of South Carolina and fans of the University of Southern California.

March 2019


“Once I got here I was like, ‘This is the real USC,’” Clark said. Kumiyama says someone can be a fan of both schools because they’re on different sides of the country and in different conferences. Southern California also doesn’t have a softball team. Because of proximity, Kumiyama thought about one day playing for UCLA. But under one condition: She would wear a USC Trojans shirt under her jersey. “I would not let that baby blue touch me,” she said. “You can always go to South Carolina,” an uncle told her. “You know what?” she responded. “That’s a good idea.” “If [South Carolina and Southern California] do play in football I’d probably just sit there and watch,” Kumiyama said. “I’d want both teams to win. Let’s just tie. … But I think I’d root for the Gamecocks. I’d be more disappointed if we lost.”

CALIFORNIA LOVE

In March of 2017, South Carolina played five games at a tournament at Cal State Fullerton, a school less than five miles from Boesel and Copeland’s hometown of Yorba Linda. It was a homecoming of sorts for the six girls on the team

Alyssa Kumiyama

from California, with many former teammates, coaches and friends in the stands. “This is kind of like a hometown game for me,” Clark thought to herself. Kumiyama, who joined the Gamecocks in 2018, watched from the stands. “Being able to maintain that relationship here and being able to play with girls that I was close with in high school is really a unique experience,” Boesel said. “Not a lot of people go to school with that many girls they played with and where they’re from. “It’s cool being able to play with them again and maintain that friendship.”

Kennedy Clark

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35


GAMECOCK NEWS & NOTES From Staff Reports | Photos by Allen Sharpe & SC Athletics

S

Quincy Hall

printer Quincy Hall won the men’s 400m championship at the 2019 SEC Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., setting a new indoor school record for his first SEC crown. Hall was the fastest qualifier and led the final wire-to-wire. He broke the Carolina indoor 400m school record for the third time this season. His time of 45.69 was ninth-fastest in the world this season. Hall’s SEC title is the second in as many seasons for the Carolina men’s program, following Josh Awotunde’s indoor shot put victory last season. He’s the first Gamecock in history to win a men’s indoor 400m SEC title and the first Carolina runner to win an SEC title on the indoor track since Jason Richardson took the 60m hurdles crown in 2009. “I knew if I could get to the break, I could control the race, slow the race down and actually run my race,” Hall said. “It feels great to add to [the Carolina legacy], and there’s more to come. I can see Coach [Curtis] Frye and Coach [Kevin] Brown building champions, and I’m not the only one.” “Quincy is that kind of athlete. He’s very special, and I’m so proud

Fynn Minuth

Emma Barksdale

36

NEWS & NOTES • RECORDS FALL

March 2019


SWIMMING & DIVING

South Carolina senior Fynn Minuth broke his own SEC record to win the 500 freestyle for a third straight season as the Gamecocks had a program record four individual SEC champions. Minuth swam a 4:11.98 to become just the first swimmer since 2005-08 to win three-consecutive conference titles in the 500 free, accomplishing the feat just a year after former teammate Akram Mahmoud took home his third straight SEC title in the 1650 free. Senior Emma Barksdale captured her first career SEC championship, winning the women’s 400 IM with a school-record time of 4:01.52, the second-fastest time in the nation this year. Barksdale is just the second female swimmer in program history to win an individual SEC title and the first since Amanda Rutqvist in 2011. Barksdale, who finished runner-up in the event last year, also earned a podium finish after picking up a bronze medal in the 200 IM. Junior Itay Goldfaden won the men’s 100 breaststroke with a time of 51.72. A native of Bat Hefer, Israel, Goldfaden, an All-American in the 100 breast last year, qualified third. His time of 51.72 was just .14 off the record pace. Marissa Roth won the women’s platform diving title with a score of 304.80 for her first podium finish in the SEC Championships. The fifth-year senior finished her performance with a 2 1/2 somersault tuck off the seven-meter platform to earn a 58.50 from the judges. It was her first podium finish and just the second women’s platform diving championship in Carolina history. Carolina’s four individual conference championships tied for the most titles at the SEC Championships in program history (South Carolina also had four champions in 2017). The Gamecocks also set a

March 2019

total of 14 school records during the five-day meet.

