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2014

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By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

T

he 2013-14 athletic year is one that the Gamecock Club will remember for quite some time as a new membership mark was set in 2013 with over 16,800 members. “It’s two years in a row (setting new membership highs),” McFarland remarked. “That’s just real exciting to have that many members. I always talk about when I first started we had 12,000 total people and to approach over 16,800 members to break the record of over 15,000 the previous year is just phenomenal to keep growing like that.” The high-water mark in regards to membership for the Gamecock Club was just one part of an incredibly successful year according to Executive Director Patrick McFarland. “One of the things we’re all really proud of is our continued focus on customer service on the phones,” McFarland noted. “I always say when I talk about this, I know it doesn’t get people excited when you go somewhere to talk about customer service on the phones, but for Renewal Day there was no wait. January 31 one of our biggest days we had the phone staffed and when you called in you didn’t get a message, you got a person. That’s really, really big for us. We have over a 90 percent customer service rating, which is phenomenal.”

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The Gamecock Club hopes to have an even bigger year in the 2014-15 athletic year. “We want to continue to grow the Gamecock Club,” McFarland explained. “We do think we have a very good chance of setting another membership record this year. Obviously we want to continue with our customer service records and we want to retain everybody that is in the Gamecock Club. We’re going to work to keep everybody

continued. In the upcoming year, McFarland said that the Gamecock Club has charged its chapters with two projects. “One is on the elevator shaft at Williams-Brice Stadium, the block ‘C’ that’s going to be the focal point of the stadium,” McFarland elaborated. “We’ve asked our chapters to help us raise $50,000 for that. Also, we’re working on a new graphic in the hallway at basketball and we want to replace that and that’s $20,000. The chapters are going to be

in. If you join, we want to keep you. It doesn’t matter what level you are, how you donate, we want to keep you in the Gamecock Club. “Event-wise we thought the Fan Fests went pretty well. We had some that went really well. Some of the events the weather didn’t really cooperate, but we are always looking to improve those events and we’ll meet with the coaches and see how we want to continue forward. We’ll continue to do something, but we want to improve upon what we’ve done in the past,” McFarland

doing different events and there are lots of developments coming in the future and I would encourage our members to just keep checking every Spurs & Feathers issue that comes out and support the chapters in the Gamecock Club by attending these events.” McFarland is pleased with how football seat selection has been going leading up to the new year, but reiterated how difficult it is becoming to claim seats. “Football seat selection has gone really well,” McFarland commented. “We’ve

Brian Hand Executive Editor bhand@spursandfeathers.com (803) 335-1399 Ext. 506

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had very little turnover in seats, which is fantastic. We’ve had people join and seats are becoming difficult to get and we think that’s going to continue going forward.” In addition to the success of football seat selection, McFarland pointed out how important it is to keep your Gamecock Club membership going. “One of the things is staying in the Gamecock Club,” McFarland expounded. “If you call us and say I can’t purchase tickets, I’m moving, the worst thing you can do is completely drop out. We always try to get the word out and tell people. We call people in January and say ‘listen, this is your last opportunity, stay in the Roost.’ It’s $55 and you maintain your points. If you drop completely out and you want to get back in the following year, you’re starting back at ground zero. You lose all your points and you are a new member. If you just do Roost you maintain everything you built up, consecutive years and points. So, I think that’s extremely important for people to know.” The 2014-15 athletic year will also start the 75th anniversary of the Gamecock Club in January of 2015. “That’s big,” McFarland said. “We’ve been talking since really about 2009, saying ‘hey, our 75th year’s coming up in 2015.’ Well, it’s here, so we’re going to do a lot of special things around that, decals and probably some events. All of our printed material will have that. We’re one of the oldest booster clubs in the nation, so to be at that point is pretty cool.”

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By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

S

outh Carolina men’s soccer is an elite program. Have been for a long time. Never was this fact more evident than as the 2014 World Cup commenced in Brazil. The South Carolina men’s soccer program is one of only two programs in the entire nation that can boast of having a player on the final 23-man World Cup roster in each of the last four World Cups. UCLA is the only other soccer program in the country that can also say this. In the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan former Gamecock standouts Clint Mathis and Josh Wolff both suited up for the United States National Team. Mathis scored in the United States’ 1-1 group play draw with South Korea in 2002. Wolff assisted on the United States’ opening goal in the second-round victory over rival Mexico in 2002. Wolff was also a member of the United States National Team in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Former South Carolina goalkeeper Brad Guzan has been tabbed to the last two World Cups as in addition to suiting up for the United States in Brazil this summer he also was a member of the 2010 World Cup team in South Africa. Guzan played two years for South Carolina before forgoing his final two years to play professionally. The 2004 NSCAA All-American was the second pick in the 2005 Major League Soccer SuperDraft by CD Chivas USA. In 2007, Guzan would be tabbed the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year before deciding to ply his trade overseas in the prestigious English Premier League with Aston Villa. Guzan would see first-team action off and on over the next couple of years before he was loaned to Hull City of the Football League Championship (second division in England) in late 2010. He would quickly return to Aston Villa and at the end of the 2012-13 Premier League campaign he was

4 • Spurs & Feathers

dubbed the Aston Villa Players’ Player of the Year and Supporters’ Player of the Year. In addition to his efforts with the United States National Team, South Carolina men’s soccer head coach Mark Berson is thrilled with what Guzan has been able to accomplish as a professional soccer player. “It’s exciting,” Berson said. “Just a credit to Brad. He’s a great, mentally tough guy. He’s a good person. He’s been able to bide his time. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. He’s been behind guys for a while. He was on loan. It wasn’t all smooth sailing.” Since only one person can be between the pipes at any point during a game, Guzan is continuing that biding of his time this summer in the 2014 World Cup as he is the de facto No. 2 goalkeeper behind Tim Howard. That is not to say that Guzan is an afterthought to United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. In fact, the United States would not be in the position it is now without the services of Guzan as he was the US netminder in two critical World Cup qualifiers while Howard was recovering from an injury. Guzan didn’t allow a goal in either match with the United States picking up a 1-0 win over Costa Rica and a crucial tie 0-0 tie against Mexico shortly thereafter. Guzan’s clean sheet against Mexico in Mexico City in late March of 2013 garnered the United States just their second point ever in a World Cup qualifier at Azteca Stadium. Guzan made three saves in the contest. “It’s always going to be a bit hectic and a bit crazy, especially late in the game,” Guzan commented to the US Soccer media after the huge draw with Mexico. “You’re never going to come to a place like Azteca and go out and have it nice and easy. So we knew at some point, it was going to come, the pressure was going to come and we were able to deal with it.” Howard picked up his 100th cap as a member of the United States National Team in their World Cup sendoff game against Nigeria in Jacksonville, Fla. on Saturday, June 7. It is assumed that this will be his last World Cup with all signs pointing to Guzan taking over the reins of the No. 1 spot as the United States National Team

starts preparations for World Cup 2018 in Russia. Berson knows just how much having Guzan holding down a roster spot in the World Cup means to the Gamecock men’s soccer program, particularly with it extending the streak to four straight World Cups with a Gamecock on the roster. “I think the level of players that we recruit here understand that,” Berson remarked. “They’re pretty savvy of that. I think we’ve had more than 50 guys go into professional soccer from here. A lot of them want to have the chance to go on and play at the next level.” At the end of the day though, Berson is just as proud of the players that are currently in the team and those within the program who have gone on to be successful in other facets of professional life. “By the same respect, in the last two (out of ) four years we’ve won the highest GPA in the nation. To get 28 guys to average a 3.54 (GPA) is unbelievable. With a smaller team you can average it, but to get 28 that’s incredible. “We’ve had players go on to North Carolina law, Wisconsin law, Colorado law, the Wharton school of finance at the University of Pennsylvania, MUSC, Stanford medical school, so our guys are looking at the whole package here (at South Carolina) that they can academically achieve at a high enough level so as Brad did, as Josh did, as Clint did actually (leaving) early great, you go play, but then if you come back the credential that you’re going to earn is going to be able to give you a platform to move into anywhere you want to move into in the world. That’s really at the end of the day what we sell.” The 2014 South Carolina men’s soccer schedule features 13 home dates (including two exhibitions at home against USC Upstate and Elon) to go along with a full Conference USA slate.

South Carolina opens its 2014 regularseason with four straight games at The Graveyard. The regular-season opener is against Belmont at 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 29. South Carolina faces off against rival Clemson at 7 p.m. on Sept. 2.


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Spurs & Feathers • 5


Cross County

By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

S

outh Carolina Athletics enjoyed a year of great success in competition on the fields, courts and in the pools.

Football

In the fall success came beginning on the football field from a thirdconsecutive 11-win season (one of only five teams to win 11 games each of the last three years) and New Year’s Day bowl victory. South Carolina finished the season with six consecutive wins. The Gamecocks defeated three teams that finished the year in the top-10 (Missouri, UCF, Clemson) and defeated six teams that won bowl games - including two that won BCS games - on the way to earning the program’s highest-ever final ranking of fourth. South Carolina is one of only three schools to finish the last three seasons ranked in the A.P. top-10. The Gamecocks have been in the top-25 for the past 64 polls and boast the nation’s longest home winning streak at 18 games. In the classroom, the Gamecock football team also collected the highest APR score in the SEC at 980. Individually, the Gamecocks had a pair of All-Americans in defensive linemen Kelcy Quarles and Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney, Quarles, running back Mike Davis, spur Sharrod Golightly and cornerback Victor Hampton earned All-SEC accolades from the A.P. and Clowney, Quarles and Davis from the SEC’s coaches as well. Guard A.J. Cann and quarterback Connor Shaw were honored to Phil Steele’s All-SEC Team along with the aforementioned five players as well. The SEC’s coaches also voted all-purpose player Pharoh Cooper, linebacker Skai Moore and kicker Elliott Fry as Freshman All-SEC selections. Moore and linebacker T.J. Holloman were also honored as Freshman All-American selections by different outlets as well. Shaw finished his career at South Carolina as the winningest quarterback in the program’s history at 27-5, went undefeated as a starter in Williams-Brice Stadium, was selected the MVP of the 2014 Capital One Bowl and head coach Steve Spurrier called him the “best quarterback in the history of the school.” In total, 25 Gamecock football players made the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.

The Gamecock cross country team found success under the first year of distance and cross country coach Andrew Allden by claiming 14th place at the NCAA Southeast Regional. South Carolina also finished 12th in the SEC Championships with both finishes improving upon the previous year and the squad’s ranking entering each event. As a team, South Carolina also placed first in both Gamecock Invitationals and at the Royal Cross Country Challenge in Charlotte. The Gamecocks’ team GPA was one of the top-10 in the country at 3.70.

in the year before falling in the regularseason finale to Old Dominion and to Tulsa in the C-USA Tournament. The Gamecocks also excelled in the classroom by posting the top cumulative team GPA in Division I at 3.54. The top GPA in the country allowed the Gamecocks to earn the NSCAA Team Academic Award for the fifth-straight season. Four Gamecocks earned All-Conference USA honors as Mahamoudou Kaba and Braden Troyer were selected All-League and Kurtis Turner and Marco Velez were All-Freshman selections. Kaba also earned NSCAA All-South recognition and Troyer was an NSCAA All-South Scholar. South Carolina

cocks also excelled off the field, taking the Community Outreach Team Award at the Gamecock Gala. South Carolina goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year, All-SEC, All-South Region and was a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy along with being named to the NSCAA Scholar AllAmerican first -team. Danielle Au earned All-South Region honors as well as being named a Capital One Academic AllAmerican. Au was also South Carolina’s women’s H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship nominee. Freshman midfielder Chelsea Drennan was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team and had the second-highest assist total in program history. Taylor Leach also earned All-South Region honors and was selected to the All-SEC Team. South Carolina also garnered the NSCAA Team Ethics and Sportsmanship Award and excelled in the classroom with 17 student-athletes on the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.

Volleyball

It marked the fourth time in the past seven years they have been in the top-10 in NCAA Division I. Individually, junior Meredith Mill became just the third person in program history to break the 21-minute mark at the SEC Championship while finishing one second out of an All-SEC spot. She was named the SEC Female Runner of the Week on Oct.15 and also was honored with USTFCCCA All-Academic honors in her final season after graduating in three-and-a-half years with a 4.00 GPA in political science. Freshman Mary Reiser was named the SEC Female Freshman Runner of the Week on Oct. 15, made the SEC All-Freshman Team and placed in the top-30 at the NCAA Southeast Regional.

Men’s Soccer

South Carolina’s men’s soccer team had an outstanding year at home with a 5-2-2 record in Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks went 4-2-3 in Conference USA play. The Gamecocks went 5-1-3 late

had 24 student-athletes named to the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll and to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. Stephen Anderson was nominated as the H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar Athlete Post-Graduate Scholarship nominee from South Carolina.

Women’s Soccer

The Gamecock women’s soccer team made the NCAA Tournament and won its first round game on the way to a No. 15 season-ending ranking in the NSCAA poll for only the second top-15 finish in program history. South Carolina finished with a 17-4-2 record - including going a perfect 11-0-0 at home - for the second-best record in school history. The Gamecocks were ranked as high as No. 7 during the season and defeated two top-10 teams (vs. No. 7 Duke, 8/25/13 and at No. 8 Florida, 10/4/13). South Carolina won a game in both the SEC Tournament (Georgia) and the NCAA Tournament (Furman) as well. The Game-

The Gamecock volleyball team had an excellent beginning of the year before facing some struggles due to injuries and high-level competition in SEC play. The young team featured 10 freshmen and only two seniors, but many players gained experience during the 12-19 season. The Gamecocks got off to an 8-4 start in pre-conference play, including going undefeated in the Gamecock Invitational and the Carolina Classic (both presented by Courtyard Marriott). The team also claimed road SEC victories at Tennessee and at Mississippi during conference play. The Gamecocks were led individually by outside hitter Juliette Thévenin, who received All-American and All-Region honors from the AVCA as well as being an All-SEC selection. Thévenin finished the season tops in the conference and 11th nationally in kills per set at 4.57 and first in the SEC in points per set (4.91). She finished her stellar Gamecock career ranked in the top-10 in program history in six categories and is the second South Carolin player of record to record more than 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career. Also setter Kellie McNeil was near the top of the SEC in assists per set before succumbing to injury in SEC play. Seven Gamecocks also made the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll as they excelled in the classroom.

swimming & Diving

South Carolina’s swimming & diving teams each had strong seasons in the pool as well. The men’s and women’s teams both placed second at the Virginia Tech Invitational in November, swept College of Charleston in October and Duke, Queens and Wingate in January.


