may 13, 2015 • Volume 37 • Issue 7 • $1.50
Women’s golf wins NCAA East Regional
We’re N o . 1!
Men’s and women’s golf both earn NCAA top seeds
2 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
Spurs & Feathers Published by Aiken Communications, Inc.
Contact Us: 301 Greystone Blvd. Columbia, SC 29210 (803) 335-1399 To subscribe: Please call 800-559-2311; annual subscription price is $50 Ellen Priest Publisher Aiken Communications, Inc. Tim O’Briant General Manager email@example.com (803) 335-1400 Ext. 500 Brian Hand Executive Editor firstname.lastname@example.org (803) 335-1399 Ext. 506 Ed Girardeau Contributing Editor/ Advertising Account Executive email@example.com (803) 646-9807 Dee Taylor Advertising Director (803) 644-2371 Kathy Boyette Advertising Sales Manager (803) 295-3654 firstname.lastname@example.org Brooks Rogers Advertising Representative (803) 446-4022 email@example.com Reporters Kyle Heck and Collyn Taylor Photographers Allen Sharpe and Jenny Dilworth Mary Watson Graphic Designer Cover Design: Brian Hand (photos by Allen Sharpe and Chris Baird) Postal Information: SPURS & FEATHERS (USPS 12779) (ISSN 7454368X) is published 20 times annually. The frequency is monthly from December to February, bi-weekly in March, monthly in April, bi-weekly in May, monthly in June and bi-weekly from August-December. SPURS & FEATHERS also publishes three slick-paper magazine issues — one in April, one in June and one in August. The annual subscription price is $50 for non Gamecock Club members. Members of the Gamecock Club receive a discounted subscription as a member benefit. Spurs & Feathers is published by Aiken Communications, Inc., 326 Rutland Drive NW, Aiken, SC, 29801-4010. Periodicals postage paid at Columbia, SC Postmaster: Send changes to SPURS & FEATHERS, PO Box 456, Aiken, SC, 29802.
Pictured (left-to-right) is PGA Tour golfer and Gamecock fan Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, his son Thomas, South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier and Darlington County Gamecock Club President Jimmy Griffin at the Darlington County Spring Meeting.
Upcoming Events: Gamecock Club
Beaufort County Gamecock Club Dinner featuring Everette Sands, Running Backs Coach and Assistant Director of the Gamecock Club Jay Brown who will speak about the Gamecock Club and facility projects
When: Tuesday, May 12th, 6 p.m. Where: Sanctuary Golf Club, Cat Island, SC Tickets: $20 (dinner is included) To purchase tickets, please contact Linda McCarty: 843-521-1445 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Come out and support your South Carolina Gamecocks! Lancaster County Gamecock Club Spring Meeting When: Monday May 18th, 6 p.m. Where: USC Lancaster, Bradley Building, 476 Hubbard Dr, Lancaster, SC 29720 General Info: Speaker Lorenzo Ward, tickets are $20 and include a BBQ dinner. Auction will be held on many Gamecock items. Raffle on two season tickets for $5.00 to be given away that night. For tickets contact any Gamecock Club
director or President Joe Grier (803-2854757). Kershaw County Gamecock Club Spring Meeting When: Thursday, May 21, 6:30 p.m. Where: The meeting will be held at the Old South & Catery, 509 Dicey Ford Road in Camden. The featured guest speaker will be Kershaw County’s own Shawn Elliott, Offensive Line Coach and Co-Offensive Coordinator. Cocky is also scheduled to appear with the Independence Bowl trophy. You do NOT have to be a KC Gamecock Club member to attend—ALL
GAMECOCK FANS ARE WELCOME! Old South will begin serving at 6:30pm followed by our guest speaker. Drawings for awesome raffle prizes will also be available. There will also be a silent auction for four pre-game field passes to the Vandy football game. Bids can be taken for the field passes prior to the meeting by sending notice to email@example.com. Tickets are $10.00 each in advance, prior to May 20, or $15.00 at the door and can be purchased at the Old South & Catery (Camden), BSL Sandwich Shop (Little Street, Camden), Camden Military Academy (Administration Office) or by calling Casey Robinson at 803-669-0273.
Spurs & Feathers • 3
May 13, 2015
Endowed scholarship established to honor Aleighsa Welch by collyn taylor Reporter
WE HAVE A NEW ADDRESS!
the team who never shied away from being vocal both on and off the court. “When someone leaves a legacy like an enAdd another first to the long list of firsts the dowed scholarship in your name, I would have women’s basketball team already had this seaprobably been as speechless as Lisa,” Staley said. son, this time in the form of an endowed scholar- “She’s grateful, her mother almost came to tears ship. just because of the generous support they’ve The University announced Wednesday, April given us.” 22, that Morris and Sheila Cregger have gifted Welch was a three-time captain for the team the women’s basketball program with a scholar- and helped lead them to four NCAA Tournament ship in honor of one of the Gamecocks’ most appearances as well as their first Final Four. She influential players: Aleighsa Welch. was SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year and was a The scholarship is the first of its kind in either three-time All-SEC selection. basketball program, with the only other endowed She’s also one of four Gamecocks to have 1,000 scholarships being in football; one being in honor points and 900 rebounds in her career. Welch is of Tommy Suggs and the other named for Maralso the only player in program history to have cus Lattimore. 100 rebounds or more in all four of her years at South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said South Carolina. Welch joins elite company with this honor, some- The scholarship will be awarded to a member thing both she and the Creggers agree Welch of the women’s basketball team who Staley deserves. said exemplified what Welch stands for, saying, “They felt she exemplified what student-ath“someone who receives Lisa’s scholarship will letes are all about with her display of hard work, definitely have big shoes to fill when it comes to dedication, sacrifice and what she’s able to do that particular player receiving that scholarship.” in the classroom,” Staley said. “It’s a wonderful Welch has helped put the team on the map nathing.” tionally and after reaching numerous milestones Staley said the Creggers had lunch with Staley, this season, Staley said this scholarship is just Welch and her mother on Tuesday, April 21, another milestone for the team in their mission to where they told them the news. Staley said when build their program to the highest level. they told Welch about it, she was at a loss for “This raises the bar for what we’re trying to words. accomplish for our program both on and off the This is uncommon for the emotional leader of court,” Staley said.
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May 13, 2015
Martin’s ‘Third Annual B-Ball of the South’ a great night for a great cause by brian hand Executive Editor
There are just some things in life that are bigger than your day job. And the fight against cancer is definitely one of those things and South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin and his wife Anya even in the busy portion of the recruiting season come together annually this time of year to help raise money and garner awareness each and every year through their “B-Ball of the South” that benefits “Coaches vs. Cancer.” “The Third Annual B-Ball of the South,” held at the Colonial Life Arena on Friday, May 1, 2015, is the biggest one yet. In its first two years, “The B-Ball of the South” had already raised a combined $269,470 to benefit the “Coaches vs. Cancer” initiative. “The Third Annual B-Ball of the South” sold out even before the doors opened for the special event that was styled after the Kentucky Oaks this year. Frank and Anya Martin and their foundation, The Frank and Anya Martin Family Foundation, could not have been more pleased with how everything came together for “The Third Annual B-Ball of the South.” “I just show up. She (Anya) does all the work. This is her baby. Her and Holly Jefferson and the rest of the members of their committee, they’re the ones that have done all the work. I’m real, real proud of my wife and what she’s done here,” Frank About Coaches vs. Cancer: Martin said. “It’s wonderful to see it all come together The Coaches vs. Cancer program is a and come to life, especially since we tried nationwide collaboration between the to give it a different spin this year and American Cancer Society and the Namake it pink for breast cancer, so definitetional Association of Basketball Coaches ly glad to see that all of our friends here in (NABC) that empowers basketball Columbia and afar came together for this coaches, their teams, and local commuspecial night,” Anya Martin noted. nities to make a difference in the fight Those in attendance at the special event were treated to a live auction, heavy horsagainst cancer. The program leverages d’oeuvres and dancing. Local band “The the personal experiences, community Root Doctors” provided the music on the leadership, and professional excellence evening. In honor of styling the event after of basketball coaches nationwide to the Kentucky Oaks there was even a horse increase cancer awareness and proin attendance. mote healthy living through year-round “I definitely think us bringing new ideas awareness efforts, fundraising activities, to the event is making it grow. We love and advocacy programs. having it here in the Colonial Life Arena just because basketball is our home and I don’t know if we want to change that (ven- make it happen,” Anya Martin stated. ue) to be honest with you. We just might The college basketball coaching comhave to keep thinking up different ways to munity is extremely tight and even in
photo by brian hand
the busy part of recruiting season some of Frank Martin’s coaching friends took the time to be there such as Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith and Stephen F. Austin head coach and former Gamecock men’s basketball assistant coach Brad Underwood. Even ESPN basketball insider Jeff Goodman was in town to support the cause. Also in attendance were numerous Gamecock basketball legends, including Hall of Famer Alex English. Columbia native and former NBA star and head coach Tyrone Corbin was also in attendance. “This is a busy time of year for us because we’re hosting recruits this time of year and you work the whole month of April to find recruits that you can bring on campus right now. They’re so gracious, traveling across the country like Tubby Smith, Brad Underwood. Jeff Goodman’s right in the middle of it and with the news of (former Florida head coach, new Okla-
homa City head coach) Billy Donovan he’s like right in the middle of one of the major news stories in our business and yet he’s here. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to create friendships with folks that when you ask them to come support something they don’t ask what, why? They just say ‘I’ll be there,’” Frank Martin mentioned. Underwood said obviously he is extremely fond of the city of Columbia and the University of South Carolina from his time there, but at the end of the day he is willing to do anything to support the Martins. “One thing I’m going to always do is support anything that Frank asks me to do. He’s one of my dear friends and will be for life and our relationship means a great deal to me, so when he calls, I’m here. And obviously I’ve been very involved with Coaches vs. Cancer for many years as well so that’s just the icing on the cake (for being there) so to speak,” Underwood relayed.
May 13, 2015
Spurs & Feathers â€˘ 5
6 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
Cann: ‘I’m blessed and thankful’ by collyn taylor Reporter
Going into the second day of the NFL Draft on Friday, May 1, 2015, it was supposed to be a short wait for A.J. Cann. Projected by most to go 50th overall to the Bills, he would only have to wait 18 picks into the second round to hear his name called. But, when the second round ended, his phone hadn’t rung and his name hadn’t been called. “As soon as the second round was over, I almost went to my room to finish watching it, but that’s when my phone rang,” Cann said. The person on the As soon as other end of the line was a representative the second from the Jacksonville Jaguars telling him round the organization was was over, I going to draft him with the third pick in almost went the third round (67th to my room overall). Cann had to wait 26 hours after the draft to finish started Thursday, watching it, April 30, 2015 at 8 p.m. to hear his name but that’s called, but he said getting the phone call when my from the Jags was phone rang. everything it lived up to be. Cann became the A.J. Cann 101st player to play under head coach Steve Spurrier to be drafted. “I felt like I benched three million pounds off my chest. It’s great,” Cann said. “I’m just ready to get to Jacksonville and get started.” He said he didn’t have many interest meetings with the Jaguars and didn’t know they had much interest in him and when he got the phone call he said couldn’t wrap his head around it. Coming in, there is talk of him playing guard or center in the NFL. Cann said he hasn’t played much center in his career, but he’s willing to play any position if it means he can play in the league. “Everything happens for a reason,” Cann said. “God made it possible for me to go to Jacksonville and you can’t go wrong with his decision. He got me in Jacksonville, so I’m blessed and thankful.” He joins notable players Gerald Dixon,
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Chris Culliver, Duce Staley and Jared Cook as Gamecocks drafted in the third round. Cann also joins former teammate in wide receiver Ace Sanders in Jacksonville. Sanders was drafted 101st overall (fourth round) in 2013. “Me and Ace are really good friends,” Cann said. “Now I’ll probably be playing with him.” It was a quick turnaround for the AllAmerican as Jaguar rookie minicamps started on May 7. Cann said when he got the phone call his emotions started to hit him.
“When my family came hugging and telling me how proud they were of me, I couldn’t help it,” Cann said. “I was trying to hold it in, but it was coming out. I just started tearing up and crying. There it is. Tears of joy.” Jacksonville and Cann’s hometown of Bamberg, S.C. are a mere 229 miles apart, or three hours and 20 minutes driving. Cann said being that close to home is great because his family can come watch him play. And, without a solid starter at either guard position, it is not out of reach for Cann
to see significant playing time during his rookie season. “It means a whole lot knowing this is what he was hoping for,” Cann’s father Isiah Cann said. “He said he wanted to live closer to home and give his friends, family and loved ones the opportunity to get there without distractions.” Cann, who was a four-year starter at South Carolina, made the second-most starts in school history with 51. He was highly decorated out of college, earning numerous AllAmerican honors during his four years and he was a two-time captain.