MEN’S TENNIS

South Carolina’s No. 1 singles player Paul Jubb climbed to No. 4 in the country early in the season in the Oracle/ITA Singles Rankings, the highest singles ranking in program history since former AllAmerican Guillaume Legat finished the 2001 season at No. 4. Jubb won seven straight matches at No. 1 singles and was 19-2 overall on March 5 as the Gamecock men started the season at 10-2. He was 6-2 against nationally ranked opponents. The Gamecocks had three singles players crack the top 100 early in the season with freshman Daniel Rodrigues at No. 76 and freshman Raphael Lambling at No. 95. Rodrigues and Lambling were both named SEC Freshmen of the Week in consecutive weeks in February.

WOMEN’S TENNIS

The South Carolina women’s tennis team continues to make history, claiming the highest-ranked singles and doubles players in program history early this season. On Feb. 20, senior Ingrid Gamarra Martins climbed from No. 16 to No. 10 in the ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) national rankings. Two weeks later, she moved up to No. 9 with a 17-5 singles record, including a 5-1 record at No. 1 singles in dual matches. Gamarra Martins and doubles partner Mia Horvit also made history, climbing to No. 2 in the nation in the Feb. 20 rankings. South Carolina’s No. 1 tandem was ranked No. 7 in the March 5 rankings with an overall record of 16-3, 6-1 in dual matches. Paige Cline (No. 49) and Horvit (No. 99) were also ranked in the top 100 in singles while the doubles team of Rachel Rohrabacher and Megan Davies were ranked No. 28. The Gamecocks started the season 7-2 and were ranked No. 10 in the nation in early March.

Ingrid Gamarra Martins

Go moved from 18th to third on the final day with a final-round 70 (-2). She had four straight birdies to finish 217 (+1) for the tournament.

EQUESTRIAN

South Carolina freshman Grady Lyman was named SEC Rider of the Month in Equitation on the Flat after going undefeated in February.

Lyman went 2-0 in SEC competition with wins over No. 1-ranked Auburn and No. 2 Texas A&M. She went undefeated during the month with three regular-season wins and one exhibition meet victory. Over her four rides, she won by an average of 11 points. She is 4-0 with two MOPs in Equitation on the Flat.

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WOMEN’S GOLF

Junior Lois Kaye Go finished third at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate Golf Championship at English Turn Golf and Country Club in New Orleans to lead No. 16 South Carolina to a fourth-place finish to open the spring season.

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that he’s a Gamecock,” head coach Curtis Frye said. Hall was one of three Gamecock entries with podium finishes at the Indoor Championships. Carolina’s women’s 4x400m relay team of Stephanie Davis, Aliyah Abrams, Tatyana Mills and Madeline Jonathas won a silver medal while senior 60m hurdler Isaiah Moore earned a bronze. The South Carolina men finished 10th in the team standings, while the women finished 12th.

RECORDS FALL • NEWS & NOTES

37


After Clemson win, Kingston has SC headed back to national prominence By Bill Gunter | Contributing writer

M

aybe it was the promise of warmer weather. Maybe it was the month of March and the NCAA Tournament coming to town. Or maybe it was seeing the South Carolina baseball team whip Clemson to look like the national power it was under Ray Tanner. Whatever it was, the first weekend of March put me in the mood for spring, and I think it likely had to do with that impressive baseball victory over the Tigers. I remember getting into the radio business back in 2009 as the Gamecocks were making trips to Super Regionals and the College World Series. It made for quick summers as time passed watching the Gamecocks compete for national titles. But that came to a halt when Tanner retired as head coach and I realized just how long the summer can be with no Gamecock baseball. Fast forward to March 3, late Sunday afternoon, as the Game-

cocks were putting the finishing touches on a 14-3 dismantling of the Tigers, and I realized this is going to be a pretty fun spring and summer. One weekend does not define a season, especially at South Carolina, where baseball expectations are extremely high, but it seemed that the Gamecock baseball team I had grown up with had returned and was ready to reclaim its spot among the nation’s elite. I think Tanner hit a grand slam with the hiring of Mark Kingston and the program is doing a quick 180 in year two. That should make the team a formidable opponent in conference play and when the postseason rolls around. I understand that one series win against the Tigers does not mean national championships are in store, but the trends around this team lead me to believe that Kingston has the Gamecocks on the right track and moving down those tracks pretty quickly.