Men’s Basketball

The Gamecock men’s basketball team was young, but finished the second season under the guidance of head coach Frank Martin with a bang. South Carolina grew up in SEC play after a rough start to the conference schedule, closing out the season by winning four of their last six games, only falling to Florida and Tennessee - both Sweet Sixteen participants in the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks also upset then No. 17/15 Kentucky, 7267, at home before Kentucky went all the way to the national championship game. South Carolina continued the hot play late in the year by winning two games in the SEC Tournament (over Auburn and Arkansas) for the first time since 2006. South Carolina finished the season with a 14-20 mark and played with only one senior, Brenton Williams, and without the services of experienced guard Ty Johnson due to injury for most of the season. Williams led the team with a 14.9 point scoring average, 18.1 in SEC play, and shot 42.7 percent from behind the arc for the season (good for second-best in the conference). Williams, who was also named to the SEC Community Service Team, ended his Gamecock career first all-time in free throw percentage at 88.4 percent. Williams concluded the 2013-14 season leading the SEC and ranking third nationally in free throw percentage at 93 percent. Gamecock freshman Sindarius Thornwell was an immediate difference maker for the team and earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors. Thornwell earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors three times during the year and once was named the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week. Thornwell passed Gamecock great BJ McKie for the most 20-point games in conference play by a freshman with six games (seven total) and upped his scoring average from 13.4 to 15.6 points per game in SEC play. Excelling in the classroom as well, the Gamecocks had five players on the SEC Winter Academic Honor Roll. games in the SEC Tournament (over Auburn and Arkansas) for the first time since 2006. South Carolina finished the season with a 14-20 mark and played with only one senior, Brenton Williams, and without the

services of experienced guard Ty Johnson due to injury for most of the season. Williams led the team with a 14.9 point scoring average, 18.1 in SEC play, and shot 42.7 percent from behind the arc for the season (good for second-best in the conference). Williams, who was also named to the SEC Community Service Team, ended his Gamecock career first all-time in free throw percentage at 88.4 percent. Williams concluded the 2013-14 season leading the SEC and ranking third nationally in free throw percentage at 93 percent. Gamecock freshman Sindarius Thornwell was an immediate difference maker for the team and earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors. Thornwell earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors three times during the year and once was named the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week. Thornwell passed Gamecock great BJ McKie for the most 20-point games in conference play by a freshman with six games (seven total) and upped his scoring average from 13.4 to 15.6 points per game in SEC play. Excelling in the classroom as well, the Gamecocks had five players on the SEC Winter Academic Honor Roll.

Women’s Basketball

South Carolina’s women’s basketball team had one of the most successful seasons in program history and claimed the first SEC regular-season title during the 2013-14 season. South Carolina claimed the regular-season title outright after a 67-56 victory over Georgia in front of 12,458 fans in the Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 27, 2014. The Gamecocks finished with a 29-5 overall record, 14-2 in conference play, and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which was another first for the program. South Carolina advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in the past three years before falling to North Carolina in Stanford, Calif. Honors poured in for the Gamecocks following the successful season with Dawn Staley earning SEC Coach of the Year honors from both the coaches and the AP. Staley was also a finalist for the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year and was selected the Region 3 Coach of the Year by the WBCA. Tiffany Mitchell was selected the SEC Player of the Year by the coaches and Alania Coates was both the SE Freshman and the SEC Co-Sixth Woman of the Year. Aleighsa Weclch was also an All-SEC selection by both the coaches and AP, along with Mitchell while Coates was the AP’s SEC Newcomer of the Year. Elem Ibiam was selected to the SEC AllDefensive team as well. Coates also tied the SEC record by earning Freshman of the Week honors five times during the season. Welch and Mitchell both earned All-Region honors with Mitchell being selected as an All-American as well. Mitchell was chosen All-American by the AP and WBCA and also was a finalists for the Dawn Staley Award and the Wade

Trophy. Six student-athletes were recognized on the SEC Winter Academic Honor Roll as well. The Gamecock equestrian team had an outstanding season that was capped by taking its second-consecutive SEC title and runner-up honors at the NCEA National Championship. The Gamecocks were ranked No. 1 in the polls for 20-straight weeks during the season, which set a school record. They also set the program record with 11 regularseason victories. South Carolina defeated Georgia on an tiebreaker to take the SEC Championship and faced off with the Bulldogs again in the NCEA National Championship, falling by tiebreaker this time. The Gamecocks were also honored with a resolution recognizing the team from the South Carolina House of Representatives at the State House. South Carolina head coach Boo Major was named the National Coach of the Year by the NCEA and the SEC. The Gamecock riders dominated many of the the postseason awards as well, starting with Johnna Letchworth and Katherine Schmidt being named SEC Riders of the Year to lead eight All-SEC selections including Layla Choate, Amber Henter, Cody McMillion, Adele Norton and Samantha Smith along with Letchworth and Schmidt. Also, six Gamecocks combined to earn 7-of-16 selections on the NCEA All-Championship Team with Letchworth, Schmidt (twice),

Choate, Henter, Alexa Anthony and Sam Chiodo chosen to the team. Schmidt and Letchworth were Most Outstanding Players in equitation over fences and horsemanship respectively and team captain Alison Ceresani was chosen the NCEA Elite Equestrian Student-Athlete as well. In fact 24 student-athletes excelled in the classroom to be named to the SEC Winter Academic Honor Roll.

Sand Volleyball

South Carolina’s newest sport, sand volleyball, put together a successful inaugural season. Facing off against some of the best competition in the nation, the Gamecocks picked up five wins during the season including winning its homeopener against Oregon, 4-1, in front of 1,102 fans. The Gamecocks finished the season with a hard-fought, 3-2 victory over College of Charleston after falling to the Cougars previously in the season. Head coach Mortiz Moritz and the returning players are looking forward to continuing to build the program and will be bolstered by signing one of four high school sand volleyball All-Americans and an accomplished class coming in. The Gamecock women’s tennis team made a strong statement at the end of the season after going through a rough patch during SEC play to finish ranked at 26th by the ITA. The final ranking was the highest for the team since finishing

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The men’s team also defeated East Carolina and LSU during the fall. The Gamecocks placed swimmers from both squads in both the SEC and NCAA Championships and saw the men’s 800-meter freestyle relay team of Michael Flach, Gerard Rodriguez, Marwan El Kamash and Kevin Leithold earn All-American honors at the NCAA Championships. On the diving side, Jordan Gotro was named the SEC Freshman Diver of the Year and a pair of divers from both the men’s and women’s teams went to the finals of the Zone B Diving Championships. Out of the pool, 35 student-athletes (10 men, 25 women) made the 2013-14 SEC Winter Academic Honor Roll.


19th in 2010 and the 17 wins earned by the Gamecocks were also the most since 2010. After starting 1-6 in SEC play, the Gamecocks won seven of the final 10 matches of the year, featuring five wins over teams that finished in the final ITA Rankings, the only losses during the stretch came in the regular season finale to No. 11 Vanderbilt, in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals to sixth-ranked Alabama and in the NCAA Tournament to No. 5 Duke. The Gamecocks also made the NCAA Tournament for the 20thstraight season and won the first round match with Ohio State. Individually, junior Elixane Lechemia earned All-SEC accolades and became the No. 73 singles player in the nation. Katerina Popova was the 107th-ranked singles player in the nation as well. Doubles pair Lechemia and Dominika Kanakova earned a spot in the NCAA Doubles Championship bid as the 26th-ranked doubles pair and Popova and Meghan Blevins earning the No. 51 ranking nationally.

Men’s Tennis

South Carolina’s men’s tennis team earned the third-straight bid to the NCAA Tournament and won its first round matchup before falling to the national No. 7 seed North Carolina. The Gamecocks got hot at the end of the season, winning eight of the final 12 matches, including defeating No. 27 Vanderbilt on the road in the season finale on the Commodores’ senior day. The Gamecocks advanced to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament by defeating No. 33 Alabama before falling to 11th-ranked Texas A&M. The Gamecocks also had a strong showing at the Carolina Tennis Center by posting a 9-3 record at home this year, falling only to top-20 teams at home (No. 16 Georgia, No. 14 Tennessee, No. 16 Mississippi State). The Gamecocks finished the season with a ranking of 27th for the year. Individually, Andrew Adams finished the year as both an AllSEC selection and earned All-American honors by playing into the round of 16 in the NCAA Singles Championship. Adams had to defeat the No. 3 player and the No. 29 player in the nation to earn the All-American recognition. With Adams’ honor, the Gamecocks have had an All-American in back-to-back seasons. Gamecock freshman Andrew Schafer earned SEC All-Freshman recognition as well. Seniors Tsvetan Mihov and Chip Cox were the second alternates for the NCAA Doubles Championship and finished ranked as the No. 31 doubles pairing.

Softball

The South Carolina softball team backed up a great 2013 with another 30-win season and trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2014. The Gamecocks finished with a 36-22 record on the year which included a stellar 27-8 mark at home. South Carolina notched 11 wins in SEC play, which was good for the most

wins in conference since head coach Beverly Smith took over the program. The Gamecocks earned the eighth seed in the SEC Tournament, but fell to Auburn after a comeback fell short in their opening game of the tournament hosted at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field. South Carolina played in the Tallahassee Regional in the NCAA Tournament after being selected for the second consecutive season. They won a game in the regional. The Gamecocks received many weekly honors from the SEC with Ashlyn Masters and Codee Yeske named Player of the Week, Julie Sarratt named Pitcher of the Week and Nickie Blue named Freshman of the Week during the season. Blue and Kaylea Snaer were also named to the SEC All-Freshman Team for the season. Masters and Kristen Struett were recognized to the Tallahassee All-Regional Team for their postseason performances. Senior Chelsea Hawkins hit a grand Slam for her 21st career home run to claim third place in career home runs in program history and junior catcher Sarah Mooney hit 12 home runs during the year to set the program’s single-season home run record.

baseball

The Gamecock baseball team earned its 15th-consecutive season with 40 or more wins and continued the streak of making the NCAA Tournament for every year since 2000. The Gamecocks hosted the a regional for the fifth-consecutive year to become one of only two programs in the nation to do so. The Gamecocks posted an 18-12 record in SEC play and a 44-18 record on the year overall. South Carolina earned a sweep over Clemson during the regular season and closed out the regular-season by taking a 2-1 series victory ninth-ranked Vanderbilt on the road. South Carolina also set an attendance record with 305,564 fans for the year in 2014, the first time the Gamecocks have eclipsed the 300,000plus mark. South Carolina was ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation during the season and they were a staple in the top25 throughout the year. South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook became the only head coach in program history to have led a team to the NCAA Regionals in his first two years and boats the highest SEC winning percentage (.593) over the first two years of any coach in program history. Gamecock closer Joel Seddon was named an All-SEC selection and Joey Pankake, Grayson Greiner and Tanner English were named to the SEC AllDefensive Team. Kyle Martin, DC Arendas, Max Schrock, English and Wil Crowe were all selected to the Columbia All-Regional Team for postseason performances. Crowe was honored as a Freshman AllAmerican by Collegiate Baseball as well. Greiner was also named a 2014 Capital One Academic All-American while also earning All-American status from Baseball America and Perfect Game. Seddon

was also honored as an All-American by the NCBWA.

men’s Golf

South Carolina’s men’s golf team had a program-best streak of seven straight top-three team finishes during the season and advanced to the NCAA Championships for the second-straight season. In fact, the Gamecocks only had three team finishes outside of the the top-five positions, including ninth of 30 at the NCAA Championships, falling just outside of the final eight teams that advanced to match play. South Carolina took fifth at both the SEC Championships and the Eugene Regional of the NCAA Tournament as well and claimed three team titles during the season (Badger Invitational, Wendy’s Kiawah Classic, Seahawk Intercollegiate).The Gamecocks finished the year ranked 14th by Golfstat and 20th by Golfweek. Caleb Sturgeon (Badger Invitational) and Will Starke (Seahawk Intercollegiate) each claimed individual medalist honors at tournaments this season in helping to guide the Gamecocks to team victories. Matt NeSmith earned All-SEC honors for the second-straight season and also was selected to the PING All-Southeast Region Team. Junior Will Murphy earned All-America honors by finishing tied for 15th at the NCAA Championship as well. Murphy is currently 14th in the Golfweek/Amateurgolf.com World Player Rankings. He is one of three Gamecocks in the top-100 as Sturgeon is ranked 81st and NeSmith is 92nd.

women’s golf

The Gamecock women’s golf team completed the season with a pair of top-10 rankings (sixth by Golfstat, eighth by Golfweek) and a fifth-consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship. The Gamecocks finished 13th at the NCAA Championship, which ended a run of nine-straight top-five team finishes. South Carolina finished in second place at the SEC Championship and in the NCAA East Regional to advance to the NCAA Championship. The Gamecocks won two team titles during the season (Florida State Match-Up and PING ASU Invitational) against top-level competition. South Carolina finished either first or second as a team in six of 11 tournaments on the schedule this past season. South Carolina had three players earn All-SEC recognition for the first time since 1996 with Samantha Swinehart, Justine Dreher and Katelyn Dambaugh earning the recognition. Dambaugh was also selected to the SEC All-Freshman team, marking the fourth-straight season the Gamecocks have had an SEC All-Freshman selection. For the first time in program history the Gamecocks had two players honored as All-Americans. Swinehart and Dreher both earned the laurels from the WGCA and Golfweek and both recorded five top-10 individual finishes on the year.

track and Field

South Carolina’s track & field teams posted strong years in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. The Gamecock women’s team had the stronger indoor season with a 19th-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships after both teams placed 12th in the SEC Indoor Championships. Jeanelle Scheper and the women’s 4x400-m relay team both earned silver medals at the SEC Indoor Championship, earning All-SEC honors. Scheper earned her second-consecutive silver medal at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the high jump and also was named the USTFCCCA Southeast Region Field Athlete of the Year. Six Gamecocks earned USTFCCCA All-America honors for the indoor season: Scheper (high jump), Precious Holmes, Briana Haith, Marisa Bellamy and Tyler Brockington (4x400) and Sarah Graham (pentathlon). The outdoor season started well at the Shamrock Invitational with the men’s team taking second place and the women claiming first. Holmes was named the SEC Co-Freshman of the Week following her performance at the Shamrock invitational. Both the men’s and women’s teams won the Bill Carson Invitational in what was somewhat of a homecoming for head coach Curtis Frye at his alma mater, East Carolina. At the Penn Relays, Kaleb Zuidema claimed the javelin title earning SEC Men’s Freshman of the Week honors while the men’s 4x100-m team to the championship. At the SEC Outdoor Championships, pentathlete Sarah Graham continued her stellar season taking a silver medal while Zuidema earned a bronze in the javelin competition while their performances earned them each All-SEC honors. Both teams finished 12th at the SEC Outdoor Championships with 24 student-athletes earning bids to the NCAA East Preliminary Round. Scheper and Graham earned spots on the Capital One Academic All-District Four Team for their performances athletically and in the classroom. The Gamecocks earned bids to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in five events, Zuidema, Graham, Petra Olesn (pole vault), Jussi Kanervo (400m hurdles), Brockington (400m hurdles), Chris Royster (100m, 200m), Ahtyanan Johnson (200m) and relay teams 4x100m (men’s & women’s) and 4x400m (women’s). From their performances at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, multiple Gamecocks earned All-America honors. Olsen, men’s 4x100m (Kendall Kee, Royster, Brandon Sanders, Eric Winfrey), women’s 4x100 (Brockington, Johnson, Tamera Harris, Alexis Murphy) and 4x400m (Brockington, Johnson, harris and Haith). Also earning All-America honors were Kanervo, Zuidema, Royster (100m), Brockington (400m hurdles) and Johnson (200m) individually. To top it all off, head coach Frye was inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame during the past year as well.