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May 13, 2015
Mike Davis drafted by the 49ers in fourth round For the third consecutive year the San Francisco 49ers went with a former Gamecock football standout in the fourth round. This year it was running back Mike Davis who was tabbed with the 27th pick of the fourth round and the 126th overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. In addition to picking running back Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft and wide receiver Bruce Ellington in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the 49ers also picked cornerback Chris Culliver (now with the Washington Redskins) in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. NFL.com describes Davis as a powerful runner who can bounce between defenders like a pinball. Davis agrees, saying at South Carolina’s Pro Day on April 1, he mimics Seattle Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch and his angry running style. Others have compared him to former SEC running back and current Kansas City Chief Knile Davis. NFL.com has said that an apt comparison is Washington Redskins running 18 yards shy (982) of joining Heisman Winback Alfred Morris. ner George Rogers as the only Gamecocks Davis finished his junior season in 2014 just with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. In
photo by allen sharpe
his sophomore campaign in 2013, Davis finished with 1,183 yards rushing and had seven games with over 100 yards rushing. Davis in
total rushed for over 100 yards in a game 11 times in his Gamecock career, which is tied for second in school history behind Rogers. Davis concluded his Gamecock career ninth on the South Carolina all-time rushing list with 2,440 yards rushing. ESPN analyst Todd McShay considers the 49ers’ pick of Davis a strong one. “I like this pick because Mike Davis if you go back and study him in 2013 he was one of the best backs in college football. He was wearing down some of the best defenses in the nation in the SEC,” McShay noted. “He catches the ball very well for a big guy. Like I said, he wears down defenses with more and more touches. He can come in now and compete with Carlos Hyde. They brought in Reggie Bush, they’ve got Kendall Hunter; I like the competition part of this pick for the San Francisco 49ers.” Former NFL Super Bowl-winning executive and current ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian also really liked the pickup by the 49ers of Davis. “(He’s a) Steve Spurrier back so he knows the passing game. He knows routes. He can step right in (and play and) in addition to which he really has great running instincts. He can make you miss,” Polian stated.
by Brian hand Executive Editor
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May 13, 2015
Anderson selected by the 49ers in the seventh round by Brian hand Executive Editor Former South Carolina tight end Rory “Busta” Anderson was taken with the 254th pick (seventh round) of the NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Anderson was the second Gamecock to be drafted by San Francisco in this year’s NFL Draft as Mike Davis was tabbed with the 27th pick of the fourth round and the 126th overall pick. South Carolina record-setting quarterback Dylan Thompson will also join the duo in the San Francisco camp as he was signed by the 49ers as an undrafted free agent. Anderson was the fourth Gamecock taken in this year’s NFL Draft as A.J. Cann was picked in the third round (67th pick) by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Corey Robinson was taken with the 240th pick (seventh round) of the 2015 NFL Draft. Anderson finished his career as a Gamecock having hauled in 61 catches for 954 yards. Injury-plagued for a great deal of his career, Anderson started in 19 games for the Gamecocks. A Mackey Award Watch List candidate during the 2014 season, Anderson is an incredible athlete at 6-foot-5, 244 pounds. In fact, NFL Media Analyst Charles Davis placed Anderson on the 2015 NFL Draft All-Underrated Team, noting “if not for the injury issues, I think he would be in the conversation with the most highly touted tight ends in the draft.” CBSSports.com described Anderson as a jumbo athlete who can give fits to defenses down the seam. He has extensive injury history, but can be a mismatch versus linebackers.”
photo by allen sharpe
Robinson tabbed by Lions in seventh round by Brian Hand Executive Editor
photo by jenny dilworth
in the SEC in the 2014 season after South Carolina’s win over Georgia. Robinson played offensive and The Detroit Lions tabbed South defensive line for the Gamecocks in Carolina offensive tackle Corey his career. Robinson with the 240th pick (sevListed at 6-foot-7 and 324 pounds, enth round) of the 2015 NFL Draft. the offensive tackle according to The pick of Robinson marked NFL.com “has a massive frame and the second time in the last three very large arms.” years that the Lions had plucked a Prior to the start of the 2014 seaGamecock in the draft as they also son, NFL.com said that Robinson selected former Gamecock standout was the third-most physical player Devin Taylor with the 132nd pick in college football. (fourth round) of the 2013 NFL ESPN analyst Todd McShay deDraft. tailed Robinson after his drafting by Robinson was a three-year starter simply saying “he’s just a massive, for the Gamecocks who was named massive man. He’s big and you can’t the Offensive Lineman of the Week coach his kind of size and measur-
ables … there is talent there.” Detroit Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn in a press conference after the drafting of Robinson said that the Lions really liked what they were getting in Robinson and that they had specifically worked him out in Columbia. Washburn also praised South Carolina offensive line coach Shawn Elliott with the job he does developing his players, saying “they do a really good job of developing their guys.” “Just a fantastic young man … excited about him adding depth to our tackle spot,” Washburn said of Robinson.
Spurs & Feathers • 9
May 13, 2015
Former Gamecocks pick up rookie free agent deals by brian hand Executive Editor
South Carolina’s Damiere Byrd, Cody Gibson, Nick Jones, J.T. Surratt and Dylan Thompson will have a chance to make an NFL roster in the coming months. Byrd was tabbed to a rookie free agent deal with the Carolina Panthers shortly after the conclusion of the 2015 NFL Draft. Byrd ran the 40-yard dash at South Carolina’s Pro Day at an unofficial time of 4.25 seconds to put him among the best in the nation in the category. In addition, Byrd had a 42-inch vertical leap and 10-foot-11 broad jump. Byrd did the short shuttle in 4.03 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.6 seconds. In addition, Byrd outdid pretty much everybody in the nation unofficially with a 10.90 seconds showing in the 60-yard long shuttle. Byrd was measured at 5-foot-9 and 1/4 at South Carolina’s Pro Day on April 1. The two-sport athlete at South Carolina finished his senior season in 2014 having caught 20 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns. Byrd felt like his Pro Day would give him the opportunity he received from the Panthers. “The numbers felt great, doing routes, catching balls, things like that, so I think I definitely helped myself,” Byrd said after South Carolina’s Pro Day.
Gibson received an invite to the New York Jets rookie mini-camp on a tryout basis. The Jets listed him as a tight end in the announcement. Gibson played some offensive tackle and tight end for the Gamecocks. Gibson put together a strong Pro Day and he knew at the time he might get an opportunity with an NFL team. “For moving from O-Line to tight end in one year, I think I did well today,” Gibson, who was measured at 6-foot-6 and 5/8 and 277 pounds, said. “I caught every ball and came in at a good weight. I hit all my numbers on the vertical jump, broad jump and the bench press, so I think I had a great day.” Jones reached an agreement with the Cleveland Browns for a rookie free agent deal the evening of Saturday, May 2. Jones was second among all Gamecocks in the 2014 season with 42 receptions. The wide receiver amassed 504 yards receiving last year, while also collecting five touchdowns. In his Gamecock career, Jones finished with 93 career receptions for 1,125 yards and 11 touchdowns in 48 games. Jones made 19 starts. Listed at 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, Jones is an undersized receiver, but that does not bother him one bit. He is just out to prove himself. He reiterated that at South Carolina’s annual Pro Day on Wednesday, April 1. “I’ve been under the radar all my life, dating
back from high school and then coming here (South Carolina). A lot of people thought I was just here because of Marcus (Lattimore) and I just wanted to showcase my abilities and my talents (at Pro Day) and show them that I can play football.” Surratt has been invited to be a part of the Raiders rookie minicamp during the middle of May. One of South Carolina’s four permanent team captains during the 2014 season, Surratt closed out his senior season with 30 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss. He blocked a field goal in the South Carolina road win at Vanderbilt. One year earlier, Surratt collected 33 tackles and 4.0 tackles for loss. He had 1.5 sacks in the 2013 season. In total, Surratt made 26 starts for the Gamecocks in his career. NFL.com says that “Surratt’s effort is good inside the tackle box and he’s tough at the point of attack.” At South Carolina’s Pro Day, Surratt benched 225 pounds 33 times. He also ran an official 5.05 40-yard dash. Measured at 6-foot-1 and 305 pounds, Surratt said at South Carolina’s Pro Day that he is willing to do whatever it takes to prove himself and he’ll be ready when the time comes. “Just staying in shape and staying ready at all times,” Surratt said. “I’m just waiting on my name to be called every time. Just being ready at all times.”
photo by allen sharpe
Thompson inked an undrafted rookie free agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers just minutes after the 2015 NFL Draft concluded. Thompson concluded his lone season as the full-time starter at quarterback for the Gamecocks in the 2014 season with a school singleseason record of 3,564 yards passing. He averaged 274.2 yards passing per game and threw 26 touchdowns. At South Carolina’s Pro Day on Wednesday, April 1, Thompson was a perfect 41-of-41. Listed at 6-foot-1 3/4 and 217 pounds, Thompson is a good size for an NFL quarterback. Thompson said at South Carolina’s Pro Day that he knows many people are already counting him out, but he is looking forward to trying to prove people wrong. “I’m a guy if you’re putting money on the line, you’re probably not having it on me right now, but that’s fine with me. I want to go to a camp and earn a job and just be in whatever position I can to succeed and that’s what I’m looking forward to,” Thompson said.
10 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
Lessons learned at South Carolina helping Powell at NGU by brian hand Executive Editor In the 2014 season, the North Greenville baseball team finished with an overall record of 8-35 (2-18 Conference Carolinas). One year later, the Crusaders so far are 2923 (14-12 Conference Carolinas). The difference? A coaching staff helmed by Gamecock baseball great and former Major Leaguer Landon Powell that also features another former Gamecock baseball standout and Major Leaguer in Jon Coutlangus. More impressive than the huge increase in wins is the fact that Powell and his coaching staff will be taking North Greenville to their inaugural NCAA Division II Tournament after the Crusaders won their first-ever Conference Carolinas Tournament championship recently. “Going in and taking over a team that won eight games last year, I don’t think many people thought we’d be going to a regional or winning a conference championship,” Powell said. “I’d be lying if I told you I thought we would the first year. There was no doubt in my mind that we were eventually going to win a conference championship and eventually go to regionals. That was why I took the job. I felt like between myself and my assistant coaches we could turn it around. We believed in ourselves, but it just happened a lot quicker than we thought.” As a player, the Apex, N.C. native fashioned such a career at South Carolina that he was named to the NCAA World Series Legends team in 2010 as a catcher. The two-time All-SEC selection closed out his time as a Gamecock as an All-American as coach,” Tanner said to Spurs & Feathers a senior. After the conclusion of his stellar playing May 13, 2014. “He played the game at the career at South Carolina, Powell was a first- highest level. He respected it. He knows round (24th overall) pick in the 2004 Major how difficult it can be at times. He was League Baseball Draft by the Oakland a student-athlete. He’s tremendous with Athletics. young people. He’s a college graduate. I just Powell’s professional career lasted six sea- think he’s a perfect fit and I fully expect sons and he spent three of the him to be on the fast track to six seasons as a member of a major college position in the Athletics with one of the coaching college baseball.” highlights of his career being Tanner’s thoughts are provthat he caught Dallas Braden’s ing to be spot-on as it turns perfect game in a victory over out Powell’s time at South the Tampa Bay Rays on May Carolina has played a rather 9, 2010. large role in the success of Former South Carolina base- All Gamecock baseball the Crusaders this season. ball head coach and current coverage sponsored by “I had a great college expeDiPrato’s Athletics Director Ray Tanner rience at South Carolina and was Powell’s head coach durwas fortunate enough to play ing his time as a Gamecock and he felt like at for some great college coaches who let us the time of his hiring at North Greenville big have fun, who taught us how to compete,” things were in the future for Powell. Powell said. “It was never a job for us at “I think he’s a natural fit to be a college South Carolina. It was never business. The
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game of baseball was always a game and we played it like a game. And my teammates at South Carolina, we always played like we were on a sandlot field. That was part of our identity when we were there is that we were going to be grittier than everybody else we played. We were going to dive more and get dirty and have more tenacity and fight and I really believe that about the teams that I was on at South Carolina back in the early 2000s, that’s who we were. You had those schools like Georgia Tech, Florida and even LSU that had the top recruiting classes that on paper were supposed to beat you every time. We weren’t that team. We had a bunch of nobodies, a bunch of JuCo bandits that could play too, but nobody knew who we were and so that was kind of our identity. “That was perfect for this year too at North Greenville. That’s exactly who North Greenville had to be this year. It took me back to my years at Carolina and how much fun that was as a player and I tried to instill
in our guys this year at North Greenville and to see them respond and get it and figure it out and be that gritty, scrappy, clawing, never-giving-up team, that was a lot of fun. It rejuvenated a lot about the game of baseball that I had probably forgotten about playing professionally,” Powell continued. The NCAA Division II regionals will be played May 14-17. Just like they were before the start of the year, more than likely the Crusaders will not be expected to win the regional to go to the NCAA Division II Baseball Championships at the USA Baseball Complex May 23-30, in Cary, N.C., but that is just fine with Powell and the Crusaders. They’ll be there to win. “We just do everything okay. We’re not great at anything, but the category that they don’t have statistics on is the one we win the most and that’s heart. We out-heart people. We play with a little bit different intensity and passion than I see other teams play with,” Powell concluded.