In my dealings with Kingston in media settings and radio interviews, I am extremely impressed with his laid-back approach and understanding of what needs to be accomplished right away and longterm. The way Kingston handles his players reminds me of Tanner, who was the best in the business at knowing how to push just the right buttons and keep his players motivated yet relaxed during critical moments. Going back to his first season, I think we have seen that from Kingston, and because of it his players performed well at crunch time leading into the NCAA Tournament. The same team that had lost 10 straight SEC series the year before won five straight to finish the regular season and, through this year’s Clemson series, have won three more for a total of eight straight regular-season series victories under Kingston. Consider the strides the program has made from what

appeared to be a broken group in 2017 to a team that was one win away from the College World Series last June. I attribute that to Kingston and the way he coaches and handles his players. The Gamecocks look like a team motivated to return to the top and remind me of some of Tanner’s best teams. With so many newcomers, I know things can change for this particular team, but long-term, after seeing the weekend series victory over Clemson, there is no doubt in my mind that Kingston has the Gamecocks heading back to national prominence.

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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March 2019


March arrives with a bang, hope for a hot spring By Ed Girardeau | Contributing writer

S

outh Carolina’s baseball season may technically begin in February. But, from a fan’s perspective, the season begins in the first weekend in March, when Carolina and Clemson play a home-and-home series with a third game on a neutral field. After four seasons of falling short in the series, the Gamecocks jumped up and took a bite out of the Tigers, winning on Friday night in a one-run game. After falling short on Saturday in Greenville, the Gamecock bats came out in full force and blew out Clemson 14-3 in Columbia. It was a good start to a season where there are a lot of unknowns and gave Carolina some momentum before SEC play. Let’s face it, though, beating Clemson is a season of its own in any sport and it feels great. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, the results of winning the three-game set doesn’t always foretell a great season. In 2010, Clemson won two of three, in-

cluding a 19-6 Sunday blow-out at Founders Park. Carolina went on to beat the Tigers twice in the College World Series and won the first of two national championships. The next year, SC won two of three against Clemson and went on to repeat in the College World Series. Either way, a lot can change from now until the end of the season. Meanwhile, the warmer indoor game of basketball was winding down. The women’s final regular-season game came down to a battle with Mississippi State, as predicted, for the SEC regular season championship. Though trailing after a tough third quarter, the Gamecocks made a run to cut the lead to two, but ultimately fell short, 68-64. If you’re going to get Dawn Staley’s team, it needed to be this year. Next year the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation comes in and South Carolina looks to be back in the top 10 nationally. In the meantime, this has been a great coaching job by Staley.

When you lose the best player in the nation, it’s hard to bounce back, but Carolina has hung in there and stayed relevant. The men’s team struggled down the stretch, losing three in a row. But it bounced back and won at Texas A&M to get their 10th SEC win, guaranteeing a winning record in conference play. That marks the third time in four years of having a winning record in the SEC. In contrast, Dave Odom never had a winning record in the SEC in his seven seasons. His best finish was 8-8. Eddie Fogler had three seasons in a row (199698) with an overall winning record, but only two seasons (’97 and ’98) with a winning mark in the SEC. To find a better streak than Frank Martin’s you have to go back to Frank McGuire, who had 14 winning seasons in a row from the mid-60s to the late-70s and had five straight winning seasons in ACC play, which ended when

South Carolina left the conference in 1971. The 2018-19 season started slowly, but give Martin credit for turning it around during the toughest part of the schedule in conference play. If not for injuries, who knows where this team would be. But they certainly made things interesting despite some bumps in the road. March came in with a bang. Here’s hoping it continues into spring. With loyal devotion, remembering the days ‌

Ed Girardeau is a 1982 South Carolina graduate and has been a columnist for Spurs & Feathers since 2012. You can reach him at edgirardeau@spursandfeathers.com.

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March 2019

Profile for Spurs & Feathers

Spurs & Feathers March 2019  

The official publication of the Gamecock Club.

Spurs & Feathers March 2019  

The official publication of the Gamecock Club.