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outh Carolina senior softball student-athlete Kristen Struett traveled all the way across the country to become a Gamecock. The move has paid off for her as since her arrival from Westminster, Calif. the Gamecocks have advanced to the NCAA Tournament in two of her three seasons with the program. Struett started her career by earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors once in 2012. In her sophomore season in 2013 she led the team in RBIs with 43. This past season, Struett finished with 10 extra-base hits on six doubles, two triples and two home runs in 38 starts. The outfielder was chosen to the 2014 Tallahassee All-Regional Team. Her success is not just confined to the softball field though as the Sport and Entertainment Management major at South Carolina has also earned academic honors from the SEC.

Recently Struett received the prestigious honor of being chosen to attend the NCAA Career in Sports Forum that was held in Indianapolis June 5-8. Struett was one of 13 student-athletes from the SEC and 200 student-athletes from across all divisions of the NCAA to participate in the four-day event. The NCAA Career in Sports Forum was developed to help those student-athletes with an interest in the business of sports. The forum specifically focused on working in intercollegiate athletics. Those in attendance participated in panels and learned about what it takes day-to-day to work in sports. The group also learned about best practices for garnering employment after their college careers were over. During her time at the NCAA Career in Sports Forum, Struett also heard from a variety of speakers in the sports business, including University of Tennessee women’s athletic director emeritus Joan Cronan and WISH-TV Indianapolis sports anchor Anthony Calhoun. The entire experience is one that Struett will never forget as she considered it an honor to be at the forum. “It was good to represent the University of South Carolina … it was great to walk around and meet all of the other people from all across the Divisions,” Struett said. “It was really awesome. Indianapolis is a great place. I love the city. The NCAA office is in

friendships in our specific teams we were divided into, teams of 25-30 people, and the amount of fun we had was absolutely unreal. We were at a conference for 13 hours a day, but it didn’t feel like it. It absolutely didn’t feel like it. “One of the things I realized is that athletics is a small world. You get to network with everybody and it’s a lot of fun, especially the NCAA. I learned that they help people. It’s the big difference between pro sports and the NCAA. They (the NCAA) are really interested in the student-athletes and their well-being. It’s a great organization. I’m excited to work in it,” Struett continued. Struett is hoping to work in the marketing side of athletics going forward and she already has plans to try and help out South Carolina Associate AD/CMO Eric Nichols and his staff in the upcoming year. “I really like the athletic administration side. Further down the line absolutely athletic director, but I also have a love for marketing, which I think can get me very far in what I want to do,” Struett commented.

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By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

a great spot. We were in walking distance from everything.” Struett said one of the best parts about the forum was the guest speakers. “We had so many different panels and speakers and the different topics that we covered we never talked about the same thing, so we learned something new every time we stepped in a room,” Struett remarked. “(Dr.) Mark Emmert, who is the NCAA President, he was probably one of my favorites just because he had the great balance with how he works with the NCAA, his family and life. It’s really great to hear him talk about how much he cares about everyone.” Struett knew before she left for the NCAA Career in Sports Forum it was going to be a unique experience, but she had no idea just how special it would be for her. “I absolutely didn’t expect to have such a close relationship with the other student-athletes that I met,” Struett noted. “All of us still talk almost a month later. Obviously we’re working on networking, but we’ve built some great

www.facebook.com/Keith.Chichester Nationwide may make a financial contribution to this organization in return for the opportunity to market products and services to its members or customers. Products underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies Home Office: Columbus, OH 43215 Nationwide Lloyds and Nationwide Property and Casualty Companies (in TX) Subject to underwriting guidelines, review, and approval Products and discounts not available to all persons in all states. Nationwide, Nationwide Insurance, and the Nationwide framemark are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. ©2011 Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved. Paid endorsement.

Spurs & Feathers • 9


By Mike Kucharksi mike@spursandfeathers.com

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etired Marine and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter has been on an incredible journey in his life which now continues as a student at the University of South Carolina. Carpenter, 24, was in the Helmand province of Afghanistan in Nov. of 2010 when he was injured by a grenade while attempting to protect other Marines. After over 30 surgeries and a long recovery, Carpenter has enrolled at South Carolina. “After I spent a few years in the hospital and it was time to get out, I either needed to re-enlist or think about future plans,” Carpenter explained. “I had kind of missed out on five years with my family and I love South Carolina and especially the city of Columbia, so it was really just a natural fit. “My parents live on the Lexington/ Gilbert line, so they’re only about 30 minutes away and my brothers are coming up on their junior and senior years in different sports and I wanted to see that. I had known a lot of people from Lexington High School that came here and loved their four years here. I was ready to do school and excited about it, so I gave it a shot and I love it,” Carpenter continued. Carpenter has medically retired from the military and is currently taking many classes, saying he has not nailed down his major yet, but has enjoyed studying physical education

10 • Spurs & Feathers

and psychology thus far. Carpenter has also gotten involved with the athletics department while continuing his love of sports after meeting with marketing director Josh Waters. “After meeting Josh and getting connected with him, I came to his office one day and he kind of gave me a tour of all the new facilities. He just kind of threw the idea that I would speak to some teams and the men’s soccer team asked me to come do it. I was very glad to do it and very humbled too. It went well,” Carpenter said. Waters said the team was very receptive and were appreciative of the chance to hear from Carpenter about his story. He said that he has really enjoyed seeing the behind-the-scenes activities that go into athletic events and meeting “all the good people that put in work in making Gamecock athletics happen.” He also was honored during the military appreciation football game against Coastal Carolina last fall. “I would say the coolest part was just sharing that experience with all the people that I’ve become friends with as far as students. I looked up in the stands and saw a lot of my buddies and a lot of people I knew, so the fact that the students and the faculty at USC have supported me so much really meant a lot to me,” Carpenter remarked. Carpenter got the chance to enjoy the NCAA Columbia Regional with Waters and be on the field before the game to feel the postseason atmosphere. He also was able to spend some time with athletics director Ray Tanner and take in

the games in style. On June 19, Carpenter received the Congressional Medal of Honor at a ceremony at the White House from President Obama. He says even with the recognition he continues to focus on short-term goals in school. “It’s a huge honor. It carries a lot of weight and I’m just kind of taking it a day at a time. I don’t really know what to expect. I just know I want to stay here, go to school and continue to build friendships and relationships with people,” Carpenter commented. “Down the road obviously I want to make a difference and be successful, but right now I’m just focusing on short-term things and maybe the long ideas will come in

time .... I have three more years left in my undergrad, so we’ll see.” Carpenter said that he has enjoyed his time at South Carolina and despite his celebrity he hopes to continue to enjoy a normal college experience. “The school definitely keeps me sane and grounded at times. It’s awesome that I have all this exposure in the media and on TV and social media, but at the same time all the students understand that I’m just trying to get a degree like them. I might be a little bit older, but I’m here for the same thing, to have fun and meet new people and do well in school. I very much enjoy and actually look forward to going to class and being in school here,” Carpenter concluded.


By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

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anice and Wayne Simmons have been members of the Gamecock Club for 38 years, but Wayne holds an even more impressive streak. Wayne has attended every home football game for about 40 years and has attended almost every away football game since 1987. He said they started coming to games before they were members because the company he worked for was a Gamecock Club member and gave them tickets, but when the company dropped its sponsorship the Simmons joined up themselves. “Those games that I went to with the company tickets, I just really got enthused and really fell in love with the Gamecock football program in general … the first long away game trip that we made was to Nebraska and since then I have missed the Arkansas game in Arkansas twice, an Alabama game at Alabama and one bowl game against Iowa (2009 Outback Bowl),” Wayne recalled. “Otherwise I haven’t missed any games in all those years.” The Simmons travel to all of the games in a full-size, raised-roof, customized van. He said that they travel by van everywhere they go, turning the long trips into mini-vacations and the short trips are two or three day excursions. “We feel like that’s the most fun way to go, then when we get there we’re able to tailgate and have a good time,” Wayne remarked. Some of his favorite trips have been to Neyland Stadium in Tennessee the last few years as the Gamecocks have improved and the trips to Baton Rouge for LSU games. Wayne said he has been to every venue in the SEC now except for Texas A&M’s Kyle Field, which he looks forward to visiting in 2015. “The Missouri game (last fall, 27-24 double overtime win) was one of the highlights of going through the years. Being down like we were and the location where I was sitting was by all the Missouri fans and they were kind of giving us a hard time. When we came back and won the game, that was just an exciting time for the whole trip,” Wayne explained. “That was a great trip out and the ball game turned out to be exciting. When you win it’s always nice to come home and the drive coming home is not near as long when you win.” Janice confirmed that the Missouri game last fall was one of the best even from watching at home while Wayne at-

tended with a friend, saying “when that ball hit the upright (on Missouri’s field goal attempt in double overtime), we were just ecstatic. To have been down like that early and come back was just an amazing game.” Wayne is not the only one with an impressive streak as Janice has been involved with the Gamecock Club in Horry County, working with much of the volunteer and community work for the local chapter. She has served as president of the local chapter, been on the board for about 15 years and serves on the executive committee. Both Janice and Wayne also said they truly enjoyed the recent Fan Fest experience in Conway while getting the personal experience with South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier in a great family atmosphere. She has helped with many fundraisers for scholarships to student-athletes and other students heading to the University. Janice added that the experience has been extremely rewarding because of the people and friendships from the her time working in the community and supporting the Gamecocks. “It’s always good when you can tell somebody about the Gamecocks and get them interested in them. They can turn around and join and get involved. It’s just a chain of people getting involved and it’s great to be able to just introduce other people to something you love. I have truly enjoyed being involved in the Gamecock Club for all these years,” Wayne said.

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Spurs & Feathers • 11


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teve Spurrier recently sat down with Spurs & Feathers Executive Editor Brian Hand to talk about Gamecock football and much more. Spurs & Feathers: During this past spring you made it readily known that you consider Columbia, S.C. your home now. What is it about Columbia that makes it so special? First off of all, I have pretty much my entire family here. Only one daughter, Amy, and her husband and three children live in Panama City (Fla.), but other than that my other three children are here and their children so nine of my 12 grandchildren are also in Columbia, so just about my entire family is here. I’m going on 10 years. This is our school. This is who we work for. This is the University that’s been very good to me and life’s pretty good here. Right now when my coaching days are over, I hope to keep my house here as well as the house on the beach in Florida. That’s the plan right now. Spurs & Feathers: You have let it be known that you have no plans of stepping away from the Gamecock football program in the near future. Is winning that elusive SEC championship what still drives you or is it just as much continuing to keep South Carolina among the elite in the nation? Or a combination of both? It’s a combination of what else are you going to do in life? I’m not the retiring type. Some people try to make as much money as they can to retire and obviously I’ve been fortunate enough if that was my goal in life I could retire and be okay, but being in the action, coaching the team, running the offense, calling plays, trying to teach our guys to be good citizens, to be the best they can be and see them become successful those are the fun things in life for me. I tell people also that back when I was 45, 55 that when my coaching days were over I’ll really get my golf game in good shape and I’ll play golf five, six days a week. Well I’ve learned that once

you get in your 60s sometimes that golf games not as good as it once was. Every time I have a bad round in golf somebody says coach don’t give up your day job and I tell them I’m not planning on giving it up anytime soon. Spurs & Feathers: You talked about it obviously after the conclusion of the spring, but just over a couple months later did you accomplish everything that you wanted to during the spring? I think so. We don’t treat spring practice as extremely important as some coaches do. We practice doing our plays and trying to avoid the big collisions. I believe that our players are smart enough to know that when we’re going against Texas A&M, Georgia, our opponents now this is different. This is not practice. This is a real game. There’s an old saying you play like you practice. I don’t believe that’s true in football because you cannot practice the hits and the collisions that are going to happen on Saturday or Thursday night during the games. I’m a little different probably than most coaches. I think our players appreciate that. I don’t think they like clobbering their teammates. I really don’t. So anyway we maintain good camaraderie, everybody likes each other. There’s no offense vs. defense, nothing like that. We’re all in this together. We believe that has helped us win a whole bunch of close games around here. Spurs & Feathers: Obviously you cannot have as much interaction with your team during the summer, but from your vantage point as the head coach what is the most important part of the summer preparations? This is a time that some of the young guys can pick up on our offense and our defense. They’ve actually changed the rules where our coaches can meet two hours a week with the players. Actually

coach (G.A.) Mangus told me he had the quarterbacks going to meet 30-45 minutes today (Wednesday, June 4). So that’s a new rule, certainly all the coaches around the country will utilize that. Spurs & Feathers: Last year you had one of the youngest teams in the country and yet still picked up your third straight 11-win season. This year you have to replace arguably the greatest quarterback in school history along with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Yet expectations are extremely high. It seems like any way you look at it South Carolina is just reloading year in and year out. Do you feel like entering year No. 10 you are finally at a point where you have the quality depth you coveted when you first took over the South Carolina job? I don’t worry about depth as much as sportswriters do, but we do have a lot of players ready to play. We were the youngest team (in the nation). Hardly anyone knows that we only had four seniors starting (last) season. We had Jimmy Legree, Chaz Sutton and on offense Ronald Patrick and Connor Shaw and, of course, Bruce (Ellington) came out early (with) Victor Hampton and Kelcy Quarles and, of course, Jadeveon (Clowney). So we had four come out early and we basically lost eight real good players there. We do have a lot of guys back and we’ll be preseason top-10. I saw that we were picked to win the SEC East (in SID preseason poll). The sportswriters pick it out there in July at the SEC Media Days. Maybe they’ll pick us. I don’t know. We certainly have a chance. Gosh, we had a chance the last three years and we’ve gone 6-2 in the conference and beaten the team that won it, but they’ll go 7-1,

so you’ve just got to give your opponent credit there. Spurs & Feathers: You’ve obviously had a bunch of draft picks since taking over at South Carolina, but what does it mean to your program to have this year’s No. 1 pick in Jadeveon Clowney? I think it helps a little bit. Obviously Jadeveon was the No. 1 recruit coming out of high school. I think that was huge for us and we won 33 games since he’s been here. I think we’ve won 33 since Bruce Ellington started playing and 33 since Connor Shaw started playing a while also. So those players have really, really played well for us and we’ll see how the next guy in line can do. Certainly we believe Dylan Thompson is extremely capable of playing at a very high level and he’s going to get obviously his chance to really, really have a big year. Spurs & Feathers: Obviously Clowney and Bruce Ellington were selected, but seemingly early-entry surefire draft picks Kelcy Quarles and Victor Hampton for example were not drafted. You’ve been a big proponent if they feel they are ready to leave then they should. Do you still hold that same feeling after this year? My feeling is the players that think they’re ready to go, need to go and I try to never encourage a guy to stay. To me if a coach tells a guy to stay and then he stays and gets hurt or stays and has a bad year then he’s going to blame the coach. You told me to stay, now look at me. I could have gone out my junior year, made a whole bunch of money and this, that and the other. So I believe the coach should stay out of it. I really do.