Spurs & Feathers • 11
May 13, 2015
Four years, four rings: National title caps off impressive four-year run by kyle heck Reporter
After nearly a month of having to think about how they came up empty at the SEC championship, the Gamecocks went into Waco, Texas with the mindset that they were not going to be stopped. They weren’t, either. South Carolina ran through Fresno State, Baylor and Georgia on their way to its third national championship and first since 2007. Three weeks before the national championship, the Gamecocks entered the SEC championship in College Station, Texas as the No. 2 seed. However, they were upset by both Texas A&M and Auburn to finish a disappointing fourth. Head coach Boo Major and her team spent the next few weeks doing a lot of talking and soul-searching. The Gamecocks had gotten used to winning and the two losses shocked the entire team. It was a feeling they did not want to feel again. “By the time we got to Waco, we were all pumped up,” said senior Amber Henter. “We knew we were there for one job and all we wanted to do was to win that national title. I think SEC’s was a wake-up call for us. It was just one of those weekends where we realized we weren’t invincible and we actually had to work to win. It wasn’t going to be handed to us.” Work the Gamecocks did. South Carolina dominated Fresno State, the United Equestrian Conference champions, 12-4, in the first meet of the NCEA nationals. Both Henter and Katherine Schmidt won both of their points to pace the team. In the semifinals, the Gamecocks dispatched another conference champion. This time it was host Baylor of the Big 12, who South Carolina defeated, 10-6. The Gamecocks quickly jumped out to a 4-1 lead and held off the Bears for the victory. Later that same day, South Carolina took on Georgia for the national championship. It was a rematch from last year, when the Gamecocks conceded the title to the Bulldogs. However, the Gamecocks were not going to let history repeat itself. After the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead, Henter and fellow senior Adele Norton won the next two points to take back the lead for South Carolina. It stayed close until things got to the jumping arena. There, the Gamecocks won three of four points to jump out to a 7-5 lead. That
Photo by Anthony Hall
provided the spark the Gamecocks needed, as they also won three of four points in reining to seal the 10-6 victory. It was an impressive run, as South Carolina, ranked No. 3 coming into the championship, knocked off both teams ranked ahead of them in the same day. “It was different this go-round,” Major said. “They were very determined to win and we weren’t afraid of anybody.” It was a fantastic sendoff for the nine seniors on the team. It took them four years, but they finally accomplished the goal they had since they first stepped on campus. “It was a pretty emotional time for all of us,” said Henter, who was named the team MVP at this year’s Gamecock Gala. “Finally grasping that title and knowing it was ours, it was just a really awesome feeling. Especially with me being a senior and a captain; I’ve wanted this since day one of my freshman year. It was just a really, really great feeling and I’m still kind of on cloud nine right now. “Us as a senior class, we’ve really been working so hard for this and this was our
goal from the very beginning,” Henter added. “For it to happen in our last meet of our collegiate career was just awesome and I know we’re all really grateful that we had the opportunity to make it that far.” Major said she was extremely happy for the senior class and will definitely miss them. Even the ones that did not make it on the pitch played a pivotal role in the title, doing important work behind the scenes. “Elizabeth deGolian on the hunt seat side and Melanie Cormier on the western side were really doing a lot of behind the scenes stuff,” Major said. “I think that was crucial. There was a lot of leadership and the whole group really took responsibility for trying to improve upon what happened at SEC’s. I think the whole team bought into it. I think they’ll go down in USC equestrian history as one of the stronger classes that we’ve had come through.” The stats back up Major’s claim. The senior class won some sort of championship every year they were on campus. In their freshman season, the class won the final Southern Equestrian Championship.
After that, the Gamecocks won back-toback SEC championships. The group then topped it off with a national championship this year. It was definitely a season of up and downs, as the Gamecocks dropped the first two meets of the season before reeling off seven straight victories. After a loss at Texas A&M, the Gamecocks won the final two meets of the regular-season. Then it was the disappointing performance at the SEC championship and then the memorable run in Waco. For Major, the performance in Waco was one of the most impressive she has witnessed. “I would say it was the most complete competition, as far as the championship, that I’ve been involved with,” Major said. “I just felt like that every competition that we got into, whether it was Fresno State, Baylor or Georgia, the girls were going in very confident and not nervous or worried. They were just going out there and trying to put in the best ride that they possibly could.”
12 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
Tough road schedule on tap in 2015 season
When asked, “how do you think we’ll do this season?” my answer is, “I believe we have the potential to be pretty good, but,” I add, “can the Gamecocks survive their road schedule?” Of course it goes without saying that every SEC schedule is brutal, but what makes 2015 especially challenging is the way the eight games are split. Carolina has away games at Georgia, Missouri, Texas A&M and Tennessee. Let’s review. Georgia’s year went as it often has in the past – the Cocks won 38-35 in Columbia and the Bulldogs went on to win 10 games with the only other conference loss to Florida. Coach Mark Richt has a contract extension, the Bulldogs are preseason ranked as high as 8th, and are the favorite to win the Eastern Division. Glenn Snyder While there will Inside be a new starting Look quarterback, a veteran offensive line will lead the way for outstanding running back Nick Chubb. Always hard to win between the hedges. The Tigers were also 10-3 last year, won their second-straight SEC East Division title and finished the season with an impressive Citrus Bowl victory over Minnesota. One of the 10 was a heartbreaking 21-20 road win over the Gamecocks, the first of what would become a four-game conference losing streak. They are preseason ranked 18th, and return super-experienced quarterback Maty Mauk. It was only the second half miracle by Connor Shaw that allowed the Gamecocks to escape with a victory in their first-ever trip to the other Columbia in 2013, something the current Tigers will no doubt be reminded of often over the summer. There’s also no doubt that the Aggies exposed what would become a season-long issue for the Gamecocks in the season opener – the defense’s inability to keep offenses out of the end zone. A&M went on to an 8-5 record. The Aggies are preseason ranked 20th, and the offense will likely be as explosive as last season, with sophomore Kyle Allen, considered the No. 1 prospect coming out of high school last season, and starter in the last four games. It will be USC’s first visit to College Station, and the Aggies unique “12th Man” environment. The overtime loss to the Vols was another one of those shoulda, woulda, coulda
photo by allen sharpe
Nobody will ever forget what happened the last time South Carolina played in the other Columbia. The Gamecocks are at Missouri on Oct. 3. heartbreaks of last season. UT finished 7-6 but with 19 starters (10 offense, 9 defense) returning, expectations are that the Vols will be the top challenger to Georgia in the East. Let me issue a warning. Tennessee’s recruiting class was ranked as high as 4th. Butch Jones and staff are returning the program to its former status as one of the recruiting elites. They will be a top contender
for the title for the foreseeable future. While considered a “neutral” site, the Gamecocks will travel 100 miles up the road to Charlotte to face North Carolina in the season opener. The Tar Heel program is still struggling to overcome the fallout from revelations of academic fraud. Despite a 6-7 season, UNC signed a top 25 class, but “The Carolina” should still have
better talent, and serve as a barometer for the Gamecocks moving forward. Home games against LSU, Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson will certainly be no walks in the park, but Coach Steve Spurrier’s team must continue a tradition of playing well away from Williams-Brice to have a great season. It’s a great time to be a Gamecock!
May 13, 2015
Spurs & Feathers • 13
photo by brian hand
HBC visits with ‘super-bunch of Gamecocks’ in Aiken by Brian hand Executive Editor
that’s okay,” Spurrier told those in attendance just 133 days away from the kickoff of the 2015 season against North Carolina South Carolina head football coach on Thursday, Sept. 3. Steve Spurrier has really enjoyed visitSpurrier was making his first visit to ing Gamecocks throughout the state of Aiken since 2010 and Aiken County South Carolina this spring. The HBC Gamecock Club President Chris Fulmer started his annual spring talks this year was thrilled that the HBC was taking the on Wednesday, March 18, in Greenwood, time. S.C. and concluded his tour of the state “We’re glad to have him back (in Aion Wednesday, April 22, at the Aiken ken). We’ve got a good group here. We’ve County Shrine Club in Aiken, S.C. got a packed house of about 200 folks or Not that he ever thought he would not a little more,” Fulmer said minutes before be received warmly, Spurrier nevertheSpurrier took the stage. less could not be more appreciative of the Just a couple of days before making his way he has been treated over the course way to Aiken, the HBC had turned 70 and of the little over a month stretch that also Fulmer and the Aiken County Gamecock included visits to Sumter, S.C. and DarClub after he finished talking presented lington, S.C. him with a birthday cake that said “Happy “All the Gamecocks have been super,” 70th Birthday to the Head Ball Coach.” Spurrier relayed to the media before Gamecock Club Executive Director talking at the Aiken County Gamecock Patrick McFarland was also extremely Club spring banquet. “They’re fired up. pleased to be back in Aiken with the They’re ready to go. They understood HBC. what happened last year. It wasn’t 11-2, “It’s good to be back. It’s always a ton but it was a winning season and a bowl of big Gamecocks here, so it is fantastic victory, so I think relief is the way most to be back in Aiken, S.C. There’s a lot of of us feel. I know I do. I think we all feel great Gamecocks in Aiken, S.C.,” McFardecent that’s how the year turned out.” land noted. Spurrier is now completely looking forSpurrier agreed with McFarland, telling ward to the 2015 season. the local media there to cover the event “We feel like we’ve got a fighting that “it’s a super-bunch of Gamecocks chance. We won’t be picked very high, but here (in Aiken).”
14 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
Calliham passionate about cars and the Gamecocks by Brian hand Executive Editor
Bob Calliham has many passions. Two of them are football and, of course, the Gamecocks. After finishing a four-year playing stint at Wofford, Calliham went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina in 1975. He’s been a member of the Gamecock Club ever since and has even served as the Horry County Gamecock Club chapter president. He’s also served two terms on the prestigious Gamecock Club Executive Committee. Another passion of Calliham’s is cars. Calliham, who lives in the Myrtle Beach area, decided to tie his love of the Gamecocks and cars together by updating a 1955 Chevy hot rod. More specifically, a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door hardtop. “It’s one of those things that’s kind of been like a lifelong dream for me,” Calliham said. “I grew up in Edgefield, S.C. It was football and cars. That’s what all the guys in my era were attracted to and sought after. I was no different than any of the rest and I always enjoyed cars and one of the cars that was always one of my favorites was a ‘55 Chevy.
And I was fortunate enough over 25 years ago now I bought this car as a driver from a man in Conway, S.C. I drove it as a driver for 15-18 years.” Calliham is also very passionate as you could imagine about his family and the updated Gamecock hot rod he decided would not only look good, but also be able to be passed down to his grandchildren. “I started to restore it and I decided I want my grandchildren to be able to drive this car and once I made that decision it went from being a restoration to being in what in the auto-lingo they call a restorod, which means that all of the working parts are updated and new and the interior and all of that stuff, but the exterior still looks like the original car. I decided to change the colors and I said I’m going to go garnet and black and as I evolved through the rest of the restoration it just sort of took on a life of its own,” Calliham said. The finished body and restoration product that took aboout 10 years is truly a work of art for all Gamecock fans. “I sort of really enjoyed the whole process and once I finished the restoration, I was kind of like ‘now, what am I going to do?’ The car has been so much fun to drive,” Calliham
mused. More grandchildren down the line might expedite that process. “It’s sort of funny,” Calliham relayed. “When I first made that decision, I had no grandchildren. In fact, I had no married children at that point. But I was assuming that my son was going to marry and that they were going to have grandchildren. I now have a two-year-old granddaughter. I’m anxious about having her enjoy riding in it first and secondly down the road driving it.” If another grandchild does in fact come into the fold, he knows full well that another restoration may indeed be in his future. “I guess I’ll have to figure it out and get another vehicle. We’ll worry about that when it happens,” Calliham joked.
etc. were shaved (hot rod lingo for removed and holes filled) and smoothed resulting in a sleek and smooth presentation that updates the car. So, with no door handles, the doors are opened from the outside with a key fob that sends a signal to an actuator that “pops” the doors open; if the system were to fail, for example a dead battery in the key fob, there is a hidden manual access to open the driver’s door. The exterior is updated but the rolling chassis and interior are where the car is dramatically modernized with such additions as power rack and pinion steering, coilover shocks, disc brakes, new Chevrolet crate engine, halogen headlights, LED taillights, etc. Then, the interior, made with a combination of pebbled leather to represent football and garnet material from MercedesBenz for the seats and carpet together with Information on the Gamecock hot rod air conditioning, dual amp DVD Bluetooth from Calliham: stereo, power windows and seats, courtesy Connecting the two passions is done subtlly lights, console with storage, polished alumithroughout the restoration beginning with the num and wood dash inserts, etc., all coupled black and garnet colors on the exterior and with subtle Gamecock presentations such as the retractable personalized tag that reads engravings on the dash insert and horn butGMCK 55. All of the exterior protruding ton, molded Gamecock seat buttons, and, my chrome such as door handles, the gas door, favorite, the rear of the headliner is stitched hood and trunk ornaments, side chrome, like Gamecock tailfeathers.