Mostly NFL people say if you’re not a first-round pick you should have stayed and worked your way into the first-round. With injuries and this, that and the other I sort of think if you’re within the first three to four rounds it’s okay to go. Hopefully in this new restructuring of the five major conferences our players will have a little bit better quality of life and will have the expense money to live a little bit better and maybe they won’t be enticed to leave with a year of eligibility. Spurs & Feathers: SEC Commissioner Mike Slive noted that he feels that if the NCAA five power conferences don’t receive the autonomy they desire with the new NCAA reform on the docket he would be in favor of a so-called NCAA Division IV. Are you in favor of this or do you think something just needs to change altogether? Everybody knows that I’ve said they deserve a piece of the enormous amount of money that’s coming in with football and basketball.

When I speak of college athletes, I always try to mention the basketball players. Obviously in the SEC football brings in more, but in some of those other conferences basketball is bigger than football. Those are the two sports that bring in the money. Most of the athletes in those sports are not from high-income families. They are from middle-tolower income families and they need some money. They need some money in the pocket like most all the other students on campus have. Hopefully we can make that happen, although I’m still waiting and seeing when it’s going to happen. All they’re doing is talking about it. Hopefully it will happen in 2015. It’s not going to happen this year. They said nothing’s going to happen this year. I made a suggestion why don’t we give 75 football players $200 per game and give their parents $200. Let them designate their parent or their guardian because they’ve got hotel bills, they’ve got food, gas

and all kinds of expenses just to go watch their son play. Of course, that fell on deaf ears. All my suggestions do. That’s not much money at all. That’s $30,000 a game just to give 75 players $400. Just do it, but I don’t set the rules. All I can do is make suggestions. Spurs & Feathers: Lots of great things happening within the SEC and nationally with the implementation of the SEC Network this year and the start of the college football playoff. Are you pleased with how things have changed in your time as a head coach? Could you have envisioned the type of money and other things involved now when you first started as a college head coach? No. I don’t think any of us could have 25-30 years ago. Huge difference. I mean, huge difference. I think my coach at Florida made $25,000-$30,000 a year, something like that. Now I think every SEC coach makes at least $2.5 million

and now (Nick) Saban’s up to seven (million). I just believe we need to share this tremendous amount of income with the performers. There’s a saying that college football and college basketball and horse racing are the only three big sports you don’t have to pay the performers. To me, you got to pay the performers a little bit. Spurs & Feathers: Finally, there is a little ways to go before the start of the 2014 season, but do you feel you have a team that can compete for the SEC Championship and a spot in the college football playoff? I don’t know. We’ve got to wait and see. We certainly are capable. We’ve won 11 games with all these guys pretty much. All you got to do is look around at these other schools that were picked in the top-10, one or two injuries, lose one or two and (it can) turn around and go bad. Try not to make many predictions. Our goals will be very similar to always and we’ll see if we can reach them.


Kansas City Chiefs

• Ryan Succop (K) • Rokevious Watkins (OL) Training camp: July 22 (rookies), July 25 (veterans) at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo.

Minnesota Vikings

• Jasper Brinkley (LB) • Captain Munnerlyn (CB) Training camp: July 25 (all players) at Minnesota State University, Mankato in Mankato, Minn.

New York Jets

Arizona Cardinals

• John Abraham (DE) • Jimmy Legree (CB) Training camp: July 23 (rookies), July 25 (veterans) at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Atlanta Falcons

• Patrick DiMarco (FB) • Cliff Matthews (DE) • Travian Robertson (DT) Training camp: July 24 (all players) at Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Ga.

Baltimore Ravens

• Darian Stewart (DB) Training camp: July 21 (rookies), July 24 (veterans) at Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md.

Buffalo Bills

• Stephon Gilmore (DB) Training camp: July 22 (rookies), July 27 (veterans) at St. John Fisher College in Pittsfold, N.Y.

Chicago Bears

• Alshon Jeffery (WR) Training camp: July 25 (all players) at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill.

Cincinnati Bengals

• T.J. Johnson (C) • Victor Hampton (DB) Training camp: July 24 (all players) at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Cleveland Browns

• Spencer Lanning (P) • Connor Shaw (QB) Training camp: July 19 (rookies), July 24 (veterans) at Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea, Ohio.

Dallas Cowboys

• DeVonte Holloman (LB) • Ronald Patrick (G) Training camp: July 20 (all players) at City of Oxnard Fields in Oxnard, Calif.

14 • Spurs & Feathers

Detroit Lions

Indianapolis Colts

• Devin Taylor (DE) Training camp: July 22 (rookies), July 25 (veterans) at Detroit Lions Training Facility in Allen Park, Mich.

• Wesley Saunders (TE) Training camp: July 23 (rookies), July 27 (veterans) at Anderson University in Anderson, Ind.

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

• Jadeveon Clowney (DE) • Jonathan Joseph (CB) • D.J. Swearinger (SS) Training camp: July 21 (rookies), July 25 (veterans) at Methodist Training Center in Houston, Texas.

• Ace Sanders (WR/PR) Training camp: July 25 (all players) at Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields in Jacksonville, Fla.

• Antonio Allen (S) Training camp: July 22 (rookies), July 25 (veterans) at SUNY Courtland in Courtland, N.Y.

New York Giants

• Kelcy Quarles (DT) Training camp: July 26 (all players) at Timex Performance Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

San Diego Chargers

• Melvin Ingram (OLB) Training camp: July 24 (all players) at Chargers Park in San Diego, Calif.

San Francisco 49ers

• Chris Culliver (CB) • Bruce Ellington (WR) • Marcus Lattimore (RB) Training camp: July 19 (rookies), July 24 (veterans) at Marie P. DeBartolo Sports Center in Santa Clara, Calif.

Seattle Seahawks

• Akeem Auguste (DB) • Lemuel Jeanpierre (G/C) • Sidney Rice (WR) Training camp: July 24 (all players) at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash.

St. Louis Rams

• Jared Cook (TE) • Justice Cunningham (TE) Training camp: July 21 (rookies), July 24 (veterans) at Rams Park Training Center in Earth City, Mo.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

• Jamon Meredith (T) • Chaz Sutton (DE) Training camp: July 17 (rookies), July 24 (veterans) at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla.

Washington Redskins

• Clifton Geathers (DT) Training camp: July 24 (all players) at Bon Secours Training Center in Richmond, Va. ** Up to date as of June 30 **


By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

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outh Carolina’s football team held its second annual Lift for Life event on Thursday, June 26 to raise money for the rare disease Pelizaeus Merzbacher. The South Carolina chapter of Uplifting Athletes is one of 25 major college football programs in the nation. They are currently the only SEC chapter. The Gamecock chapter of Uplifting Athletes set about the mission of raising awareness and research dollars for Pelizaeus Merzbacher (PMD) since it had struck a family member of one of the Gamecocks. PMD is a central nervous system disorder in which coordination, motor abilities and intellectual function are delayed to various extents. During the second annual Lift for Life the Gamecock football team broke into 10 groups of eight players to compete in activities coordinated by the strength and conditioning staff. The players flipped large tires, ran agility drills and relays with large medicine balls, pushed weighted sleds and finished with a giant tug-ofwar match between the offense and the defense. Scott Shirley, the Executive Director of Uplifting Athletes, said that he was excited to be on campus to watch the event grow both at South Carolina and nationally. Shirley founded Uplifting Athletes as a

member of the Penn State football team in 2003. “The mission of Uplifting Athletes is to align college football with rare diseases and raise them as a national priority through advocacy, education and research,” Shirley said. “What makes us unique is that all the chapters are run by college football student-athletes around the country creating for them an opportunity to get real-world job experience, obviously get them involved in the community and build a sense of camaraderie inside the locker room. “Here at South Carolina you have Connor McLaurin, Jordan Diaz and Devin Washington who are responsible for all the planning and all the fundraising behind today’s event for the rare disease that they’ve selected in honor of one of their teammates’ relatives,” Shirley continued.

Diaz was one of the coordinators in the first Lift for Life event last summer and he said he felt in its second year the event had progressed well. “It was definitely a much bigger event. We had a lot more media attention this time around … it was much improved overall,” Diaz said. “I don’t know why we are the first SEC school to be involved, but I’m definitely proud of it … I hope it starts a trend through the rest of the SEC because it’s not just important for one school to do it. Everybody should be doing it and we really want everyone to follow the trend.” McLaurin was happy with the event as well and said that he was more proud of having the student-athletes coordinate the event themselves.

“It’s a big deal. It just shows that we do care about other things than football too and it’s a big deal because we can use our spotlight as college athletes to help in other places,” McLaurin said. Strength and Conditioning coach Joe Connolly said that he was extremely proud of the student-athletes for taking the initiative to put on the Lift for Life. “It’s awesome. Jordan, Connor and Devin have done a tremendous job of putting it together. When Scott initially approached us with the idea last year, those were guys that I though of right away that could put on an event like this, organize it and put it together. They do a fantastic job and I’m real proud of those guys,” Connolly commented. Washington said that he got involved to help benefit the research and he felt great in contributing to the cause. “Everybody won in the end. It was a great event. Obviously we came out here and competed and it was for a great cause … in the end everybody won and it was a great event. It was great to be a part of it,” Washington said. To learn more about Uplifting Athletes visit: http://www.upliftingathletes.org/ and to donate to the cause visit: http:// give.upliftingathletes.org/colombia/ events/south-carolina-lift-for-life-2014/ e32901.

Mark Fields Jr. ................ DB....... 5-11.....184............... Cornelius, N.C. Antoine Wilder................ DB....... 5-11.....175.................... Atlanta, Ga. Jaire Alexander............... DB....... 5-11.....170............... Charlotte, N.C. Octavis Johnson.............. DB........ 6-0......183..............Homerville, Ga. Shameik Blackshear....... DE........ 6-5......230..................Bluffton, S.C. Arden Key........................ DE........ 6-6......217.................... Atlanta, Ga. Dante Sawyer.................. DE........ 6-3......250.........East Mississippi JC Quandeski Whitlow........ DE........ 6-3......221.................. Opelika, Ala. Sherrod Pittman..............LB........ 6-1......215............Jacksonville, Fla. Jalen Henry......................LB........ 6-0......220.......................Foley, Ala. Paris Palmer.................... OL........ 6-8......330....... Lackawanna JC, Pa. Jozie Milton..................... OL........ 6-3......290.....................Clinton, La. Austin Clark..................... OL........ 6-6......295................Lexington, Va. Lorenzo Nunez................ QB........ 6-2......190............... Kennesaw, Ga. Kyle Markway...................TE........ 6-4 .....220..................St. Louis, Mo. Connor Redmond............TE........ 6-4......230......... Lawrenceville, Ga. DJ Neal.............................WR....... 6-3......175..... Stone Mountain, Ga. Jerad Washington...........WR...... 5-11.....165............Jacksonville, Fla. Michael Bowman............WR....... 6-0......185................Havelock, N.C. Jalen Christian................WR...... 5-10.....173.............. Damascus, Md.

2015 Commitments as of June 30

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Spurs & Feathers • 15


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outh Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with Spurs & Feathers Executive Editor Brian Hand about a variety of topics. Spurs & Feathers: It has been a long, but for the most part successful 2013-14 athletic year. What are some of the highlights from your vantage point? Well there are lots of highlights, but I think the consistency of our athletic teams in competition and so many teams getting into postseason. Football with another great year and coach Staley with her run and her success in winning the SEC, which is one of the hardest things to do in all of sports is to win an SEC regular-season title in any sport. The fact that she was able to do that at home with 12,500 people in attendance was a very special night. Then hosting the SEC equestrian and softball championships and the softball team going to the postseason in back-to-back years and coach Holbrook finishing in the top-4 in the SEC and going to the postseason again. Men’s and women’s tennis in the postseason both won in the first round. Cross country had a strong finish in the NCAA regionals and swimming and diving competed in the NCAA championships. Men’s basketball won two games in the SEC Tournament and our track and field teams continue to excel. Both of our golf programs played in the national finals with our men finishing ninth and our women finishing 13th. Volleyball continues to improve and it was a great first year for our sand volleyball program. The success that equestrian has continued to have with an SEC championship and coach Major was the national Coach of the Year. Women’s soccer how successful they were in the fall, undefeated at home and one of the most impressive women’s soccer teams in the country. We continue to be successful in the classroom. We’ve received news that for the 15th consecutive semester all of our sports had at least a 3.0 or better. Men’s soccer had the top GPA in all of Division I. That’s one of the statistics that I’m most proud of that we’re successful on the field, on the court, but we’re also achieving academic success at a high level. Spurs & Feathers: Along the same lines what are some things that need to be improved upon within the athletic department at South Carolina in the 2014-15 athletic year? I think about our programs and the total body of work. Being a coach for so many years I understand how difficult it is to win, especially competing in the Southeastern Conference. The success that

16 • Spurs & Feathers

you have is very difficult to achieve. We all strive to win another game or continue to advance. I think that we’re competing at such a high-level in the SEC, which equates to national competitiveness. I think that we’re on the verge in the next few years of winning a national championship in more than one sport. Spurs & Feathers: Obviously some teams would have liked to finish farther along in the postseason than they did, but the spring on the whole has to be considered a success. You said earlier this year that you want 14-16 teams competing in postseason play. Are things progressing at the level you desire as an Athletics Director? I think so. When you look at all the teams that made the postseason and then you talk about track with 21 sports five of them are track with indoor, outdoor and cross country – men and women – so that’s five. That’s an area where we need to make strides in with our track and field program. By the investment we made with building a new track, indoor and outdoor, we’ll give them an opportunity to recruit high caliber athletes. But just looking at track as one when you have 11, 12 sports get to the postseason that’s a good number, but we’ll be even stronger in the future. Spurs & Feathers: You have talked about it a great deal in your time as an Athletics Director, but outside of the realm of the results on the field you have to be pleased with the fact that for the most part South Carolina studentathletes truly embrace the “student” part of their journey with Gamecock football

for example leading the SEC in APR. Are there things being done to make sure this continues along with the winning on the field? In the world of college athletics so many things are important. There are two areas that are never compromised. That is academics and compliance and we’ve invested in those resources with the leadership. Maria Hickman is an Associate Athletic Director heading up our academic program and Chris Rogers in compliance. They have unwavering support and that’s important. You want your student-athletes to have the opportunity to achieve at a high level academically and certainly you want to make sure all your T’s are crossed and your I’s are dotted in the compliance world and we have a great staff and we’ll continue to go in that direction. Spurs & Feathers: In addition, as we’ve talked about before the community service efforts among the student-athletes have been top-notch. What does it mean to you that Gamecock student-athletes truly continue to give back to the community? We all live in a world where you are busy, preoccupied with the passion you’re involved with. Coaching the sport or participating in the sport and trying to go to school it’s full-time. To see all of our athletes and coaches as well give of their free time to be a part of community outreach is very special. I’m a proponent and I give our student-athletes and our coaches and Erica Nelson, who is our Life Skills Coordinator, credit for giving us those opportunities for our studentathletes to take advantage of that. They’re

great at it and they have a lot of fun with it. I think it means a great deal to our community. It means so much to people that are involved, but it means so much to the student-athletes as well. It’s a wonderful initiative and something I’m proud of. Spurs & Feathers: Since you just recently returned from the SEC Meetings in Destin, Fla. can you give us an update on any new initiatives within the SEC? I think the (NCAA) governance restructuring is around the corner. We may have more of a clear picture of where we are between August and October. There are changes on the way. Will it be drastic? It’s going to different. There’s going to be some financial pressure on athletic departments across the country. We’re obviously in better shape than a lot of schools, but it’s going to change the way we do business as well. I think it’s time and I think it’s needed. Whether it’s the full cost of attendance where student-athletes will have a little bit more money in their pocket or life insurance after school, job opportunities. So many different initiatives that we can change the landscape whether it’s opportunity for their parents to come see games where you provide you them transportation or allowance, I think that it is time. Spurs & Feathers: From your position as Athletics Director what do you think the SEC Network is going to mean for the University of South Carolina athletics department? The Southeastern Conference has probably got the greatest brand of any conference in college athletics and this is just another way to enhance the wonderful brand that we already have. It’s going to do so much for our conference with sports that people know about, but maybe didn’t see televised that are now going to be televised. You’re going to get exposure for men’s and women’s soccer, sand volleyball, baseball and softball at a much higher level than it ever was before. It’s going to be exciting that you have a network dedicated to the men and women of the SEC. Certainly we’re (also) looking forward to the increased revenue for the 14 member institutions. Spurs & Feathers: Finally, what are you most looking forward to with the 201415 athletic year? I’m excited about where we are and where we are headed. I think we’re in a good place and I think we’ll continue to climb and that’s exciting. You pick up the newspaper today and see a highlighted box where you see that the Gamecocks (football) and Crimson Tide are picked to end up in Atlanta (in the SEC Championship game on Dec. 6). Although it’s June 3 it puts you in a good place. We’ve got so many sports here that are excelling at a high level and that’s exciting. You’re looking for another banner year.


By Brian Hand bhand@spursand feathers.com

F

ormer South Carolina golfer Katie Burnett came to South Carolina to become better positioned for a career in professional golf and she knows how incredibly blessed she is to be a Gamecock. The current LPGA Tour player is constantly reminded on almost all of her tour stops in the United States. “We (along with former South Carolina golfer Meredith Taylor) were talking about how there are so many Gamecock fans out there. It’s surprising,” Burnett stated. “I guess not surprising because Gamecocks are the best, but it’s just funny. I’ll be at tournaments - I could be anywhere in the United States - and someone will scream out from the stands or something, ‘Go Gamecocks!’ or they’ll put the Spurs up. Actually last week I had a guy come up and give me a towel that he had embroidered with the Gamecock logo on it. Just a random fan. A guy had a big (Gamecock) flag and I took pictures with him one day. It’s really cool. People just scream out, ‘Go Gamecocks!’ It’s just really nice that they’re there.” It may be nice for Burnett to see so much passion from Gamecock Nation, but in turn she is continuing to provide Gamecocks everywhere something to be proud of as her ascension in the professional ranks continues. Burnett has played on three different professional tours (Symetra Tour, LPGA and Ladies European Tour). She qualified for the LPGA Tour on her first attempt, finishing 25th at the Final LPGA Qualifying Tournament in 2012. She earned individual medalist honors during the second stage of the LPGA Q-School. The Brunswick, Ga. native made six cuts in 2013 on the LPGA Tour. She carded a career-low round of 66 in the second round of the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. This year so far, Burnett’s best finish came at the LPGA Lotte Championship presented by J Golf. She finished tied for ninth. Burnett just recently competed in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Burnett will compete in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England July 10-13. Professional golf can be tough, but Burnett overall is pleased with the state of her game, while at the same time setting her sights on bigger goals in the future.

“I can’t really complain,” Burnett noted. “I think my game’s pretty good. (I’m) where I want to be and I’m happy with where I am at the moment. Obviously there’s plenty of room for improvement and you still want to keep moving up. “I would love to get into the Asian events at the end of the season for the LPGA. You have to be about top-60 on the money list. That’s obviously a huge goal. To play in all the majors in the next year. With Kraft (Nabisco Championship) you have to be a certain number on the money list the year previous to get into it so I wasn’t able to get into it this year. Just trying to improve every day … getting better all along is the goal,” Burnett continued. Burnett is quick to articulate that she would not be where she is today without attending the University of South Carolina. “It definitely helped me develop as a player with my mental game and stuff like that, trying to manage time with school and stuff like that always helped,” Burnett noted. “You have other worries when you’re in school so you stress and trying to manage that on the golf course is kind of the same as trying to manage the rest of my schedule now as far as planning and stuff like that. I definitely needed to play in college to not only mature as a golfer, but also as a person. That, I find, is the biggest help.” The Gamecocks are the better obviously for Burnett deciding to attend the University as she was a two-time AllAmerican and two-time All-SEC selection. Burnett is also the all-time career scoring leader and the single-season scoring average leader in Gamecock women’s golf history. A four-time NGCA All-American Scholar, Burnett was also a four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll. The Psychology major was a 2012 Capital One third-team Academic All-America selection. Being a true student-athlete is something that meant a great deal to Burnett. “With being an athlete and trying to make it professionally you never really know what can happen so you always try to have plan B,” Burnett remarked. “Academics was always really important to me because at any time being an athlete something could happen. You could get injured. There are always so many possibilities that could happen. You always need to have a plan B. I always tried to do the best I could do in school.” Plan A seems to be working perfectly right now for Burnett.

Spurs & Feathers • 17


By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

Pitching staff

Returning: Wil Crowe, Jack Wynkoop, Taylor Widener, Cody Mincey, Reed Scott, Josh Reagan, Curt Britt, Vince Fiori, Matthew Vogel, John Parke, Tyler Haswell, Cannan Cropper, Forrest Koumas Incoming: Brandon Murray, Alex Destino, Clarke Schmidt, Junior Harding, Dylan Rogers, Braden Webb, Tyler Johnson, Banks Cromer South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook said that he has not thought much about the pitching staff yet at his season-ending press conference, but he knows that there will be an abundance of talent on the team. “It’s comforting to know that Wil Crowe is coming back and Jack Wynkoop, I think will be much improved … Cody Mincey is back in the bullpen and we feel good about his experience. We’ve got some young guys that are champing at the bit that maybe people don’t know about. Tyler Haswell for example and Reed Scott will probably be in a more critical role for our team next year. Hopefully Matt Vogel will have a great summer in the Cape Cod league, which he’s off to a great start up there,” Holbrook said of some returning players. Holbrook noted the two highly-regarded pitching prospects, Brandon Murray and Alex Destino, have the potential to duplicate Crowe’s freshman success next season. “We signed them for that reason. We think they’re as talented as any pitchers in the country,” Holbrook commented. “They’ve got great arms and they can run it up there pretty good. They’re freshmen so they’ve got some things to work on, but if they can fine tune some things and sort through some mechanics with (pitching) coach (Jerry) Meyers over the next few months, they have everything they need from a makeup standpoint and a talent standpoint to have great careers here. We don’t need to wait on those guys, we need them to be ready now that’s why we recruited them and they should be a factor from day one. “We’ve got some talented other kids coming in, freshman that weren’t drafted. Tyler Johnson, Clarke Schmidt, we mentioned Destino and Murray, so those are four guys right there that are very talented. We’ve got some more as well,” Holbrook said. “We’ll have some depth on our pitching staff, some of it will be young, but I don’t think they’re short on talent. We’ve just got to figure out who is going to be where.”

Taylor Widener will be an important factor on the pitching staff after a successful freshman season according to Holbrook, but he said there are many options for his role. The roles of Widener and the other players will be largely determined by their performances in fall practices once all are on campus. “Do we move Taylor Widener into the weekend rotation? Well if we do, we’ve got Crowe, Widener and Wynkoop which is pretty good. Now who can take the place of Widener in the bullpen or do we make Widener a closer? Those are the things that we’re going to try and work out this fall,” Holbrook commented.

Catchers

Returning: Logan Koch Incoming: Jared Martin, Hunter Taylor Replacing one of the greatest catchers to ever don the Garnet & Black will be no easy task, but Holbrook feels that he will have talented options to step in behind the dish. The player who spelled Grayson Greiner this year was Logan Koch. He saw action in 20 games, making six starts. Koch threw out two of six base-stealers this year while batting .286 with a double and an RBI in 28 at-bats. Koch will be a sophomore and the only player with SEC experience, but not the only player with collegiate experience. “We’ve got a real talented kid with junior college experience named Jared Martin from Chattahoochee Valley College in the Alabama area,” Holbrook said. “He’s a talented, talented kid. He’s experienced - played in the Junior College World Series this year - and very gifted defensively. “Then you’ve got Hunter Taylor, a kid from Virginia, who is very gifted offensively. He’s one of the better hitters in high school baseball and we think he can hit in the middle of our lineup now. He got a lot of draft attention and put a number up that was very high, so Hunter and Jared are going to come in right away and compete for the job. Both are very talented; one’s more offensive, one’s more polished defensively, but they’re both very good at both,” Holbrook continued. Holbrook said that he knows that whoever ends up starting at catcher will have to have outplayed the other two making all of them better. “It’s going to be great to watch that competition along with Logan Koch in the fall. They’re all definitely some talented kids,” Holbrook said.

Infield

Returning: Kyle Martin, Max Schrock, Marcus Mooney, DC Arendas, Jordan

Gore, Weber Pike Incoming: Madison Stokes, Jared Williams, Everett Eynon The Gamecock infield returns experience that got a boost from Martin opting to return to South Carolina instead of playing professionally. A healthy Max Schrock and returning starting experience of Marcus Mooney and DC Arendas plus Jordan Gore who saw a lot of time as well makes for a seasoned group. Add in the talent joining the Gamecocks and the infield begins to look like an intense battle for playing time. Madison Stokes was the the highest regarded of the incoming players and received attention during the draft, but he will be coming to campus next year looking to fill the hole left by Joey Pankake. Holbrook is very high on the addition of Jared Williams from Gilbert as well. With all the players looking to get time on the field, Holbrook will have to come up with ways to fill out his lineup card, but that is a good problem to have. “It’s going to be interesting to see. I can only play with four infielders … there’s a number of infielders that are talented enough to play,” Holbrook explained. “One of those guys here or there might have to go to left field if they want to play. There are a couple of kids that are fighting through some things and asking questions about (the infield depth). We’re sure not going to be lacking depth in the infield, that’s for sure. “I think that though we lose Pankake, you can replace Pankake with a Madison Stokes. He doesn’t have the age and experience Joey had, but Madison is a talented kid in his own right too. We do have those experienced guys back, so we’ll see. It will work itself out and we’re going to play the best guys. We’re certainly shaping up where we’re going to have a lot of depth in the infield,” Holbrook expounded.

Outfield

Returning: Connor Bright, Gene Cone, Patrick Harrington, Elliott Caldwell, Zach Madden, Brock Maxwell Incoming: Clark Scolamiero, Collin Steagall The outfield will be another place that Holbrook may have to get creative with in making out lineup cards next season because of all the talented options. Returning are Connor Bright and Gene Cone who have proven themselves to be valuable to the Gamecocks as well as Partick Harrington and Elliott Caldwell who played important roles during different parts of the 2014 season. Those four players will all jockey for playing time with newcomers Clark Scolamiero and Collin Steagall. “Clark Scolamiero is going to have a

chance to win the centerfield job, but he’s going to be pushed by Gene Cone. Either one of those who doesn’t win the job can move to a corner spot. Connor Bright obviously is a fixture out there and he’s going to have an opportunity to win the job in right, but he’s going to be pushed too. Scolamiero and Gene Cone both have the talent to play and we think they both should play, then somebody is going to have to go to the bench. There is going to be some competition out there, no doubt about it,” Holbrook mused. That battle for the starting positions will not be limited to those three players however as Holbrook expounded on the options that he will have for playing time in the outfield. “You also have some other guys. Patrick Harrington is back and Elliott Caldwell is experienced, so they’re not just going to lay down for these young guys,” Holbrook said. “Jared Williams, the kid from Gilbert is a very, very good infielder, but he runs like a deer and is tough. He’s a leadoff type guy. He stands in the way of balls and he’s cut out of the same stuff (Scott) Wingo was, but maybe a little more talented from an athletic standpoint. Well, if our infield is intact, then I need to find him a place to play because I love his athleticism and I love his toughness. “That’s what I meant when I said one of those infielders could crack the starting lineup by moving somebody around here and there. I like some of the intangibles that Jared Williams brings and some of these freshman bring and as their coach, I’ve got to find them a place to play if they’re one of our best nine players. I have a feeling that some of those guys are going to push some of our upperclassmen,” Holbrook continued.