May 13, 2015
Spurs & Feathers • 15
Gamecock student-athlete Olivia Hassler draws on personal experience to fight domestic abuse by brad muller South Carolina Director of Content
say things he wanted me to say. I just said ‘I don’t love you anymore,’ and he started slamming my face into the concrete. It was EMPOWERED about seven times that I remember, and then Where there was once pain and suffering, I blacked out.” South Carolina junior Olivia Hassler found She woke up in a bathtub with the boystrength and the power of words to combat friend attempting to wipe the blood from her domestic violence. face. When she told him again that she was “Some days are good, and some days are ending the relationship, there was more rage. bad,” said junior Olivia Hassler. “It’s some“He slammed my face off the side of the thing that sticks with you the rest of your life tub,” Hassler said. “After that, I blacked out no matter what. I still have nightmares. I’ll again. I don’t remember much after that.” wake up, and I’ll be sweating hard. I look She woke up in the hospital two days later. over my shoulder when I walk. It’s not often Hassler was told that she was found on the that I will freak out about it anymore, but it’s ground outside next to her car. They thought always in the back of your head.” she had been jumped by a mugger and Hassler, a member of South Carolina’s beaten up, but she was too scared to tell them track and field team, is speaking out against otherwise. domestic violence after a vicious episode “I had to start over,” Hassler said. “I didn’t with her now ex-boyfriend more than two really tell anybody about it. When I did, a lot years ago left her unconscious and hospital- of them didn’t believe me or thought I was ized, along with some permanent physical exaggerating. My parents were upset that and psychological damage. Like many I was in a relationship with him, but they victims of domestic violence, Hassler was at hadn’t known about any of the stuff that had first reluctant to tell anyone about what hap- happened. I was embarrassed to tell them. pened. Now she is standing tall and sharing I couldn’t bring myself to tell them until a her experiences to rooms full of fellow stuwhile after.” dents at the Russell House on campus in the Hassler returned to South Carolina in the hopes that others in similar situations will fall, but was initially still quiet about what seek help. had happened. She finally told her coaches in “I went through the whole thing by myearly October after going home for fall break self,” Hassler said. “I wish I had spoken out and telling her parents everything that ocsooner or had someone I could look up to curred as well. and say ‘she went through it and she’s stand“They were hurt just because I didn’t come ing up there being able to speak about it.’ I to them first,” Hassler said. “They were just didn’t have that, so it’s worthwhile knowing very supportive. When I went home, he was that someone is touched by what I was saystill bothering me and would show up places ing.” where I was. I just decided I couldn’t do it anymore and I needed to take legal action. I CELLAR decided it was time to tell my coaches that as Hassler had met her boyfriend back home well. Once I told my coaches, I told my good in Pennsylvania, and continued the relation- friends on the team too. I told a couple of ship during her freshman year as she came to other people on the team whom I was close South Carolina to compete for the Gamecock with, but most of the team didn’t know until track and field team in the throw events, spe- a little bit later.” cifically the javelin. Upon returning home to While she did get a restraining order Pennsylvania following her freshman year, against the ex-boyfriend, she regrets not takan argument erupted between the two. It ing legal action sooner. soon turned violent. “They had told me it would be a ‘he-said, “It got to the point where he locked me in she-said’ because I never spoke up while I a storm cellar,” Hassler said. “I was in there was in the hospital,” Hassler recalled. “They probably for two or three hours. Finally he said it would seem like I was making it up. let me out, but while I was in there he had They said I didn’t have a strong enough case. taken my keys and my cell phone, so I was A lot of people tell me that’s wrong, but it trapped. That’s when I really thought, this would be really hard to go through that and might be it. I could really die right here.” then have them tell me that it seems like I The fight escalated after Hassler told him made it up because I was too scared to say that she was ending their relationship. anything the first time.” “He just freaked out and then and he started punching me again,” Hassler said. “Then STRENGTH he was choking me and trying to get me to After opening up to her coaches about what
ing through. That makes it easier realizing that what you’re doing really matters to other people.” Hassler finds fortitude in the realization that she is not the only person who has been a victim of such abuse and that reaching out for help doesn’t make one a weak person. “You need to be strong for yourself,” Hashad happened, it was suggested that she go see Dr. Kendra Ogletree-Cusaac, a licensed sler said. “I didn’t reach out for the services at first because I thought it made me weak. clinical psychologist at the university, who It’s not true. Being able to admit that what had also worked with many Gamecock student-athletes as a sports psychologist until you’re going through is wrong and you need to change it and make a change for your her untimely passing last November. life, that’s more important. That’s being “I started seeing her last year during the strong. It’s good to talk to somebody about season because he had showed up to one how you’re feeling and what you’re going of the meets, and I kind of freaked out afthrough because for a while I thought I was terwards,” Hassler said. “I started getting flashbacks and stuff. I just went back to how crazy. I tried to sweep it under the rug and that just bottled things up and made it worse. I was when it first happened. So I finally Being able to speak about it is kind of like a started seeing her, and she was really supstrength.” portive of me as well. She was the one who Even though she had made the SEC really pushed me to speak out about it.” Academic Honor Roll before and after the Hassler was inspired to bring her story to violent episode, Hassler has had to adapt to the masses in the hopes that others would find strength and healing after attending the some lasting physical effects. She claims she annual Mayor’s Walk Against Domestic Vio- has suffered some brain damage effecting her ability to study and remember what she lence in Columbia last October. has learned as easily as before the incident. “Someone got up and shared their story, As for the psychological scars, Hassler conand it clicked with me that if I would tell my tinues to seek counseling. story, it could have an impact on people,” “It’s really important,” Hassler said. Hassler said. “I have good grades, and I’m “There’s just some stuff that sticks with you. really involved in the community, but a There are things that might trigger a flashlot of people would never know that I had back. I know how to handle it, but I might went through all of that. I wish I had gone have questions like ‘why did that happen’ or to something like that earlier and someone what’s really bothering me about a situation would have told me about all of these services that are available. That’s the one regret that is making me upset? There’s little stuff that I will always have – that I didn’t pursue that might trigger something that you didn’t realize you were still upset about. Some days it from the beginning. That’s why I want to are better than others. So on those days when speak out about it because I feel like a lot people are scared to do that and don’t realize you’re having a bad day, you can talk to those people, and you can have a judgmentthat is the best option. If you don’t do that, free zone. They’re unbiased. They just want it’s going to be worse.” to help you.” The domestic violence awareness hashtag Hassler has learned to start over. She no #voiceshavepower helped Hassler find the strength to speak out and make a difference. longer allows herself to be a victim and feels like she is gaining control, and just like an With encouragement from Dr. Cusaac, she athlete on the playing field, she finally feels planned a speaking engagement at the Ruslike she is winning. sell House on campus in December to tell “I definitely think so. Even though I have her story to anyone who wanted to listen. bad days, they’re not nearly what they were After telling her story, a young lady in the crowd approached her and explained that she when it first happened. I feel like I’m finally getting back to what matters, especially after was in an abusive relationship. “She told me that she wasn’t ready to stand the first speaking event, I felt empowered like what I’m doing really is making a difup and say that it was happening,” Hassler ference in people’s lives. I feel like what I’m said. “Now she says she wants to get help. doing is worth it. This is all coming together Just being able to do that gives me drive to now. I definitely want to do more.” speak about it again. It wasn’t a huge group of people, but even in that small group, there Please visit http://www.itsgreattobeagwas one person that had been through the amecock.com/hassler/ for a special video same thing and understood what I was go-
16 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
Student-athletes enjoy evening with their ‘Gamecock family’
by Kyle heck Reporter
Most of the time, student-athletes are seen in nothing but their sports gear; jerseys, cleats, swimsuits or football pads. However, there are those rare moments when they get to dress up and come together to celebrate all of their accomplishments. Monday, April 20 was one of those nights. South Carolina student-athletes came together at Colonial Life Arena for the 10th annual Gamecock Gala, where numerous awards and recognitions were handed out. A garnet carpet with the Gamecock logo on it was laid out at the front entrance and the student-athletes got a chance to walk down the carpet and get their picture taken. It was a breath of fresh air after the yearly grind of juggling sports and academics. “To see everyone dressed up and happy to come out smiling, that’s always a good time,” said men’s soccer senior Mahamoudou Kaba. Because most of their time is taken up by their sports, the student-athletes hardly ever get an opportunity to hang out with their fellow peers, much less celebrate other teams’ accomplishments and championships. Really the only time that most of them see each other is at the Dodie Academic Enrichment Center when they are either studying or eating. “This is a good time for all of the studentathletes to get together and get to know each other,” said football sophomore Pharoh Cooper. “We don’t really see each other so this is a good chance for us to learn who is on the other teams.” Some of those teams that were getting the most attention at the Gamecock Gala were the equestrian squad, who just captured their third national championship just days before, the women’s basketball team, who advanced to their first Final Four and the men’s and women’s golf teams, who both had strong showings at the SEC championships. “It says a lot about the University,” Kaba said of the various successes of the teams. “Those equestrian girls, the way they conduct themselves outside of the sport says a lot. It’s amazing that they won the national championship.” Women’s basketball junior Tiffany Mitchell had been busy over the couple of weeks before the Gamecock Gala racking up awards.
photo by jenny dilworth
She recently won the Dawn Staley award for the best guard in the nation and added a couple more. She was named the team MVP for women’s basketball and also picked up the school’s Female Athlete of the Year award. “I really haven’t had a weekend in Columbia since we got done playing, but it’s been fun,” Mitchell said. “I’m enjoying everything and taking it all in.” As the lobby filled up with student-athletes, everyone was looking around to see how they stacked up in terms of fashion. Most people kept it simple, with the guys wearing a suit and the girls wearing formal dresses.
But some people, like football junior Shon Carson, wanted to mix it up. Carson walked in with a red sports coat, white dress shirt, white pants and red shoes to match. “I’m just trying to be different,” Carson said. “I’ve got my own style. Red is my favorite color.” Carson wasn’t the only one looking forward to trying to impress his fellow studentathletes. Kaba said he has been looking forward to the Gamecock Gala ever since he first heard about it. “I went out and looked for a suit and tried to put something together,” said Kaba. “But
some of these guys I just couldn’t compete with.” Not only was it a rare opportunity to meet fellow student-athletes, it was also one of the last opportunities that seniors like Kaba had to participate in a school event while still a student. It was an emotional night because of that, but one they will cherish and remember for a long time. “These people, they are family,” Kaba said. “It’s just great to dress up and have fun with my guys. It’s emotional but they are definitely family. I will be with them forever.”
Spurs & Feathers • 17
May 13, 2015
South Carolina athletics celebrates student-athletes by collyn taylor Reporter The usual jerseys, cleats, sneakers and helmets were thrown away for suits, ties and dresses as the South Carolina athletics department hosted their annual Gamecock Gala. The formal event was held Monday, April 20, at Colonial Life Arena and it gave the over 500 student-athletes a chance to dress in their Sunday best and to have their achievements recognized by the athletic department. “This is a fun event,” men’s tennis sophomore Andrew Schafer said. “We get to dress up basically once a year, so all the athletes go all out for it. it’s a fun event. I’m excited for it.” There were numerous awards handed out during the gala: MVPs for each team, two scholarships, Student-Athletes of the Year, Scholar Athletes of the Year, Community Outreach Team of the Year, Athletes of the Year, the Gamecock Inspiration award and the President’s Award. Women’s basketball’s Tiffany Mitchell added to her constantly growing list of awards, taking home the team MVP award along with the Female Athlete of the Year award. She was already nominated for the National Player of the Year Award and won the Dawn Staley Award for the nation’s best guard. Swimming and diving’s Cole Miller and Will Starke of men’s golf were both recipients of the Male Athlete of the Year award. Coming off of his All-American performance at the national meet, Miller also won his team MVP award and won the SEC McWhorter Scholarship, which awards him a post-graduation $7,500 scholarship. Starke was also co-team MVP with Matt NeSmith. Mitchell’s women’s basketball counterpart freshman A’ja Wilson brought home some hardware as well, taking home the female New Student-Athlete award. The award is given to a student-athlete who is new to campus and excels in their sport and in the classroom. Wilson was co-winner with women’s soccer forward Savannah McCaskill. On the men’s side, swimming and diving freshman Akram Mahmoud won Male New Student-Athlete. Along with Miller, three other Gamecocks won scholarships. Erica Rucker from track and field won the McWhorter Scholarship while both women’s soccer’s Taylor Leach and football and track and field’s Damiere Byrd won the Davis Community Service Scholarship worth $5,000. Leach was part of the women’s soccer team that won this year’s Community Outreach Team of the Year award. Equestrian’s Adele Norton added female Scholar Athlete of the Year award to sit beside
Award Winners A complete list of award winners for the 2015 Gamecock Gala courtesy of South Carolina Athletics Media Relations is listed below: SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Award: Erika Rucker (track and field), Cole Miller (swimming) SEC Brad Davis Community Service Award: Taylor Leach (women’s soccer), Damiere Byrd (football) Female New Student-Athletes of the Year: A’ja Wilson (basketball), Savannah McCaskill (soccer) Male New Student-Athlete of the Year: Akram Mahmoud (swimming) Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Adele Norton (equestrian) Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Braeden Troyer (soccer) Community Outreach Team of the Year: Women’s Soccer Female Athlete of the Year: Tiffany Mitchell (basketball) Earnest Brooks Male Athletes of the Year: Cole Miller (swimming), Will Starke (golf) Gamecock Inspiration Award: Olivia Hassler (track and field) The Garnet Award: Ken and Cyndi Long The President’s Award: Sabrina D’Angelo (soccer)
photo by allen sharpe
Pictured is Sabrina D’Angelo receiving the President’s Award from Dr. Harris Pastides. her newly-accquired National Championship trophy, while Braeden Troyer can put his male Scholar Athlete award next to his Conference USA All-Conference selections among his many other laurels. Olivia Hassler from track and field won the Gamecock Inspiration Award for her fight with relationship violence and her standing up to an abusive person in her life. Last but not least, Sabrina D’Angelo of women’s soccer won the highest award given to a student-athlete: the President’s Award. One of the most decorated players in program history, D’Angelo helped take the team to the Elite Eight last season and is now playing professionally with the Western New York Flash in the National Women’s Soccer League. The event was a time for athletes that don’t normally get a chance to see each other during their seasons to take some time and hang
out with them. All the athletes said being an athlete at Carolina is being a part of a family and being at the Gala is a way of getting to see your big family. “We’re all very close. We all support each other,” football quarterback Connor Mitch said. “If it’s a big game, we’ll text or tweet each other to wish them good luck.” Wilson, who walked away with trophies in her first Gamecock Gala, said she loved seeing people all dressed up and compared it to a high school Prom. She said everyone takes it so seriously and she’s happy she gets to be involved in such a great event. “It means the world to me,” she said. “Last year I saw all the girls posting on Instagram about it, but to be here and see everyone outside of their uniforms and jerseys, it shows we have a different side to ourselves than just sports jerseys.”