All Gamecock baseball coverage sponsored by DiPrato’s.


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outh Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin isn’t much into creating expectations for each individual on his team. “I’m not big into creating expectations for people because let’s say I create an expectation where I say, ‘hey, we need you to do this’ and they don’t get there then there is a certain sense of failure,” Martin mused. “What I do is I encourage them to embrace work, to embrace them creating their own expectations. Then what I do is I push, pull, encourage, motivate, challenge to get them to meet those expectations and when they meet those expectations then I try to keep them working at least at that level every day and then try to get them better the following day.” Martin realizes only one expectation really matters and that is what drives the Gamecock men’s basketball program daily. “We have one expectation and that is what we do as a whole and that’s demand we all work and believe that we’re going to win an SEC championship,” Martin said. Martin knows if all the right steps are taken then the rest will take care of itself. “I don’t worry about the finish line,” Martin remarked. “I worry about learning to win the race and that’s what my focus always is: learning how to run the race. Then what we do is to win is it a 3:50 mile? Then we have to learn to run the race so we can finish in 3:50. What’s the time we got to beat? Usain Bolt, 9.72 or whatever the heck he ran. Well, let’s work on our technique in the race. Let’s not worry about the finish line. Let’s worry about the race with the best as our ultimate objective. Let’s get as good as we can so we can be the best and that’s all I worry about.” Working to be the best is a year-round thing for the Gamecocks and the team is

continuing their drive this summer. “A big part of what we do, how we build the program, who we are is Scott Greenawalt, our strength and conditioning coach,” Martin commented. “He’s remarkable at what he does.” In addition to the hard work and effort put in with Greenawalt this summer by the South Carolina men’s basketball players the Gamecock coaching staff also has two hours a week to work with the team and they take full advantage. “We take two hours a week throughout the whole summer and we’ll continue to clean up all those freshman (from last year), their games and continue to tighten up their intensity, skill, footwork and technique; then a guy like Ty Johnson who hasn’t been around basketball for a while (due to injury) he’ll continue to evolve his understanding and his abilities. Then those incoming freshmen they are kind of in the basic training of our program, the teaching points. It allows our coaches to understand who they are and to kind of get in their minds from a basketball standpoint that we have a feel for them and it allows them to understand our terminology, points of emphasis.” In addition to his team putting in work it has already been a busy offseason for Martin, but to him it is just a typical spring and summer in preparation for the upcoming season. “April you’re basically on the road recruiting 90 percent of the month,” Martin elaborated. “May’s a lot of speaking engagements and just all the commitments that kind of make me wake up one day and realize it’s June and then it’s June and camp starts. In June you’re wrapped up with camps pretty much the whole month and you turn around and July’s here so you enjoy the Fourth of July and you kiss your family and then you see them in August because of recruiting.” Last year Martin served as an assistant coach at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia and this year he is returning

to Europe once again. “This year I’m going to coach a team called the East Coast All-Stars, which is comprised of guys from all over the East Coast from high-major basketball programs,” Martin explained. “We go to Estonia and play three games and then we go to Helsinki, Finland and we play one game. It’s goes off from July 31-Aug. 8.” Once he returns he knows the 2014-15 season is not far behind. “I get back from that trip and take a

deep breath and the players report and another school year is here,” Martin noted. “It sounds like it’s a whole lot, but everything is basketball and University related. When you get to do that you’ve got to be pretty lucky.”

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By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

Spurs & Feathers • 19


By Andy Demetra Contributing writer

I

t was the week before the 2011 Major League Draft, and Ray Tanner and Chad Holbrook had one last recruiting visit to make. The Gamecock baseball coaches were trying to convince Grayson Greiner, their committed all-state catcher from Blythewood, S.C., to turn down a chance to play professionally and enroll at South Carolina. They had already coaxed him from the University of Georgia, where he had strongly considered playing before pledging to USC. Now Greiner’s stock was rising among Major League clubs. Why wouldn’t it? He was a spidery, 6’5” backstop with good genes, great “feel,” and a body scouts love to call projectable. Greiner grew up a South Carolina fan. The chance to become a third-generation Gamecock appealed to him. But an offer from a Major League club could be too tempting to pass up. A decision loomed, one that could change the trajectory of both Greiner’s career and the South Carolina program. So on that warm June night, Tanner and Holbrook visited Grayson, his Dad Mark, and his Mom Karen in the family’s living room. They began their sales pitch, armed with an impressive ream of data: the money that drafted college catchers make compared to high school catchers; the average income of a person with a college degree versus someone without it; and other numbers that made it enticing to attend South Carolina. It was a meticulous presentation, worthy of the most Windsor-knotted financial analyst.

Near the end of the meeting, Karen excused herself from the room. She returned a few moments later holding a framed print from her office. It was a letter Grayson had written for her birthday when he was eight years old. The letter began: “Mom, you have been with me since I was born on October 11, 1992. I will be turningolder [sic] as the years go by. I am eight, now I wish I could stay young. I might be famous, I hope. I will go to USC and try out for the baseball team. Then, if I’m good enough, I might be drafted to the minors. And then I will go to the Majors, if I’m good enough. But I will still always love you.” Suddenly Tanner and Holbrook felt better. After all, who could renege on a promise made to Mom – even if it was made at eight years old? ***** Greiner fulfilled the second of those goals this month. On June 6, the catcher was taken in the 3rd round, 99th overall, by the Detroit Tigers, making him the Gamecocks’ highest draft pick since Jackie Bradley, Jr. in 2011. On Wednesday, June 11, Greiner signed a full-slot deal worth $529,400. He earned it following a junior year in which he led USC in five different offensive categories, and earned 2nd Team All-American honors from Baseball America. His grand slams against Clemson and Tennessee became instant YouTube classics. His rocket arm became a menacing, none-shall-pass presence behind home plate, the kind that caused fast runners to curse under their breath and average runners to not even bother. Though he wasn’t named All-SEC, Greiner’s

leadership proved invaluable in a season where the Gamecocks were snakebitten by injuries. “He’s as close to irreplaceable as anybody we’ve got on this team. One, the position he plays. Two, the respect he commands from his teammates. Our season would’ve come to a screeching halt had Grayson Greiner not been our everyday catcher,” Holbrook said. That Greiner would turn into a college athlete shouldn’t surprise anyone. His maternal grandfather, the late Bill Killoy, was a kicker on the USC football team from 1947-50. Mark Greiner played basketball at South Carolina from 1973-76, and later coached varsity basketball at Blythewood High. Despite his advanced feel for the game, Greiner didn’t come from baseball stock: his Dad never played, and Grayson says basketball came more naturally to him growing up. He even considered trying out for his Dad’s basketball team as a sophomore, going so far as participating in their summer conditioning workouts. Baseball won out. “I just always loved baseball. It’s a thinking man’s game,” he explained. Holbrook saw similarities between father and son. “They do have that same athletic mind – savvy, competing. You can tell he was brought up in an athletic household by the way he carries himself on the field,” he said. His first taste of stardom came his sophomore year, when he belted a walk-off home run against state power Lexington in an early-season tournament. By his senior year, Greiner was named South Carolina 4A Player of the Year by The State, and tabbed the best

catching prospect in the state. His defense, ranginess, and ability to hit to all fields made him a sought-after prospect. Major League teams, knowing his heart was set on playing in college, left him undrafted. That became a boon to Tanner, who didn’t shy from the hype when he told reporters in the fall of 2011 that Greiner could become the most talented catcher he’s coached since Major Leaguer Landon Powell. Like Powell, Tanner inserted him into the starting lineup on Opening Day. Greiner struggled as a freshman, batting .222. He lost 10 pounds during the year. He also developed a curious case of the yips on return throws to the mound –the coaches made him lean to the side, twirl the ball until he felt the seams, and toss it back to the pitcher, a routine that seemed peculiar to some, tedious to others. He admits it was intimidating handling a pitching staff that was coming off back-to-back national titles. His family traveled to Omaha in 2011 to watch them play; now he was in charge of catching them. He latched on to a piece of advice the older pitchers gave him: when the moment gets big, stay calm. Do your job. Don’t let the game move too fast or try to do too much. The Gamecocks’ veterans took notice. “He was always good blocking and receiving. He was also coachable,” said pitcher Michael Roth by phone from Little Rock, Ark., where he plays for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers. “You never questioned his work ethic. He was pretty strong mentally as


a freshman, and as an older guy throwing to someone like that, that was pretty cool to see,” Roth said. He also showed a knack for unleashing laser-guided missiles behind home plate. Roth caught his first glimpse in the fall, when Greiner gunned down 5-of-5 base stealers in an intrasquad scrimmage. In a series at Arkansas, a team they’d later face at the College World Series, Greiner threw out five base stealers over the course of a weekend. His steady, steely defense earned him a spot on Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman All-American team. “I would have had [concerns] if it had been just another freshman catcher. But Grayson was very talented. I thought his learning curve would be short, and it was,” Tanner said. As Greiner’s body filled out, so did his stats. As a sophomore, he led the Gamecocks in batting in SEC games. His all-around play earned him a spot on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. He finished his junior year with a .311 average, 8 home runs, and 50 RBI, despite playing most of the season with a sore thumb on his glove hand. Holbrook acknowledges that Greiner was more injured than he let on. His respect remained a constant in the Gamecocks clubhouse. He took charge and spoke up more. He passed on the wisdom he learned as a freshman – staying calm, not letting the game move too fast – to the Gamecocks’ stable of young arms. Teammates say his even temperament helped them through some tough times. “He has pulled us together this year through thick and thin, kept us all levelheaded, kept us from going crazy with the injuries and stuff,” said sophomore Max Schrock, whose locker was next to Greiner’s. “He and I have had some heart-tohearts. He’s said, ‘Listen, you’re going to get through this. You’re going to be back out there. You’re going to be able to help our team and we need you.’ I can’t

say enough about him. He is a great guy to have in the locker room,” Schrock said. Greiner attributes those leadership skills to his Dad. “He always gives me little tips and advice. If I have any questions on how to deal with a situation, I always ask him. He’s coached kids my age, college kids,” Greiner said. His own college days have drawn to a close. ***** “If I get a lot of money from the Majors, I will share it with the family. I will visit you every day. But that’s 20 years later. I am still the same old person I was eight years ago.” Back to the letter, the one that was written in the earnest, stream-of-consciousness syntax of a grade-schooler, the one that foretold Grayson Greiner’s career path to South Carolina. He admits he had forgotten about it when his Mom showed it to Tanner and Holbrook three years ago. “My Mom is real goofy,” Greiner said, smiling at the memory. “[Tanner and Holbrook] got a kick out of that. They said, ‘In the letter, you said you were going to play at USC and then go pro. So it looks like that’s what you have to do.” They revisited that letter at a reception at the Greiner’s house. Tanner also shared one last story from their in-home visit, one he had never before told Mark or Karen Greiner. While Holbrook was holding court, deep in his recitation of facts and figures, Grayson caught Tanner’s attention. “He leaned over and said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m coming to school,’” Tanner said. “I felt a lot better about our meeting after that.” Gamecock fans are glad he came, too.

All Gamecock baseball coverage sponsored by DiPrato’s.


By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

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outh Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley is in the midst of what is going to be an incredibly busy next few months. She wouldn’t have it any other way. “I don’t think about it really,” Staley mused. “I’m just taking it one day at a time; just one day at a time because if I really thought about it (then) it can be overwhelming. I’m just going to take each day as it is. It’s basketball. It’s something that I truly love to be around and to do, so it makes it easier. If it was as many speaking engagements as filled up with basketball days, I would be thinking differently.” On the heels of a 2013-14 season that saw Staley lead South Carolina women’s to the SEC regular-season crown and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Staley is coaching the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team this summer in the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Aug.

6-10. Staley is also serving as an assistant coach for the USA Basketball World Championship team that will compete in the 2014 FIBA World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey Sept. 27-Oct. 5. Staley is not the only Gamecock that is a part of USA Basketball this summer as the nation’s top recruit in incoming Gamecock freshman A’ja Wilson highlights Staley’s U18 National Team. Reigning SEC Player of the Year Tiffany Mitchell represented South Carolina women’s basketball by winning the gold medal at the FIBA 3x3 World Championships in Moscow, Russia. Staley knows that her multiple roles place a great deal on her plate, but at the end of the day it is all about the greater good of South Carolina women’s basketball. “You can’t pay for the type of publicity that we’ll get from our kids as well as myself being a part of USA Basketball,” Staley recognized. “That is marketing 101. We couldn’t pay a company to market us that way, but any time you get that kind of exposure it is great all the way around for

our program, for our University and for us to be seen in the light of being ‘international’ because it’s that broad. “Everything is about the bigger goal. When I got here six years ago the goal has been the same: national championships. I think we’ve put ourselves in a position to make that goal more realistic with the type of players we have in our program and the type of players we’re bringing in our program,” Staley continued. In addition to representing the Gamecocks globally the South Carolina women’s basketball program is continuing its hard work and dedication in trying to repeat as SEC champions in the upcoming year, while also vying for the 2014-15 national championship. “We’re pretty much going to stick to the same script as last year, which allowed us to work with our players two hours a week for the time that they’re here in summer school,” Staley remarked. “They will play pick-up a few days a week. A lot of time is going to be spent with the strength and conditioning coach just trying to lay a foundation to allow us to have

some longevity next season. “We will work some individual, basically fundamentals because we want to make sure our kids are equipped with the basics and then once they’ve shown us they’re pretty good at it we can start speeding up and start doing some things we feel they can benefit (from) before we put any offenses,” Staley said. Staley continued by relaying that “right now (early June) we have three of our five freshmen in the first session of summer. They have to understand how we do things. I think it’s going to be a little bit different than how they’ve done it on a high school level. The biggest thing is listening and paying attention to detail. We know that they can play basketball, but we want to make sure that they can be situational basketball players, knowing what we want and just kind of allowing them to create some of the habits that we need them to have once we start moving a little quicker.” Ranked second nationally in ESPN’s Pre-preseason top-25, South Carolina women’s basketball enters the 2014-15 season with heightened expectations, but Staley is not necessarily worried about all of this right now. She knows that the 2015 NCAA Women’s Final Four in Tampa Bay, Fla. April 5 and 7, 2015 is months away and right now it is about continuing the efforts to be among the four. “I’m just looking forward to working with our kids this summer and, of course, next season,” Staley concluded.

All Gamecock basketball coverage sponsored by Yesterdays.


By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

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hen South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin arrived in Columbia he knew he had to change the culture of Gamecock basketball, while also bringing in the types of players that could help South Carolina compete for SEC championships. Martin knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight, but with summer preparations in full swing for the 201415 season he readily acknowledges he has a group currently that has bought into what is expected. “It’s day and night,” Martin noted. “We worked our guys out last week and guys like (Marcus) Stroman and the other two freshmen when they were going they stuck out like sore thumbs because Sindarius (Thornwell), Duane (Notice) and Mindaugas (Kacinas) those guys they’ve embraced what we do so well. They’ve grown as players, as people. Their approach is real good, so when you’re in individual instruction session those guys have

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taken huge strides. “That’s why we’re excited about where we’re at because we’ve got core guys that they understand the sense of urgency you’ve got to have to improve as a player to win. They understand what we ask, what we expect in our locker room and now those young guys all have people to show them the way. Seeing Ty (Johnson) back out there; a year and a half ago when Ty got here he wouldn’t even shoot it because he was so hesitant to shoot. Now, the first shooting drill we did, he made 14 in a row. I’m sitting there saying, ‘that’s a kid that’s put in some time.

That’s a kid that’s embraced coaching.’ It’s pretty neat when you start seeing the stuff develop,” Martin continued. Due to varying factors in getting to where they are now it has been almost a total youth movement for the Gamecocks under Martin and his coaching staff. “I’m not avoiding the junior colleges on purpose,” Martin commented. “It’s hard. JuCo recruiting in the SEC is hard because of the regulations in the SEC that are different than any other league. Recruiting junior colleges for us is hard. Think about this, there are 540 transfers in Division I. Don’t you

think some of those guys in junior colleges are transferring also? It’s not just a Division I problem. In basketball they transfer in high school, they transfer in junior college then they transfer here (at Division I level). Once they transfer in junior college, you can’t recruit them here. There are some challenges. We do recruit junior colleges, but the one’s that we like that we feel who we are, such a small pool that it’s hard to get. I’m a junior college guy so I understand the sense of urgency that they have, but I also understand that with high school guys you have more time for them to grow and learn and be able to stabilize a program. “Here it wasn’t about finding a guy or two to change everything. We had to build from the ground up so we’re still trying to fight for our culture and not so much identify a talent need,” Martin concluded.

All Gamecock basketball coverage sponsored by Yesterdays.

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Spurs & Feathers • 23


By Ed Girardeau ed@spursandfeathers.com

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amecocks may recognize him more by his signature radio call, “Touchdown Carolina!, Touchdown….(name your favorite football player).” Todd Ellis, the Voice of Carolina Football, remembered a time while vacationing with his family at the beach. “I’m at the beach, playing volleyball with my family and a man comes over and asks me if he can bring his daughter over to meet me. She was a student at USC and a big fan. We talked for a minute. She was incredibly insightful in what she remembered of the season coming up. I told her that it was nice to meet her and let me know if there was anything that I could do for her in Columbia. She said before you go, you‘ve just got to say it, one time, one time.” Ellis assumed he knew what she wanted, “Of course I said, Touchdown Carolina, Touchdown … and she said no, no, no, say ‘It’s a bright clear Sansbury

Day!’” The moment was not lost on Ellis. “The fans are so loyal, they remember the commercials. That’s the loyalty that we have with our fans.” And to think, it may not have ever come to pass. On a cold, February morning in 1985, Mick Mixon, then of WIS Radio did his morning sports update. The big story: National Signing Day and South Carolina was coming off then its best football season in its history in 1984. The plum of the class was making his decision on that last day and Mixon, after making his report said, “Remember: There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” Mixon, a recent graduate of the University of NORTH Carolina was referring to Greensboro, N.C. native and Page High School senior Todd Ellis. Little did Mick know that home for Todd would be right there in Columbia with him. “UNC was in the final five, “ recalled Ellis, “but I almost went to Stanford. I had a great trip out there, they were ready to take a step up and play in the Rose Bowl, and

had a great law school.” Ellis, the top-rated quarterback in the nation, chose South Carolina. “I loved Joe Morrison. Carolina had a great independent schedule back at that time, and it was close. My family could still see me play. So those were kind of the major factors in choosing USC.” The Gamecocks had three senior quarterbacks in 1985, so Ellis came in with the idea of being redshirted. He mostly got to watch Mike Hold that first year. “Mike Hold is one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen play, much less quarterback. He could punt with both feet, he could throw it 60 yards on his knee, tremendous arm, very quick and athletic. He was a great veer quarterback,” remembered the then QB in waiting. “I enjoyed watching him play. He was more of a technician. You can’t play the veer, and not read your way out and be pretty disciplined, but when it broke down, he was great at scrambling and moving around, but just a great arm for his size and so athletic.”

Ellis’ inaugural season, 1986, was a highly anticipated season. Fans would not be disappointed in terms of excitement, though the record was not great. “We went 3-6-2,” remembered the then freshman quarterback. “We had a very competitive team. Full of a lot of skill players which kept us in games all the time: Sterling Sharpe, Danny Smith, Ryan Bethea, all those guys. We couldn’t stop anybody in the fourth quarter, so we’d lose 36-32, 31-28. Heartbreaking days, but we were obviously emerging at that time.” The following year, Black Magic erupted and one of the most memorable and best Gamecock teams of all-time was the result. “I would say that we were the best, most athletic football team until the Clowney, Melvin Ingram, Stephon Gilmore teams here recently with coach Spurrier. The 1987 team had more athletes on that team than just about any time that I’ve seen until the last three years,” Ellis elaborated. “We played Miami after the Clemson game.


right decision, I’m glad I came back. I had the knee injury, but that’s life and you certainly can’t second guess everything that goes on. I looked into it at that time but it just wasn’t in my blood to give up that final year.” The senior season was going along very well when tragedy struck. “I played 42 games and never really thought about getting hurt. Had some very bad bangs. Had two concussions. From getting stepped on a lot. I had bad toes. A couple of ankle problems, but I had never come close to missing any games.” That was all about to end against NC State with a devastating knee injury. Ellis continued, “We had a good team that year and the schedule was favorable. We would have beat NC State that day, would’ve gone on and won two other games and played in the Peach Bowl and probably played whomever we wanted and beat the dog out of ‘em and that may have changed Sparky’s career. He says that to me all the time, when I talk to him. He says if you don’t get hurt, my whole career might have been different.” His career cut short by four games, Ellis finished his career with 9,953 yards passing, holding the career record for passing yards as well as the single season record of 3,206 yards passing in 1987 and set more than 20 records in his four year stint at USC. “I’m proud to have those records, but at 47, my joy comes from the success of the University and watching Carolina Football and not what I did 25 years ago,” Ellis said when asked about the records. “I’d rather see a successful team in which

all my records are gone and that would bring me a lot more joy. I held them for a long time.” Ellis was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the ninth round of the 1990 draft. With John Elway and Gary Kubiak on the roster and teams of that day not keeping three quarterbacks, Ellis’ career in the NFL was shortlived. He returned to Columbia to attend law school. However, others had plans for him. “Liz McMillan, with Host Communications (now Gamecock IMG Sports Network), came and said I know you’re in law school, but would you be interested in the sideline job. Later I was asked to do the television show with Brad Scott. Then I started doing color on TV games and doing reenactments mid-week with Corey Miller. Then that evolved into play-by-play on television which evolved to radio play-by-play.” Ellis will begin his 12th season as the “Voice of the Gamecocks” for football in 2014. He and his broadcast partner, Tommy Suggs, have worked together on the radio broadcast for 20 years. “It isn’t always easy. It takes time and we work hard at it. Tommy and I have a great time and a great relationship. We care for each other, each other’s families and we both absolutely love the University. We take it dang serious and we work hard at it to make sure its done right. “ In his position with the University, Ellis realizes that he has an important role.

“I know that people who listen to broadcast, it is incredibly personal to them. It is part of their routine, it is part of their memories when they were growing up, and part of some of the best days of their lives watching Carolina football,” Ellis said. Along with the likes of Ray Tanner, Steve Spurrier and George Rogers, Ellis has become one of the most recognizable faces at Carolina. His daughter is a student at USC and more than half of Todd’s life has revolved around his time in Columbia. “The University is one of the longest loves of my life. I met my wife here, raised my kids as Gamecocks, and my mother and father are bigger fans now than when I was playing. They don’t miss anything. Any event live, here or on TV or otherwise. Carolina is a huge part of what defines me. I’m blessed that Coach Tanner, or Coach Spurrier, or President Pastides have asked me to be involved in a variety of roles that have put me at times in a great position to try and help them. Whether emceeing an event for a fundraiser or a recruiting party or a TV show, I’m blessed that they continue to ask me to represent them.” It was 29 years ago that Ellis decided that Columbia, South Carolina was more suited for him than Stanford, Calif. to play quarterback while in college. What he got was his home. Mick had it right. There is no place like home. And Ellis and his family are a living example.

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We had them on the ropes down there and they get us late in a 20-16 game. Joe Lee Dunn was a great coach. We were fooling most people on defense.” Following his sophomore season, Ellis was considered one of the top college quarterbacks in the nation and was considered a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. South Carolina took on Georgia, who was ranked sixth in the nation, on Sept. 24, 1988. From that game, Ellis would take part in a play that he would never forget. “One of my favorites - if not my favorite play of all-time, watching and playing as a Gamecock - Robert Brooks against Georgia in the corner of the end zone where he caught a one hander and we beat them and we upset them pretty good that day at Williams-Brice on a hot day early in the season. Great game! Robert is one of my favorite players all-time and just an amazing catch over Ben Smith. I rarely ran down to the end zone. I waited on the sidelines, but that was such a great catch, I ran down there and gave him a big hug.” After his junior season, and with 8579 yards passing, Ellis considered leaving school and entering the NFL draft. “I could’ve gone out and tested it and during that time they would not have challenged it based on the rules. So I met with President Holderman and Joe Morrison, talked with my family, met with an agent, which was all above board at that time, and got some evaluation and decided to come back to school and shortly after I had decided to come back to school, Joe passed away,” Ellis recounted. “I made the

Spurs & Feathers • 25


By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

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outh Carolina redshirt freshman javelin thrower Kaleb Zuidema has taken a long journey from high school state champion to participating in the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. Zuidema got into throwing the javelin in high school following in his brother’s footsteps and won the Penn Relays and the New Balance Nationals in his junior year while going undefeated in New Jersey and becoming one of the biggest track & field recruits in the nation. Going into his senior season, Zuidema played for his soccer team that went to the state sectional finals and tore the ACL in his left knee during that game. Even being the nation’s top track & field recruit, Zuidema said he shut down his phone, stopped talking to colleges and focused on rehabbing when South Carolina became a leader in his recruitment. He said that he initiated some of the contact and enjoyed his visit to Columbia in leading to him becoming a Gamecock. Zuidema threw the javelin five months after his ACL surgery in his senior year and won the state championship, but once he got to South Carolina his injuries and use had taken a toll on his body. “After high school I came to South Carolina and I had been throwing the javelin since eighth grade. It puts a lot of wear and tear on your shoulder and other body parts … so I ended up kind of knowing that I needed an operation on my shoulder,” Zuidema explained. “I had a couple of practices in the beginning of the year in September at South Carolina. They brought me to their doctor and I got shoulder surgery. “I was kind of okay with redshirting my freshman year just knowing that I had a lot of shoulder problems. My knee felt better and coming off of shoulder surgery and I was rehabbing my shoulder all of freshman year. That put a lot of toll on me being in the training room every single day,” Zuidema continued. Zuidema described what happened next as both bad luck and upsetting. “I was training for the Junior World Championships, which is in the summer, and that’s where I was feeling good, was finally healthy and training the way I wanted to. I was back home and wanted to compete in a meet before the Juniors.

26 • Spurs & Feathers

It was in Nikon Stadium in New York and my first throw I felt a pop in my elbow. That’s when I figured out that I had torn my UCL, which requires Tommy John surgery. The whole sophomore year I was rehabbing my elbow, so it has been a long journey,” Zuidema recalled. The struggles with injuries took a toll on Zuidema both mentally and physically during his first two years on campus. He admitted that he had thoughts of leaving school to return home for community college or work with the family business, saying “maybe it just isn’t meant to be.” He added that sometimes he did not want friends and others to see him knowing he had always been hurt following his stellar high school career. His close relationships with his family and friends helped to encourage Zuidema to continue his rehab, telling him “everything happens for a reason.” He said that he kept working and began to feel better building towards throwing again. “This year was really the first year that I really picked up a javelin and started to actually train, the first time that I’d actually lifted and started to heavily train since high school. So it was good to be back and good for people to ask me if I was going to be back this year and finally be able to say yes,” Zuidema said. Zuidema had a breakout performance in winning this year’s Penn Relays, coming full circle to the event that he won in high school. “The Penn Relays is one of my favorite meets. Winning it in high school and then coming back for the first time seeing really everyone that I threw with in New Jersey in high school, having my family come out was special,” Zuidema said. “It was actually a good start to the season, but at Penn Relays I really just pushed everything aside and it brought back my confidence. “To actually win the event was pretty exciting for me, my family, my coaches and my teammates. That was really my stepping point in the season. To win that and to build off that for the bigger meets to come, that really helped me out in winning the Penn Relays,” Zuidema added. Zuidema was able to build off his win at the Penn Relays as he claimed a bronze medal at the SEC Championships. He credits the competition in the SEC for pushing him as he set a personal record of 229 feet in Lexington, Ky. to

reach the podium. He said it was the first time that he had thrown without thinking about all his injuries. Zuidema’s confidence level rose and he was able to qualify for the NCAA Championships at the Regionals in Jacksonville, Fla. a few weeks later. “My main goal going into the season was just to be healthy. The best ability is availability is what I say and it was just to not get hurt and keep training hard. I kind of projected to cut my season off at SECs … but I’ve had a good streak and I kind of don’t want it to end. I have some good meets of 67 meters, 68 meters, 69 meters, 68 meters, so it’s a good streak and I don’t plan for it to end at Nationals,” Zuidema said. Watching his teammates succeed, contributing to and being a part of the team have been some of the highlights for Zuidema this past season. He recognized that he has had a strong year, but said he was truly happy just to be a part of the Gamecock contingent that went to Eugene, Ore. for the NCAA Champi-

onships to represent the University, his coaches, family and friends. “These are the best javelin throwers in the nation, so to go in ranked as the 11th best javelin thrower in the nation, I guess I couldn’t really think that at the beginning of the season, but I’ve got my confidence back,” Zuidema remarked. “Now my expectations are back to my high school days. They’re back to being the No. 1 guy in the nation. I’ve kind of gradually been getting back to that expectation … to be there with the top guys in the nation is kind of like a dream come true for a freshman, so hopefully I can perform like everyone else does. “It’s going to be a fun competition and I said in high school that I want to compete with the best and that’s why I came to the SEC. Now I want to compete with the best at Nationals,” Zuidema concluded. Zuidema stepped up at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore. by finishing 21st overall and earning AllAmerica Honorable Mention honors.