Team MVPs: Women’s Basketball: Tiffany Mitchell Men’s Basketball: Duane Notice Cheerleading: Taryn Applebaum Carolina Girls Dance Team: Ashlyn Eadie Equestrian: Amber Henter Football: Dylan Thompson Women’s Golf: Justine Dreher Men’s Golf: Will Starke, Matt NeSmith Women’s Soccer: Stevi Parker Men’s Soccer: Braeden Troyer Softball (based on 2014 season): Ashlyn Masters Women’s Swimming and Diving: Meredith Vay Men’s Swimming and Diving: Cole Miller Women’s Tennis: Meghan Blevins Men’s Tennis: Kyle Koch Women’s Indoor Track and Field: Briana Haith Men’s Indoor Track and Field: Jermaine Collier Women’s Outdoor Track and Field (based on 2014 season): Sarah Graham Men’s Outdoor Track and Field (based on 2014 season): Kaleb Zuidema Cross Country: Anna Todd Volleyball: Mikaela Christiaansen Sand Volleyball: Megan Kent, Paige Wheeler
18 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
South Carolina Gamecocks
Recruiting Round-up By Phil Kornblut
RB CJ Freeman of Greensboro committed to USC in late March but it won’t be until late this year before the Gamecocks know if they have him for certain. Freeman attended Virginia Tech’s spring game. The Hokies were second on his list when he committed to the Gamecocks and they, and others, are still on his mind. “I’m solid right now with my commitment but I’m going to take a few unofficial visits to other schools that have Phil Kornblut offered,” Freeman said. Contributing “Virginia Tech was Writer my number one school before South Carolina. I definitely enjoyed the spring game. They have a new person on their staff named Kevin Jones. He played there and in the league. He was one of the main ones talking to me. He told me he wanted me and that I can be a true running back there. I may take another visit to Virginia Tech. I’m still solid with my commitment. The visit was good, and I may take another visit, but right now it didn’t make me reconsider.” The Gamecocks are doing all they can do to make sure Freeman doesn’t slip away. He said he hears from them practically every day. “Me and Coach Sands have a real good relationship,” Freeman said. “I’m going to visit there this summer, maybe for the Showcase Camp.” Freeman is also looking at visiting Auburn, West Virginia, Washington State and Georgia Southern. He said he plans to take all five of his official visits and two will be USC and Virginia Tech. Freeman plans to graduate in December and enroll in college in January. LSU offered USC WR commit Kyle Davis of Lawrenceville, GA. He’s also picked up recent offers from Alabama, Michigan State, Tennessee and Auburn. LB Kenneth Ruff (6-1 236) of Fort Lauderdale has accumulated a lengthy offer list at this point in the recruiting season. He can count USC, Clemson, North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia Tech among offers from Power Five conference schools, and he has several others from the next tier of FBS programs. NC State and Maryland have been by to see him but USC has made the strongest impression on him thus far. “I talk regularly with Coach Botkin,” Ruff said. “He likes my style of play. He knows my strength and weaknesses and is looking forward to coaching me in the future. He loves me and he wants me. He sees me as a mike linebacker.” He’s also hearing regularly from Oregon State, Rutgers, Alabama and Bowling Green. Ruff did not take any visits in the spring but this sum-
mer he plans to see USC, Mississippi State and Alabama. Everyone is chasing the Gamecocks right now. “I love their scheme,” Ruff said. “It’s similar to what we run and it wouldn’t be a big transition.” Ruff also plays some defensive end and he had 9 sacks last season. TE Thaddeus Moss (6-4 245) of Charlotte is the son of former NFL star Randy Moss. But the younger Moss is not resting on the family laurels. His performance as a tight end and defensive end has earned him more than 20 offers from coast-to-coast including both schools known as USC. Moss was under the instructions of his father this spring to focus on his academics and his football skills so the only campus visit he made was to North Carolina for a junior day. He has not yet visited USC (Columbia) but he plans to as soon as he can. Gamecock recruiter Shawn Elliott has been keeping in touch with Moss checking in via social media on a weekly basis. Moss said he’s not all that familiar with the Gamecocks at this point though he’s well aware of the head coach. “I know how much of a good coach Coach Spurrier is, of course,” he said. “That’s what stands out right now. That’s the only thing I’ve thought about (in regard to the Gamecocks). He has visited USC once, and that was two years ago to watch his sister, who was playing for Florida at the time, in a basketball game against the USC women. Moss is still doing his due diligence on the offering programs and thus has no favorites at this point. His offers include USC, Georgia, Southern Cal, Nebraska, Cal, UCLA, Louisville, Oregon, West Virginia, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Boston College and Wake Forest. And don’t look for a decision from Moss anytime soon. “I plan on taking everything slowly,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll commit anywhere, unless a school stands out to me. I may make a top 5 or a top 10. I don’t plan on committing until I sign the letter of intent.” Moss said at one time he considered graduating from high school early but he no longer plans on doing that. South Pointe DB Chris Smith (5-10 178) picked up his biggest offer to date last week when USC co-defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward contacted his coach and informed him he wanted him for the Gamecocks. Smith also has offers from Old Dominion, Mercer, Furman, Coastal Carolina, Campbell, Miami of Ohio, Charlotte, Air Force and Gardner-Webb. Those are all good offers but Smith realizes the USC offer takes his recruiting to another level. “When they offered me I was like so excited,” Smith said. “I jumped up and said, for real? So, they jumped into the lead.” Despite his excitement over the offer, Smith isn’t ready to jump to a commitment. “I’m still looking around but maybe later in the season I’ll commit,” he
said. “I may wait for the season to play out but it might be earlier. I just don’t know.” USC, of course, has had quite a run of success with players from the Rock Hill community and Smith is very familiar with some of the names like Clowney, Gilmore and Holloman. Beyond that though, he’s tried to familiarize himself with the program and the university. “I heard they have a great education program for one,” Smith said. “And for two, the defense, if you put the work in, you can come in as a freshman and start.” Smith has visited Mercer, Louisville and Charlotte and he plans to visit USC once he talks with ward “to see what the atmosphere is like.” Last season Smith had 71 tackles with 5 interceptions. As a receiver he had 10 catches and accounted for 600 all-purpose yards. OL John Simpson of Fort Dorchester made an unofficial visit to Clemson last Sunday. He has the Tigers, USC and Georgia at the top of his list. USC last week offered OL Pete Leota of Asheville and checked on DE Jaquan Bailey of Jacksonville. DE Ron Johnson Camden, NJ, who is looking hard at USC, was offered by Arizona State, Tennessee & Missouri. DL Tyler Wallace of Milton, FL plans to visit USC. USC last week offered LB Kash Daniel of Paintsville, KY. He also has offers from Kentucky and Louisville. Basketball News: 6-6 Malik Ellison of Burlington, NJ last Friday signed with St. John’s. He also considered USC, Rutgers and Minnesota. Looking for a big body in the middle, USC basketball coach Frank Martin has turned his attention to center Eric Cobb (6-10 280) of Jacksonville, FL. Cobb attends school in Baltimore and took an official visit to USC last week. Cobb, who once was committed to Kansas State, visited Seton Hall unofficially the week before. He’s also been considering VCU, Old Dominion, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Memphis, Washington and Boston College. He plans to take one more visit this weekend before making his decision. ‘They (USC) really like him because he’s like a true post player,” St. Francis coach Nick Myles said. “He has good hands and good feet. He’s got to get in better shape to play at that level but once that happens he will be a force in the SEC. He’s a great passer and he can turn and make a post move off of both shoulders. Lot of kids can’t do that. He has to get more athletic but that will come with getting in better shape. He’s a little heavy for what he needs to be.” Last season Cobb averaged 13 points and 9 rebounds a game with most of his points coming right around the basket. He’s a true low block, back
to the basket player who doesn’t venture far out of the paint. Myles said Cobb will visit VCU at some point and is also looking at possible visits to Memphis and Massachusetts. But right now he’s very interested in what USC has to offer him. “In his case it makes sense,” the coach said. “He’s been up here for a year but he’s from Jacksonville so it’s only three hours from home so his family can come and see him. He definitely thinks South Carolina is in the right direction for being a tournament team every year and that’s important to him, too, being in a program that has a legitimate chance of being a tournament team his four years there.” 6-9 Aric Holman of Owensboro, KY did not visit USC last week as he had said he would. Holman’s coach said Holman has talked with USC but at present has no plans to visit. He could visit Texas at some point and he’s also considering going to Hargrave Prep, VA. 6-7 Dikembe Dixon has cut his list to Alabama, Mississippi State and Arkansas. He also had a USC offer. USC offered 2017 SF Kodye Pugh of Baltimore and 2017 5-11 PG Quade Green from Philadelphia. USC women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley announced last week that 6-2 Sarah Imovbioh will transfer from Virginia to play her final season. Imovbioh was the top rebounder in the ACC last season, pulling down 10.8 boards per game to rank 19th in the nation, and posted 13 double-doubles in 31 games in 2014-15. In just three seasons, she amassed 1,028 points and 793 rebounds, which puts her among Virginia’s top 10 in career rebounds. Baseball Recruiting: USC baseball coach Chad Holbrook continues to add to his 2015 recruiting class and he has again dipped into the junior college ranks. Last Monday OF Dom Thompson-Williams (6-0 185) of Iowa Western JC announced a commitment via Twitter to the Gamecocks. He reportedly had several other SEC offers. ThompsonWilliams is a sophomore for Sioux City, IA who was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a high school senior. He was three time all state in baseball and was also an all state football player. This season Thompson-Williams is hitting .405 with three home runs and 38 RBIs for a team that is 46-5. Here’s the senior season scouting report on Thompson-Williams by PerfectGame. com: Medium frame, very athletic with present strength. Can run, 6.86 60 yard dash and plays faster in games. Defensively he has serious tools, topped out at 90 from the OF, has a long smooth arm action, quick arm, good release and footwork. Left handed hitter with a crouched open set up, good bat speed, quick hands, has lift, gap to gap approach with pop, aggressive swing.
Spurs & Feathers • 19
May 13, 2015
Langston Moore: The question is...
One of america’s most recent favorite pasttimes is the NFL draft. We love to watch this day of emotion and excitement. We are filled with optimism or disappoint ment depending on who our team picks. Most of us simply watch this day, a warm up for the ultimate entertainment that is the NFL season. While we the fans, are busy crafting our fantasy strategies for the upcoming season, asking questions like who are we taking? Can we fill that weak Langston Moore spot from last Contributing year? Who do Writer we need to cut in order to sign these young draft picks? Quite simply, our entertainment is somebody’s LIFE. These athletes will be the answer to many of the questions you hear Mel Kiper ask. Heck some of these questions were being proposed to these guys before they even stepped foot on campus (think Clowney: “He wont stay 4 years will he?!). However most of the guys aren’t Clowney, far more of them are like Langston Moore. Four year guys, who need all of that time to develop and polish their skills before they are even a blip on the NFL scouting radar. The questions officially start with your last whistle in your last game, and they don’t stop until the draft. Not only do these guys have to deal with the questions that have been rolling around in their own brains, but now your family members, friends, distant cousins, and elementary school classmates have all become draft experts, complete with their own analysis, and insight. In the end, the only questions worth asking are the ones that can be answered internally, and we all know there is only one person who can answer The Question is… “Do you know what team you’re going to? Playing in New York would be great, they need players like you.” Or some version of this are the types of questioning you receive waiting in line for gas or from your own family members playing NFL exec. The answer is, nobody knows where they’re going in the draft, regardless of what Todd McShay says. The #1 pick barely has an idea himself. With the amount of smoke and mirrors, false reports, inaccurate sources, no one knows where they will go in the draft. The only thing a player can ask for is a chance (and
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maybe some decent weather), But in the end it falls back on the person regardless of his destination. The question isn’t what colors or # you will wear with you new team, it’s about you making yourself valu able enough to stay on said team. With free agency and the amount of turnover in the NFL players have to change their college mindset of “I’ve committed to this Univer sity for life” to one of that of a mercenary. You go to the highest bidder with little emotional investment. You just have to be come that bad dude that gets called on be cause you “have a valuable skillset” (Liam Neeson “Taken”). The more you can add to a team organization the longer you can hang around and get paid to do it. Some of those players that have exceeded expecta tions and continue to grow even get asked to stay on once the pads are taken off. Transitioning to execs or player develop ment reps, regardless of the title they give, there is a place for you in any organization if you make yourself that much more valu able. The Question is… “What’s that contract gonna be? How big is the signing bonus?” Money Money Money. We all want to know what the figures will be when we are placed in a position to receive a windfall or our first taste of a “real check.” I cant tell you the feeling of expecting a big 6 figure check only to open it up and see about 60% of what you anticipated (les son!). “There goes the lamborghini I had on order.” One of the answers to this ques tion that has stuck with me my young life is this “ It’s not what you make, but what
you keep.” For a good many of us playing professional football this is a continuance of firsts: first time having this much money, first time having a semiconsistent income source, first time having to deal with this new fiscal responsibility. We think that the number on the check will solve a lot of our woes but many find out that this is just the beginning of their issues. Most of us, like many Americans lack basic financial skills to manage this type of money influx at 21-22. We look to our parents who have worked so hard their entire adult life for answers but they themselves don’t have a clue on how to balance the management, enjoyment, investment that comes with be ing a high income earner. Many times the question needs to be not “how much am I going to get?” but are you willing to seek out knowledge and coaching to handle this tool like you did when you were preparing for the NFL draft? Will you be courageous enough to ask for help in learning how to manage this money and have enough guts to say “NO”? Even if it’s “momma” ask ing? A lot of us feel that getting that big check to clear and having that bank balance at our disposal will be the a cumulative event when it’s the beginning of your new fiscal life. The Question is… With all of these ques tions swirling around the biggest questions need to be this: “Can it get better than this?” The NFL is great and having the op portunity to scribe your name on the roster of a NFL team is something very few can say they have done. As we spoke about before it’s not just about getting there, its
about staying there. The difference be tween “surviving and thriving” is a mind set (“Survive or Thrive” Tip Sheet), one that must be adopted if you want to play this game and reap all the byproducts of it. Many players become so engulfed in what the game gives them, not what they give to the game they miss it. Missing the secret on how to avoid being someone who came and went in the league versus someone who can’t leave because he became more than what he was when he was drafted years prior. So the answer to these questions above are simple: growth. Understanding that the draft, the NFL, all achievement , it’s all temporary and we will all be shown the door at some point. Most of us being told not to come back via text, we will rarely have a chance to leave on our own terms. It brings to mind a recent email from the My Carolina Alumni Association asking alumni to give advice to graduating Gamecocks. If there is one thing I could say to them it would be the same thing I would tell a Mike Davis or Nick Jones on surviving in the NFL: “Commit to lifelong learning and refinement regardless of your chosen field or current position.” Because the question becomes “not where are you now but where will you be in 3,5,10 years from now.” Forever to Thee! **Former Gamecock Preston Thorne contributed to this article** Follow Langston Moore on Twitter at: @reMovetheChains #justachicken #eat2win #yoby
20 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
Once adrift, now a draft: Corey Robinson’s coaches marvel at the journey he’s taken to the NFL
also spent most of his time at guard – Bryant favored smaller, quicker players at pulling tackle. Robinson may have oozed SEC size, but his Shawn Elliott has coached more than a half- adjustment to college football was agonizingly dozen NFL Draft picks during his 15-year slow. Elliott didn’t sense a desire to improve, career coaching offensive lines at Appalachian either. State and South Carolina. “There was a lack of communication, a lack His latest may be his most special. of effort. There was no motivation on his part. “I’m serious when I say this: he’s come as far It seemed like he didn’t want to play football. as any player I’ve coached to get to where he I can’t sit here and tell you what he was thinkis,” Elliott said. ing, but that’s what I was thinking. There Corey Robinson, the Gamecocks’ 6’8,” were times I felt like it was a struggle to work 324-pound left tackle, completed an unlikely with him because it was a non-responsive tone journey this month when the Detroit Lions se- from him every time. He just would kind of lected him in the seventh round, 240th overall, look through you, so to speak,” Elliott said, of the 2015 NFL Draft. Along with A.J. Cann, speaking with the bluntness typical of an ofa third-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, fensive line coach. South Carolina had two offensive linemen Connolly had a similar feeling in the weight taken in the same year for the first time since room. 1991. “It was a struggle. He was resistant to A three-year starting tackle in the SEC coaching. I think it was a surprise for him would ordinarily be an express pass to the with the amount of work, the amount of things NFL. But three years ago, Elliott wasn’t we require these guys to do. I think he was thinking of Robinson in terms of the next almost taken aback by it initially,” he said. level. After spending a redshirt year on the offen“I would have probably said he probably sive line, Elliott felt Robinson needed a fresh won’t be here next week,” Elliott admitted. start. The coaches switched him to defensive “When he stepped in here at the University line during the Spring of 2011, but the experiof South Carolina, there was a point where I ment was short-lived. Robinson returned to didn’t know if he would ever step on the foot- the offensive line, where he didn’t see game ball field.” action as a redshirt freshman. For Elliott and the other coaches around him, Two years after arriving at USC, Robinson’s it made the selection even more satisfying. playing time had been minimal, his work “He really did figure it out. habits uninspiring. Elliott’s paHe finally took off. It’s really tience had begun to wear thin. cool,” added South Carolina Robinson’s career teetered on strength and conditioning coach being a lost cause. Joe Connolly. Elliott said he first noticed a Robinson’s nickname growchange the week of the Gameing up didn’t exactly forecast cocks’ 2012 home opener an NFL future: his mother, against East Carolina. Perhaps Sharon, called her youngest of Robinson, an eastern North three sons “Muffin.” At HaveCarolina native, felt extra lock High School in Havelock, motivation. Either way, when N.C., Robinson had a mammoth he saw a few teammates messframe but a modest recruiting ing up a drill at the Proving profile. When he committed Grounds, the little-used lineto the Gamecocks in June of man walked up to Elliott. 2009, South Carolina was the “He said, ‘I could do that only Football Bowl Subdivision better than anybody,’” Elliott Andy Demetra school that had offered him a recalled. “I looked at him and Contributing scholarship according to head said, ‘Well let me tell me what, Writer coach Jim Bob Bryant. He big man. If you can prove it to
me in practice, I’ll put you out there on Saturday.’’” Robinson stepped in and performed well. Elliott made good on his promise, rotating him at left tackle during the Gamecocks’ 4810 victory over the Pirates. He doesn’t recall Robinson missing an assignment in almost 60 snaps. “That was the first time I really realized that he may want it. There was something churning down inside,” Elliott said. Robinson made his first start two weeks later against Missouri, and started nine of the Gamecocks’ final 10 games. Elliott noticed his attitude improving. Connolly saw a renewed focus in the weight room. “He finally figured out that we’re here, and he trusted everybody, and he understood that we were here to help him. Once that happened, the sky was the limit,” Connolly said. Bryant, Robinson’s high school coach, attributes his rise to another factor. In March of 2011, the South Carolina medical staff diagnosed Robinson with sleep apnea, a disorder that causes people to repeatedly stop breathing while sleeping. Bryant believes he had been dealing with it for years. “I think he was getting three or four hours of sleep a night since he was, like, 12 years old,” he said. With the help of the Gamecock training staff, Robinson began sleeping with a CPAP machine, which improves airflow and allows for more uninterrupted breathing. Whether from a better night’s sleep or an increased maturity, the results were unmistakable. Robinson started all 13 games as a junior at left tackle, showing the hands and instincts that would soon draw NFL buzz. As his confidence grew, Elliott saw other parts of Robinson’s personality emerge. “I learned that he was one of the most intelligent football players I’ve ever coached. He
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was very, very intelligent. It was a one-anddone type situation when you put things on the board. He would go out there and recite it,” Elliott said. (A reported 40 on his Wonderlic test would seem to confirm that.) The person whom many thought would never play at South Carolina wound up being a three-year anchor, logging 35 career starts. The person who once resisted Connolly in the weight room became the veteran who trashtalked the Gamecocks’ skill players while doing conditioning sprints with them. Connolly recently shared a cell phone video with former Gamecocks strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald, showing Robinson doing a 405-pound split jerk lift. “Single most impressive thing I’ve seen a 6’7 [sic] man do,” Fitzgerald texted back. As a left tackle sworn with protecting a quarterback’s blind side, Robinson will forever be linked with Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, who finished as the Gamecocks’ all-time leaders in career wins and passing yards in a season. The Detroit Lions staff flew to Columbia last month to put Robinson through a private workout, where they came away impressed. “Just a fantastic young man. Very big. He’s played a lot of ball in the SEC. [We’re] excited about him adding depth to our tackle spot,” said Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn. Elliott said he exchanged text messages with Robinson during the frenzy of Draft weekend. His voice swells with pride when talking about the next step in Robinson’s career, one even he couldn’t imagine a few years ago. “He’s got the smarts. He’s got the tools. If he works hard and adapts himself to the NFL style, and he goes after it, I could see him playing for a long time,” Elliott said. “He’s nowhere near tapped out.”
Spurs & Feathers • 21
May 13, 2015
Looking ahead to the 2015 season Last month I took a look at five South Carolina players that have yet to enroll at the University that I expect will make an impact on the team in 2015. This month, I change direction and look at four players - two offensive and two defensive - I expect to step forward and establish themselves as household names by the end of November. Bill Gunter These are cerContributing tainly guys that Writer have already established themselves as players you will be watching and expecting to perform. Connor Mitch at the quarterback position has been talked about since the Gamecocks walked off the podium in Shreveport and he does not need any more pressure from this columnist by adding him to the list. Others such as Skai Moore and Brandon Shell have proven themselves to be dependable players during their time and guys that Gamecock fans are expecting to have strong seasons in order for the team to reach the expectations that will be placed in front of them. With that in mind, here is a look at four returners who have shown the potential to be the next stars for Steve Spurrier and I expect to make that step this coming season. Chris Lammons The sophomore cornerback flashed his potential during his freshman season and showed he could be the next player for a school quickly becoming Defensive Back University. Lammons did not get to participate in summer workouts last year due to being a late academic qualifier and therefore missed precious time in the weight room and film room forcing him to learn the defensive system on the fly as the season progressed. Learning by fire, Lammons gained valuable experience with each snap during the season. After a strong spring that saw him establish himself as the Gamecocks number one cornerback, the 5-foot-9 Florida native is poised to be the shutdown corner the Gamecocks have used in past years to help create a strong secondary.
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Bryson Allen-Williams Last season was a difficult test for one of the highest rated prospects in the Gamecocks’ 2014 recruiting class, however Allen-Williams showcased his talents through spring ball and appears poised to not just become one of the top players on the field but a leader off it. In his first season, the Gamecock experimented with Allen-Williams trying him at the now defunct “BOB” position that was designed to get pressure on the quarterback. Late in the season, with the team looking for a consistent pass rush, AllenWilliams was moved to defensive end to ututilize his speed but neither position seemed to highlight his skills. With new defensive coordinator Jon Hoke in charge, Allen-Williams excelled during the spring and showed off the skills that made him a wanted recruit by the likes of Alabama and Georgia. Just as importantly as his football skills, AllenWilliams possesses the leadership capabilities that should help the defensive play together in 2015.
David Williams Everette Sands lost one of the top producing backs the Gamecocks have had in recent years with the departure of Mike Davis to the NFL but with redshirt sophomore David Williams waiting in the wings, do not expect a drop off. It would have been easy to slot Brandon Wilds into this position of the article however I believe by now, Gamecock fans are familiar with Wilds and realize he should be more than capable of carrying the load. However, solid teams need a capable backup that can push the starter for playing time if he does not show up each day ready to improve and Sands has that guy in Williams. Now that Williams should see significant snaps behind Wilds, expect his production to improve greatly and give quarterback Connor Mitch a solid one-two punch to hand the ball off to. The 6-foot-1, 220 pound bruiser should also take the load off of Wilds allowing the combination to be fresh in the fourth quarter, hopefully giving Spurrier an opportunity to use his running backs to salt games away.
Donnell Stanley Much like the situation at running back where a good player heads to the NFL only to be replaced by a quality backup, the Gamecocks will replace departed four-year starter A.J. Cann with the highly thought of product from Latta High School. Stanley was one of the top prospects in the state of South Carolina during the 2014 recruiting cycle and was a big recruiting victory when he chose the Gamecocks over teams such as Alabama and Clemson. After a redshirt year to mend a broken wrist and get stronger in the weight room, the offensive lineman with the size 18 shoe is ready to step in and replace Cann by becoming another NFL-type prospect. Expect the 6-foot-4, 325-pound redshirt freshman to make an immediate impact on the offensive line for coach Shawn Elliott. With his physical nature and wide body, there should not be much of a drop off as he gains valuable experience during fall camp and the first few weeks of the season.
22 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
Tanner: ‘We’re grateful for the time they spent being a Gamecock’ by kyle heck Reporter
Those few years of college are some of the most memorable moments in everyone’s lives. Four years seem to last just two and you make enough memories to last a lifetime. And as graduation nears and you prepare to enter the world as an adult, you suddenly wonder where did the time go? That’s the situation that 90 student-athletes find themselves in as they prepare to graduate from the University of South Carolina. On Tuesday, April 28, they gathered in the Frank McGuire Club room at the Colonial Life Arena for a special senior ring ceremony before heading out to the fountain in front of the arena to take pictures in their cap and gowns. “It’s obviously bittersweet, but it’s also really exciting,” said Katherine Schmidt of the equestrian team. “The four years here have been really enriching and I’ve learned a lot both in the classroom and on the team. But I’m also excited to take the next step.” For some student-athletes, the moment is even more special because they are trailblazers in their family, being the first one to graduate from college. That is the case for Tina Roy of the women’s basketball team. “It’s really overwhelming being the first person to graduate from my family,” said Roy, who added that she had about 20 family members in attendance at graduation. “It’s a good thing that I’m graduating because I give the other kids at home a visual of what success looks like. If they look up to me, they’ll do the same and follow their dreams and don’t give up.” These student-athletes are some of the select few that have an opportunity to play sports at a NCAA Division-I school. With that privilege comes a lot of extra work, however. They are basically working two full-time jobs with school and sports and don’t have some of the chances that other students have, like going on vacation for spring break or taking a weekend off to go to the mountains. However, it is something they wouldn’t trade for the world. “These four years of my life in college have been great,” said Tyrone Johnson of the men’s basketball team, who is just the second person to graduate college in his family. “It’s been some of the best days and nights of hard work, sweat and tears and it’s just a blessing.” With so much of their time taken up by
photo by allen sharpe
sports, the student-athletes spend the majority of their time with their fellow teammates and coaches, meaning they develop some special bonds over their time in college. “In my last year here I realized that they are like my only friends because my only free time I have I spend with them,” said Jeannelle Scheper, an All-American on the track and field team. “So I’m extremely appreciative of them. They’re my family and my brothers and sisters and I’m definitely going to miss that.” Athletics Director Ray Tanner is also going to miss the outgoing student-athletes. The group has been responsible for some of the biggest moments in athletics history and have represented the school well, both on and off the field. “I was sitting there (at the ring ceremony) and I’ll be honest, I got a little choked up a couple times because you see Aleighsa Welch and Jeannelle Scheper and others come through and it’s so bittersweet,” Tanner said. “You’re so excited and happy for
the celebration and for them finishing their academic career, their life as a student-athlete, but you’re going to miss them. You’re going to miss them competing for us and just the way they handled themselves, so it is a day of celebration, but it’s bittersweet that they’re moving on. But we’re so happy for them and we’re grateful for the time they spent being a Gamecock at this great University.” With their college careers coming to an end, it is now time to move on to the next adventure in their lives, whether that is pursuing a professional sports career, or looking for that dream job in their desired field. Regardless, they are all grateful for the opportunities and lessons they learned while being a Gamecock. “These people welcomed me in,” said Johnson, who transferred to South Carolina from Villanova. “Coach (Frank) Martin, my teammates and people from the Dodie (Academic Enrichment Center), they made it much easier for me. To see myself grow
from a boy to a man is just priceless. I know that I am going to make my mom proud by stepping across that stage.” While she isn’t the mother of any of the student-athletes, Maria Hickman has played a big role in the development of a lot of the athletes that are graduating and is overwhelmed with joy that they made it. As the Associate Athletic Director for Academics and Student Development, Hickman spends a lot of her time helping the student-athletes transition to college and keeping up with their academic progress. For her, there aren’t many things better than watching her students walk across the stage on graduation day. “This is always a bittersweet moment for us,” Hickman said. “We’ve become a family. They’ve been here four to five years, we’ve seen them every day and I’m excited to see them accomplish that goal of graduation, but sad to see them leave because we won’t have that daily interaction that we usually have. But it’s a very exciting day for us.”