By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

to the volunteers and hoped that he had created some new Gamecock fans in the area. Wolf plans to continue to integrate with the alumni association in the area and offer the multiple categories of events, including on the professional side. The professional events and activities have helped with networking and working with the USC Career Center to help find jobs for 50-plus people in the past two years. “Here we’ve combined the two support clubs and we do a lot with My Carolina Alumni Association and the Gamecock Club. Here in Charlotte, if you’re a Gamecock, you’re a Gamecock and it all benefits the greater good,” Wolf commented. “We’re trying to be viewed as Charlotte, S.C. rather than Charlotte, N.C. “My point is if you move to Charlotte, we can plug you in socially no matter your age, if you want to give back we’ve got that and we can help find you work. People say ‘you got me a job, how can I thank you?’ and I say ‘join the Gamecock Club,’” Wolf added. If you want to know more or get connected with the Charlotte Gamecock Club, you can find them on Facebook and LinkedIn as Charlotte Gamecock Club. On Twitter and Instagram, the handle is @CltGamecocks or you can visit their website at www. mycarolina.org/charlotte.

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he Charlotte Gamecock Club is one of the most versatile chapters and recently showed its commitment to the community with a day of giving back on Saturday, May 31. The Charlotte chapter worked with Habitat for Humanity from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help build a house in the area. Chapter president James Wolf said “there are 365 days a year, so we can take at least one day to give back.” Wolf explained that the Gamecock Club and My Carolina Alumni Association work together to try to provide multiple opportunities for the Gamecock alumni and fans in the Charlotte area. “I’ve broken it down into three categories. We have social events, we have charity events and we have professional events. So whether you’re 22 years old, 52 or 82, we have something for you,” Wolf elaborated. The Charlotte chapter does Happy Hour events with the most recent one raising $200 for the chapter by taking a portion of the proceeds from the event. Its fifth annual scholarship golf event is scheduled for Aug. 18. The Charlotte Gamecock Club has raised close to $60,000 between events and the golf tournament for the scholarship fund. The chapter will also host a women’s fashion show getting local boutiques involved. “Sometimes people like to give back and what better way to give back than have a Habitat for Humanity event. We’ve done different things every year. This is just the point where now we’re documenting it better, taking photos, etc..,” Wolf commented. “We wanted to do a Habitat event and figured that it would be a good exposure. “It’s one thing for us to do a charity event, a food bank or something like that, but this was one thing that we figured we could get a lot of traction with and had a pretty good turnout. We had 19 people out there. Wish we had more, but on the other hand there is only so much room when you’re building a house. We’re hoping to do another in the future,” Wolf continued. He said it was a very rewarding experience for all in attendance and they even turned some of the professional workers into Gamecock fans by talking about South Carolina athletics all day. Wolf noted that they even wanted some of the 2014 football posters and stickers that he gave out

Spurs & Feathers • 27


By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

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outh Carolina’s women’s basketball team had one of its most successful seasons on the court in program history in 2013-14 and now they have backed that up with an influx of top talent. Head coach Dawn Staley brought in five highly-regarded recruits this year in signing the second-ranked recruiting class in the nation. Three of those players are fairly local, proving that Staley can bring the state’s top talent to the University as she builds a powerhouse program. Those three local players are the nation’s No. 1 recruit, A’ja Wilson (Columbia, S.C./Heathwood Hall), Kaydra Duckett (Columbia, S.C./Dreher HS) and Jatarie White (Charlotte, N.C./Providence Day). All three players were top-ranked recruits coming out of high school and their choice to don the Garnet & Black could be key to the continued success of the Gamecocks under Staley.

A’ja Wilson

Wilson said that watching the change that Staley has made in the program and her experience were the biggest factors in her deciding to stay home and become a Gamecock. “It’s really seeing her coaching and changing this whole program around. I’ve kind of watched - since I’ve been home - her build the program after seeing empty seats in the Colonial Life Arena early on to now seeing the whole bottom level full. Seeing that and the way she’s coaching helps. Coach Staley has really been through everything that I want to go through and there’s not a better person to follow than a person that has been through it. Of course she knows what she’s doing because she’s been through it. That really kind of opened my eyes to show that South Carolina was the best choice for me,” Wilson explained. She also credits a family atmosphere that Staley has created within the program for being a draw for top talent to choose South Carolina. “I just want to give props out to coach Staley for looking into the hometown girls and I think that also brings a family atmosphere tot the team. I think were a family, not just out there as players,” Wilson commented. “It’s been a lot of fun to get to know my teammates better. They kind of treated me as a sister and not as a recruit. It’s one of the reasons that I chose South Carolina.” Wilson described the transition

from high school to college as “a huge change,” starting with the rigorous schedule. “Waking up early and structured schedule, having to be on time is so important. I’m really learning the importance of time management,” Wilson commented. “Also, the weight room is about to kill me, but I have a positive attitude knowing that in the end it’s all going to pay off.” Wilson said that she is not trying to get ahead of herself looking forward to the season, but is focusing on the little things. “I’m taking baby steps, but I’m just kind of anxious for the season to start. I love the game of basketball. I want to play … I’m anxious for next year, but at the same time I’m just kind of taking baby steps and making sure that I’m getting everything done that I need to get done now,” Wilson commented. With all the talent on the roster, Wilson said that she is willing to trust Staley on putting her in the best situations knowing that she “… is going to guide us step by step. She knows what is best for me and whatever we do I’m just going to give 110 percent.”

Kaydra Duckett

Duckett is another local player who credited Staley’s family-oriented atmosphere as being one of the biggest draws for her to come to the University. “I said ‘this is what I need. I need a second mother and a family away from home.’ Now I have about four or five. She wanted to make sure that I was at my best; not only was I at my best, but had someone behind me to pat me on the back when I was doing well and someone to catch me when I fall,” Duckett explained. She credits her relationship with Staley, which has been strong throughout her high school career as another benefit of becoming a Gamecock. “Coach Staley was always coaching me even in high school … when you have a coach that is doing that and not just trying to get you on campus, but is really concerned about you, that’s my loyalty to her in coming here. It’s like ‘you have done so much for me and helped me to win two state championships in three years, so I don’t see why I wouldn’t come here because you are a winning coach,’” Duckett expounded. Duckett was an All-State player as well, but also is adjusting during her transition to playing and training at a college level. “It’s very different. High school transition to college is a big leap. I thought

I was good in high school, but there were a lot of things that I missed out on fundamentally,” Duckett said. “One thing coach Staley and her program does is fill those holes. “They fix those things that maybe a high school coach would overlook because I was scoring a lot of points. Coach Staley says ‘you won’t be able to score those points unless you get down this fundamental.’ Once you have a coach that does that, you’re going to improve,” Duckett continued. Duckett goes back to the family atmosphere as one of the reasons that she believes the team can be successful and coexist with the glut of talent on the roster. “Being on this team, not only are we a sisterhood, but we’re all working toward one goal,” Duckett said. “It doesn’t matter if you came from a place you were playing 32 minutes and now you’re playing two minutes, we are all one accord. “There is a lot of talent on the team … playing time is always going to be a question, but I’m not worried about it. Coach Staley has a plan and coach Staley is fair … you’re going to get the playing time that you deserve from how hard you work every day. I want to make sure that I am prepared to do whatever the team needs from Kaydra,” Duckett added.

Jatarie White

White comes from Charlotte as a three-time All-State selection and Gatorade North Carolina Player of the Year in 2013 who also was impressed by the way Staley has built the Gamecock program. “I think that coach Dawn has done a really good job of getting the players in place and getting the help this program (needs to) advance. I think people have started looking at South Carolina as an organization that can win a national championship and do big things,” White commented. She said the personal connections with Staley and the other players were an asset to joining South Carolina as well. “When coach Dawn had the home visit she was the one that didn’t really

worry about the court, she just focused on me. On my visit here the players just got to know me and the other schools didn’t really do that,” White commented. “She (Staley) connected with me on a personal level and connected with me as a mother figure away from home. She has done a really good job of recruiting and helping me settle into the college life.” Just as with the other newcomers, some aspects of the transition to training on a college level has been tough for White. “Training has been difficult, especially in the weight room … I think that’s the biggest transition. I think also on the court doing the fast break drills has been hard for me because I’m not used to that sprinting up and down the court … it’s intense training,” White said. Another strong relationship that White has coming into the program is one with former high school teammate and reigning SEC Player of the Year Tiffany Mitchell. She believes that her connection with Mitchell will help her in the transition. “Tiffany was always so great to play with because she always added spark to any game that she was playing in. Tiffany is a go-getter … I think playing with her this year will also help me in getting ready for the college level and going at the tempo that she goes at,” White said. In fact, White said that all of the players have done a good job of motivating her and severing as role models, particularly Elem Ibaim who plays the same position as White. “I’m really excited to see what they’re going to teach me. I’ve seen Tiffany improve from high school to college and I’m really ready just to take that next step and get better as a college player,” White added.

All Gamecock basketball coverage sponsored by Yesterdays.

Spurs & Feathers • 29


By Bart Wright Contributing writer

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ne of my favorite Bill Parcells stories surfaced a couple years back and related a wedding he attended that involved extended family members. A cousin or nephew or some distant relative approached the former NFL coach, now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, just to say hello and pass the time. Parcells recalled the young man was a high school basketball coach and asked how the season went. The way I heard it, the relative said, “It was a tough year, Coach, we were really hurt by injuries. I lost my center, I lost . . .” Parcells waved his hand, asking to interject a thought. He smiled that forced grin he used to break bad news to players or the media. “Nobody cares about that stuff,” Parcells said, patted the young coach on the shoulder and walked away. Every coach in America understands the sentiment. It always sounds like an excuse, even when it’s the only explanation that makes sense. Surely, South Carolina’s baseball team knows the feeling after falling short of qualification for the College World Series in Omaha at the end of an injury-riddled season that essentially dictated the team’s fate a couple of months ago. There is a sense that the 2013-14 athletic seasons were not what anyone wanted at the school, but that can only be the case for those who have their noses pressed against the candy store window in frustration. Take a step back; maybe two steps, and you see a different picture. What you see is success, everywhere. Only a hopeless narcissist expects perfection and is crushed over and over by the reality of the world. The Yankees can’t win year after year. Parcells is in the Hall of Fame after a career in which they said he failed at his last stop in Dallas. Who did Alabama play for the national championship last season? Oh, the Crimson Tide didn’t make the final game? At the end of the 2013-14 school year, if one can take a step back and reflect on a snapshot of athletics at the University of South Carolina, one comes away with a picture of sweeping achievement. But you have to step back to see it. National Championships were not claimed by Gamecock programs, yet the wide view shows new strength, better facilities,

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more success on the fields and courts than a year ago, two or five years ago. A rising tide, as the cliché goes, has lifted all boats and while a great deal of that tide can be attributed to upgraded facilities overseen by Director of Athletics Ray Tanner and the coaches and administrators he has employed, a slice of it should also go to the football program. It’s no surprise that in college athletics the football program is the engine house for advancement. It is the program that, when successful, attracts sponsorships, finances, forges new relationships in the community – all the things that connect athletics to money, which provides the resources necessary to compete. Coach Steve Spurrier’s football team has provided that source of forward motion for a few years now, establishing that a new day is possible if a smart process is followed. That’s a good thing, because as other athletic department programs drew strength from the Gamecocks’ stirring football example, it might be football that could benefit from examples by other USC teams. The football team is at an unprecedented level, with the highest finish in school history (No. 4 in final polls), a nationally recognized top-10 program, 33 wins in the last three years and the No. 1 selection in the most recent NFL Draft. Getting there has not been easy and staying there is even more of a challenge. Carolina’s football program wouldn’t be

where it is today without quarterback Connor Shaw who epitomized the kind of leadership Spurrier, or any football coach, needs on his team. The question for the 2014 team is going to be filling the void that Shaw left when he packed up and headed to Cleveland to try to win a roster spot with the Browns. Spurrier needs some new leadership and your guess is as good as mine when it will emerge. You can say Dylan Thompson, the next quarterback in line will provide it, but that’s unfair, that’s you hoping the next guy is just like the last guy. Leadership is earned, not passed down like a plate of mashed potatoes at dinner. The football team has people that fill the role as players, or as students or as responsible young adults away from the classroom and the football field. Some have more than one of those qualities. What hasn’t emerged yet is someone like Shaw who has all three qualities. Maybe they can look to the women’s basketball team and Aleighsa Welch, she knows how to lead. In a difficult game at LSU in February, Welch supplemented Coach Dawn Staley’s efforts by being the voice her teammates needed to hear on the floor and in timeout huddles. One of three captains, Welch took her role seriously after the Gamecocks came out shooting poorly and playing sloppily in front of a raucous crowd in Baton Rouge. LSU got within two and Welch was in everyone’s ear at every stoppage in play, a

reminder, a pest, an inspirational messenger. She was a good teammate; she was what every coach wants. In the end, they got the message, Carolina won and came home believing a little more as a team. Despite the finish, the baseball team had leaders emerge in a next-man-up season that was plagued by injuries, as in the case of Parcells’ relative. They went to Auburn with heads just above water at 8-7 in conference and lost the first game to fall to .500, with the season hanging in the balance. These kinds of seasons happen with certain regularity in sports. Every team, college and pro will run into seasons when issues out of their control, like injuries, drag a team down. At Auburn, freshmen Gene Cone and Jordan Gore came off the bench to scratch out a couple important hits. Fourth year junior Patrick Harrington came in to pinch run, scored, Carolina won perhaps the most important game of the season and followed it up with a win on Sunday to take the series and send the team home with a 10-8 record and new confidence. The football team provided belief and inspiration to a growing fanbase and helped show the other programs in the athletic department what can be done. They did it so well, the football team might be able to use some examples from Welch, Cone, Gore, Harrington and others to find their way forward after their own leader has gone. What goes around comes around, and in this case, that’s a good thing.


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