May 13, 2015
Spurs & Feathers â€˘ 23
24 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
NeSmith on historic roll for the Gamecocks by Kyle Heck Reporter
After going nearly three years without winning a tournament, South Carolina junior Matt NeSmith won two in two weeks, including one of the biggest wins a college golfer can have. NeSmith entered the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate having played in 32 tournaments in his South Carolina career without a victory. However, the North Augusta native used a final round 4-under par 68 to get himself in a playoff with two other golfers. On the third playoff hole, NeSmith buried a par putt to claim his first ever tournament victory. Finally. “Those were probably the first words out of my mouth,” NeSmith said. “It was really nice to get that win, especially somewhere where my parents could be and a lot of people I grew up with. It was just really nice to get that off my back and look into the next thing and say, ‘well, I don’t have to worry about that anymore.’” With that added pressure off of him, NeSmith entered the SEC championship at the Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga. with a new outlook and improved confidence. Adding to his confidence was the fact that he was very familiar with the course, having played there since he was a sophomore in high school. He shot a then-career low 65 at the 2014 SEC championship on the way to a 21st place finish. At the championship this year, NeSmith again recorded a 65 on the first day to put himself in a three way tie for first place. He then set a new personal best and set a school SEC championship record with a 6-under par 64 on the second day to take sole possession of first place. A final round 3-under par 67 was good enough to hold onto the lead to become just the second golfer in South Carolina history to win a SEC championship, joining Eric Ecker, who won it in 1998. His three day total of 196 (-14) set a new school record for a SEC championship. He said the fact that he won a week beforehand helped a lot, but also says his familiarity with the golf course along with his driving ability paved the way for his victory. With the back-to-back tournament titles, NeSmith joins current volunteer coach Carl Paulson in 1993 as the only other South Carolina golfer to accomplish the feat. “I was pretty surprised because I was still just really happy about what happened a couple weeks ago at the Hootie,” NeSmith said shortly after the SEC individual title. “It never really crossed my mind. I mean, I was going to prepare like I was going to try and win a golf tournament, but it never really crossed my mind to try and go out there and win two in a row. It didn’t really cross my mind until after the second round, when I played two really good rounds and put myself in a good spot. Then I
photo by allen sharpe
Pictured is Matt NeSmith (right) with South Carolina men’s golf head coach Bill McDonald after he won the SEC individual title. was just like, ‘holy Cow, this is pretty good.’ It’s just been really nice.” Ranked as the No. 1 golfer in the country coming out of high school, NeSmith said he felt a lot of pressure to perform. That pressure worsened after he got off to a rough start in his college career, but he rebounded to still have a great season. NeSmith was named the coSEC Freshman of the Year and also garnered PING honorable mention All-America honors with a scoring average of 72.64, which was the second lowest average for a freshman in school history. He improved his scoring average to
72.26 his sophomore year, which was second on the team. Even before getting the back-to-back wins, NeSmith was having a career year in his junior season. His scoring average of 70.07 is on pace to break the school record. His classmate Will Starke is also on pace to break the record with a scoring average of 69.97. NeSmith and Starke are roommates and said they have competitions every day between them. However, they are still able to remain close friends. “I want him to shoot as well as he can and he
wants me to shoot as well as I can because if we do that, we’re probably going to do pretty well as a team,” NeSmith said, adding that neither he or Starke think much about the school records. Now that NeSmith is on a historic roll, the Gamecocks could be a dangerous team in the NCAA Regionals, which are set to begin on May 14. There is no better time for NeSmith to be playing the best golf of his career than at the end of the season when it matters most. It has already earned him a SEC championship and he is looking for more.
Spurs & Feathers • 25
May 13, 2015
South Carolina golf teams enjoying elite status by brad muller South Carolina Director of Content
Both of South Carolina’s head golf coaches are in their eighth year leading their respective programs, and both are among the nation’s elite. Women’s coach Kalen Anderson has her team ranked second in the Golfstat Relative Ranking, while men’s coach Bill McDonald sees his team ranked sixth heading into the postseason where both teams are No. 1 seeds in their respective NCAA regional tournaments. There are common threads among the two coaching staffs which have translated to success while also garnering a mutual respect. “We’re both tireless recruiters,” McDonald said. “On the men’s side we just try to find kids that aren’t spoiled and have a little chip on their shoulder. We get some `under the radar’ kids. We’ve just been very fortunate to find very high character, hard-working, good quality kids. I know it’s the same on the women’s side. I love the women’s program here. They are really hard-working, fiery and competitive.” “We’ve stuck to the basics and work hard every day,” Anderson said. “Having access to a lot of different facilities has been big too. Cobblestone Park (Golf Club) has been great with the access we have there, and we have access to a lot of other golf courses so you’re not just playing one every day. Add in ‘the Coop’ practice facility, and we can get a lot of work done there too. The administration has been very supportive and has given us the resources we need.” Only one other school (LSU) currently has both of its golf programs ranked in the top 10 in the Golfstat rankings. Earlier this year the women’s team earned the program’s first ever No. 1 national ranking after winning two tournaments along with a second and third place finish in their four scheduled events during the fall season. Despite losing one of their top players in Nanna Madsen, who turned pro before the spring season, the Gamecocks continued to be one of the top teams in the country, finishing in the top four in four out of five regular season spring tournaments before taking second place at the SEC Championships. The Gamecocks just recently won the NCAA East Regional. “She was the third ranked person in the world, so it was nice having her in the lineup of course,” Anderson said. “Early in the spring we played with some pressure on us, but it was nice to get Sarah Schmelzel to return since she was injured in the fall. I tried to take some of that pressure off them and told them to just get back to playing golf and having fun. They’re playing a lot more relaxed now.” Senior Justine Dreher leads the South Carolina women’s team with five top-five finishes this year and carries a 72.28 stroke average. The South Carolina lineup holds the program’s bestever team season scoring average at 290.76. South Carolina has finished in the top five in 15-straight regular season stroke play events, a
south carolina athletics media relations
streak that dates back to October 2013. The men’s team was disappointed with a sixth place finish in their season opener last fall in Pebble Beach, California, where they fell out of contention for first place late in the tournament. The Gamecocks responded with a school record tying nine consecutive top five finishes, winning a school record five tournaments this year, along with a runner-up finish at the SEC Championships. Junior Matt NeSmith became the second golfer in school history to take home medalist honors at the event. Junior Will Starke leads the team with a 69.97 stroke average, and NeSmith holds a 70.07 average. Both would be the top two scoring averages in program history if the season ended today. Meanwhile, seniors Caleb Sturgeon and Will Murphy carry outstanding averages of 71.90 and 71.63, respectively. Depth on the roster with younger players challenging for a spot in the top five in the team’s lineup has also helped. “These guys have really worked their tails off,” McDonald said. “They’ve played really strong amateur schedules in the summer, and they’ve worked hard when they’ve been in school here. They’ve just been a pleasure to be around and work with.” The Gamecocks are on pace to shatter the school record for the second straight year with a 280.93 team scoring average. Common elements between the two programs include having the same philosophy on working on the short game and how practices are structured. “Both of us do a lot of individual meetings with players,” McDonald said. “Being that it’s an individual game, what I’m telling one player what he needs to work on, may not be what the other guy has to work on. While there’s a big team concept going on, we both believe strongly in trying to adjust what we do to each one, individually.” “I think we both have a very good perspec-
tive on the game,” Anderson said. “We’re very intense and competitive, but we try to take pressure off the players and create a fun environment to keep things in perspective.” This year’s women’s team consists of a mix of international and American student-athletes, while the men’s team consists entirely of student-athletes from the U.S., with seven of the ten being South Carolina natives. Under NCAA rules, women’s golf programs can offer a maximum of six scholarships, while men’s programs can offer four and a half. Recruiting strategies may differ at times due to the economics of the two sports, but the main goal for either program is to simply bring in the best. “We do a lot of partial scholarships, whereas women’s golf is able to give out more full scholarships I think,” McDonald said. “For us to go all over Europe or all around the world, you usually have to offer more (scholarship) money.” McDonald also noted that while there are many talented women’s golf student-athletes in certain areas, there is a greater talent pool in the southeast region on the men’s side, which allows him to focus his recruiting closer to home. “I can make a loop from North Carolina through South Carolina and Georgia, and find quite a bit of talent in that area,” McDonald said. “There may not be as many of those great players on the women’s side here in the Southeast every year. Also on the men’s side, a lot of midmajor schools will go all-in with Europeans or some of the Scandinavian countries. We do still look at kids overseas though.” “It’s very common in women’s golf to have a lot of international players,” Anderson said. “Just look at the LPGA and the top of the leaderboards and rosters of teams who have won recent national championships. Unfortunately you are going to see very few Americans. My goal is to find the best players in the world.
They could be five minutes down the road or 5,000 miles away, but I’m going to find them. It creates a good mix and creates a good culture. I don’t prefer one over the other. I will recruit the heck out of the state of South Carolina and wherever else that gives us the best opportunity.” While their schedules don’t allow the two coaches to spend a lot of time together, they’re not afraid to pick the other’s brain from time to time. “Ever since she came here from Duke, I’ve always been interested in what she thinks about certain things and how she handles certain situations with her players,” McDonald said. “I can learn from any coach of any sport. The thing I’ve been impressed with Kalen, is how well she communicates. She has a lot of different cultures in her program and all the kids seem to be thriving and doing well academically. That really impresses me.” “We’re both rooting for each other,” Anderson said. “The players know each other well. There is some competition between the programs to do well. It’s great to have great players around each other. It’s great for recruiting on both sides when both teams are doing well. For the women’s side, a lot of the female recruits know we have a good men’s program too so they know there will be guys here they can practice with and do some games with. It’s another way they can push themselves to get better.” The two coaches haven’t played a round of golf together in recent years, but just as they have had success leading their respective programs, there’s a good chance they would make a great team. “Bill is a lot better than I am right now,” Anderson said. “He can still play really well. I can still chip and putt the heck out of it. If I could take his ball-striking, and I could putt it, we’d make a really good team. We’ve had a lot fun.”
26 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
photo by Chris Baird
Gamecocks win NCAA East Regional title
South Carolina Athletics Media relations
each made runs at the Gamecocks, particularly on the front nine when Alabama drew within five on a few occasions, but South RALEIGH, N.C. – Top-seeded South Carolina fought its way though a difficult Carolina fired a final-round 296 (+8) to back nine to stay on top. clinch its third NCAA East Regional title Dreher continued her career of strong since 2010 on Saturday, May 9, at the Lon- postseason play, registering her secondnie Poole Golf Course in Raleigh, N.C. The straight top-five finish and her sixth of the Gamecocks finished the tournament with season. Her 54-hole score of 216 (E) tied a 54-hole score of 877 (+13) and captured her for fifth with two others. After making the win by eight strokes to advance to the turn at 1-over, the senior played bogeytheir sixth-straight NCAA Championship. free on the back nine and holed a birdie on Senior Justine Dreher earned her sixth No. 15 to finish the day with a 72 (E) top-five result of the season, finishing the Sophomore Katelyn Dambaugh turned weekend at even-par. in her best round of the weekend with a The Gamecocks entered the day with an 2-under 70. She did not post a bogey on the eight-stroke lead after posting the only front nine and made the turn at 3-under. under-par team score of the tournament (-2, She went 1-over on her final nine holes and 286) on Friday, May 8. Alabama and LSU posted her best career regional result in a
tie for 12th at 5-over (221). Junior Sarah Schmelzel also posted her best NCAA Regional finish. The Gamecock struggled after the turn and carded a final-round 77 (+5). With a three-round score of 220 (+4), Schmelzel captured 11th place, her best result since the seasonopening Florida State Match-Up (T9) in February. After a solid front nine, junior Mary Fran Hillow was 5-over on the back to card a third-round 77 (+5). Hillow was the fourth Gamecock to earn a top-25 result, tying for 22nd with a 54-hole score of 224 (+8). After making the turn at 6-over, sophomore Jia Xin Yang battled on the back nine, carding eight pars and a birdie to also end the day at 5-over (77). Yang finished with a three-round score of 229 (+13, T48).
Also advancing to the NCAA Championships in Bradenton, Fla., are Northwestern (+21), host NC State (+23), Alabama (+24), LSU (+24) and Campbell (+28). LSU’s Madeline Sagstrom captured medalist honors by six strokes, finishing the weekend at 8-under (208). Coastal Carolina’s Lena Schaeffner and LSU’s Caroline Nistrup took second at 2-under, and Alabama’s Emma Talley was fourth at 1-under. Dreher, Furman’s Taylor Totland and NC State’s Rachael Taylor tie for fifth (E). South Carolina advances to the NCAA Championships in Bradenton, Fla. Twenty four teams and 12 individuals will compete in 54-holes of stroke play at The Concession Golf Club May 22-25. The top eight teams advance to match play to determine the team champion May 26-27.
Spurs & Feathers • 27
May 13, 2015
photo by allen sharpe
Groundbreaking held for The Sheila and Morris Cregger Track Stadium by Collyn Taylor Reporter
“I get emotional just thinking it occurred,” Frye said. “Mike McGee had a dream. He said to beautify this, build the finest and For the South Carolina track and field then they’ll build it and then they’ll come. teams, the groundbreaking for their new We probably got a little ahead.” outdoor facility was a long time coming. Frye talked in his remarks during the cerSpanning three different athletic directors emony about how important the renovations and after being talked about for decades, the will be for future classes, saying it will be a renovations are finally underway. big recruiting pitch to prospective studentOn Saturday, May 9, 2015, alumni from athletes. the track and field programs as well as the He talked about former Olympians like rest of the current track and field teams Terrence Trammell and a host of others gathered at the new Sheila and Morris Creg- training on the current track and how the ger Track Stadium to watch the groundpairing of facilities and former greats will breaking. help bring top-level talent to the University. South Carolina head track and field coach “This is such an honor,” Frye said. “South Curtis Frye helped spearhead the renovaCarolina is going to get the kind of faciltions under then athletic director Mike Mc- ity, a kind of opportunity and recognition Gee. After talking to the next two ADs, Eric that is different than all the other rest of our Hyman and Ray Tanner, about the renovafacilities. It’ll bring more attraction to more tions he is finally seeing his dream come to single individuals who participate.” fruition. Current athletes like javelin thrower Kaleb
Zuidema and 400-meter runner Erika Rucker said they are excited to see how much better they can be while utilizing the new track. The track will be made with some of the fastest surfaces in the industry, Frye said. The material is the same the track for the 2016 Olympics will be surfaced with. “It’s going to do a lot for the program. If you can imagine on this track how many Olympians we’ve had run and practice on this track and to think how good we can be with one of the nicest facilities on the East coast,” Zuidema said. “It’s something to look forward to for future Gamecocks coming here.” One of those Olympians is Trammell, who was a two-time silver medalist in the Olympics. He was on hand to see the groundbreaking at his alma mater. He said he loves coming back to where it started and hopes to see the new facility bring in the top-level talent that made South Carolina a storied
track and field program. “It’s great because it gives the University another avenue for recruiting and for Gamecock athletics in general,” he said. “Anytime you have a facility that’s state-of-the art or new, it brings quite a buzz. It adds to what the program and what the brand of the University of South Carolina is looking to be.” About The Sheila and Morris Cregger Track Stadium (South Carolina Athletics Media Relations) The new outdoor track and field oval will seat 1,450 with support building for storage and restrooms. The track will still be known as the Weems Baskin Track, in memory of the legendary former coach who served the program from 1949 to 1969. The current walkway that connects to the Carolina softball stadium will be extended out to bring all the facilities in the Athletics Village together.
28 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
National champions relishing ‘indescribable experience’ by Kyle Heck Reporter
The few days for Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon after winning the national championship were crazy. Whether it was the boatload of calls and texts from family and friends or tossing out the first pitch at a South Carolina baseball game, the two didn’t have much time to relax. That’s what happens when you win a national championship. Walters and Brannon won the 2015 FLW College Fishing National Championship representing the University of South Carolina. After finding themselves in sixth place after the first day of the three day event, the duo climbed to second on the second day. On the final day, Walters and Brannon registered a 17 pound, one ounce load that was enough to climb past Liberty and into the record books. Going into the tournament, Walters said the goal was to bring in at least 17.5 pounds of fish every day. Brannon agreed, but was also hoping they could catch a big fish. However, he said he’ll take the three days of consistency over one or two big fish. Walters and Brannon met their daily goal and as they predicted, it turned out to be enough to be crowned national champions. “We said that before the tournament, we said it during the tournament and it ended up being what we needed after the tournament,” said Brannon, a junior from Gaffney. But that didn’t mean that the championship came easy for the two. The weigh-in on the final day was an intense moment for both, particularly after they chatted with the Liberty duo while waiting in line. “What really worried me was when we got in the weigh in line, I asked (Liberty) how they did and they said they had four good fish,” said Walters, a sophomore from Summerville. “I asked them if I could look in their bag and he said, ‘of course’ and I opened up the bag and the only fish I could see was that one big one laying on top.” While Liberty did bring in the big fish of the day, their overall total was just short of 16 pounds and not enough to get past South Carolina. Walters and Brannon brought in a three-day total of 53 pounds, two ounces while Liberty finished second
photo by allen sharpe
Pictured left-to-right after throwing out the first pitch at a Gamecock baseball game are Gettys Brannon (left) and Patrick Walters (right). with 51 pounds, 13 ounces. Once the totals were revealed and they realized they were national champions, the stress turned into stunned disbelief. “It was just unbelievable and impossible to believe that we just pulled it off,” Walters said of the moments following the announcement. Making the experience even more special was the fact that Walters and Brannon were able to win it on their home lake, Lake Murray, in front of a lot of family and friends. It also added a little more pressure on the two because everyone expected them to win due to the fact that they were fishing in their backyard. Walters said it was more of a home lake knowledge than advantage because of the fact that things can change so much from day to day. “We knew that certain areas were better
than others in previous years and we knew what the fish liked and how to fish for them,” Walters said. “So we just used our knowledge on how to catch them.” The final weigh in took place just outside of Carolina Stadium while the Gamecocks were taking the series from Vanderbilt and Brannon said that some of the fans came by to watch the announcement. “Being in front of the hometown crowd and all of the family and friends and having president (Harris) Pastides in attendance was great,” Brannon said. “Just to see how much the school really did come out and support it at this level. And the fact that a lot of the baseball fans came over and watched it made it pretty indescribable. Still crazy to think about.” Before the start of the South CarolinaVanderbilt series on Thursday, April 16, Walters and Brannon came out on the
mound before the game and Brannon threw the first pitch. “Heck, I’m just as surprised about that first pitch going over the plate as anything else,” Brannon joked. “The last few days have been really busy, but I’ll take them,” he added. “I’ll take them any day. It just makes us hungrier and want to get back out there on the lake and do it even more. Once you get a taste of it, you want to keep on going.” With the championship win, Walters and Brannon are invited to participate in perhaps the biggest bass fishing event in the world, the Forrest Wood Cup, which takes place this August in Arkansas. It is something that is a big deal for both students. “I am really looking forward to that,” Walters said. “That’s life-changing. That’s a huge step and that’s going to be crazy.”
Spurs & Feathers • 29
May 13, 2015
photo courtesy of win anyway foundation
Holbrook, Win Anyway Foundation able to donate to Children’s Hospital by brian hand Executive Editor
season, but nevertheless that perspective was further brought into view last week as just one day before South Carolina picked up its 28th Chad Holbrook’s life changed forever on win of the 2015 season against a Wofford team Sept. 7, 2004, when his family was told that that had beaten Clemson, 17-9, just one day their then 2-year-old son, Reece, had cancer. earlier, Holbrook and his family through their Three years and two months later, Reece, who Win Anyway Foundation were able to give the is now almost a teenager, finished his cancer Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital a $44,000 treatments and was considered check. in remission. “There’s a lot more important Obviously going through that things than baseball,” Holtaught the South Carolina head brook said. “It’s been a very baseball coach and his family difficult time around here. I true perspective and they have don’t eat and I don’t sleep bebeen living their lives differcause of things that our team ently ever since. has gone through this year, but Professionally, it has not been I would be a lot worse off from All Gamecock baseball the year that Holbrook and his coverage sponsored by a mental standpoint right now staff envisioned in the 2015 if I didn’t have perspective and DiPrato’s
my son Reece taught me perspective in what he went through, so anytime that we can help other people and other kids and other families it’s more meaningful to me than winning a baseball game and I believe that from the bottom of my heart. “When my family was able to give that check yesterday (Tuesday, May 5, 2015), I felt like I had won a Super Regional game. That’s how I feel. Until the day I die, I’ll do all I can for that cause.” The money donated was raised in part from The Win Anyway Foundation Eighth Annual Reece Holbrook Golf Classic and Sports Auction that was held on Sunday, Oct. 26 and Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. “It’s an event to fight a disease and to benefit people,” Holbrook noted to Spurs & Feathers a few short days before the event in October.
“There’s a lot of people fighting this disease and we want to spread how much money we raise as best we can. While a lot of it is focused on pediatric cancer, there’s other terminal illnesses that kids are fighting that we’d like to give to as well. For instance, cystic fibrosis and other things. Our children’s hospital here in Columbia has benefited from our event probably the most, but we also contribute to the leukemia and lymphoma society and the children’s hospital in North Carolina. We spread it around as best we can to the people we know are in need.” To learn more about Holbrook’s Win Anyway Foundation, please visit http://www. winanywayfoundation.org. You can also like the foundation on Facebook at Win Anyway Foundation. The foundation can also be followed on Twitter @Win_ Anyway.
30 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier and his team at the 2015 Lexington County Gamecock Club Golf Tournament in April at The Country Club of Lexington.
Another successful golf tournament for Lexington County by bill gunter Contributing Writer
the course and he does not hide his feelings about what he wants to accomplish when he shows up,” Gunter said. “We provide him For over 30 years, South Carolina football with four other golfers and while he enjoys coaches have made the short trip from Wil- interacting with them and getting to know liams-Brice Stadium over to The Country them, he makes it known that they are there Club of Lexington during the offseason for to win the tournament and take home the a day of golf and fellowship with Lexington trophy.” County Gamecock club board members. The Spurrier’s team has claimed the winner’s event was opened up to the public 14 years trophy just once in the 11 years that he has ago and last month, chapter president Steve participated and Gunter remembers it well. Gunter and his Lexington County board “I know there are plenty of other acmembers hosted their annual spring event complishments that he has higher up on with over 120 golfers participating. his board,” Gunter said. “But you would Prior to the arrival of Steve Spurrier, not have known that when I presented him Gamecock coaches such as Joe Morrison the winner’s trophy. He is as competitive a and Lou Holtz would stop by to play and person as I have been around and definitely enjoy the afternoon. For the past 11 years, the coach that has taken the tournament the Spurrier has made it a ritual to play in the most serious.” Tournament along with members of his staff One aspect of Spurrier that has surprised as a way to relax following the efforts put Gunter is his ability to remember plays from forth during spring practice. each game of the previous year or even back During that time, Gunter has formed an during his playing days. interesting bond with the Gamecocks head “I know coach is there to relax and enjoy ball coach having an opportunity to interact the day so I do not try to bother him with with him while observing his competitive questions about the quarterbacks or recruitnature. ing,” he said. “But there are times someone “My job is to drive Coach Spurrier around will ask him about a play from the season or
a situation and he instantly remembers it and quickly dissects what happened and why it happened. One of the more amazing things I remember was a golfer bringing him a Sports Illustrated that he was on the cover of from his playing days. The golfer asked him to sign the magazine and not only did Spurrier do that but he remembered everything about the game, his stats, the weather, absolutely everything. It was very impressive.” The tournament is typically played the Monday after the Spring Game and is the only one where all the head coach, assistant coaches and grad assistants have the opportunity to play together. The event is put together with the help of chapter members and volunteers that are more than willing to assist with any job required. “Our volunteers for this committee are very dedicated in making this a success every year for both the coaches and the players,” said Gunter. “There is absolutely no way this would be a success without them.” One of the highlights of the golf tournament is food prepared by renowned BBQ restaurant Hudson’s Smokehouse and Mathias Sandwich Shop. Golfers are served generous portions of ribs, BBQ, sandwiches and
hot dogs throughout the day prepared right there on the course. While the Country Club of Lexington is certainly a course worth playing, the draw of the food has been enough to bring out coaches that might not want to have a good afternoon ruined by a ride around the links. “We have had some great donations and help from our food vendors,” Gunter said. “There are plenty of times that coaches that do not play golf or have no interest in the sport show up to enjoy the food we prepare because they have heard about how good it is.” This year’s event not only has participants from the Lexington and Columbia area but teams from Florence and Charlotte made the trip over to participate. Each person who played in the tournament received a golf hat or visor with the insignia on the back of the hat saying #1 Gamecock Club/Lexington County in recognition of Lexington County being the chapter of the year last year. Lexington County Gamecock Club has a great tradition of supporting the Gamecock Club. Follow them on Facebook at www. facebook.com/LexingtonGamecockClub for upcoming events.
Spurs & Feathers • 31
May 13, 2015
Don’t count out the Gamecocks just yet In 2010, after a lackluster, two and BBQ in the SEC tournament, South Carolina returned to Columbia to host that year’s regionals. Before the first game, then head coach Ray Tanner made a minor adjustment in his batting lineup. He moved Evan Marzilli, a freshman, to lead off and moved Jackie Bradley down to third. I thought coach had lost his mind. From my experience, batters get comfortable in their place in the lineup and making that change - as far as I was concerned - would upset the apple cart and instead of thinking about hitting, they would think about “why am I batting in this Ed Girardeau spot?” Contributing Later, after the Editor season was over and the smoke had cleared, I would tell coach Tanner my thoughts at the time and asked why did he do that? His response was he had a hunch that it was what he needed to do. And that’s baseball. Coaches have to make changes: before the game, after the game, in game. Though there are legitimate reasons for doing these things, sometimes the best answer that can be given is “I played a hunch.” Baseball lends itself to second-guessing. Perhaps it’s the pace of the game that gives people a chance to think about what’s going on. The fan who says, “oh, we should have taken him out.” Whether it’s the batter Championship and more SEC games than thinking after the fact of why did I swing or any other coach not named Bear. On top of why I didn’t, to a pitcher who thinks I should that, he’s the winningest coach in Gamecock have thrown a curve. Football history. Yet some will say what Coaches do the same thing. Did I leave have you done for me lately? Why didn’t we him in too long? Did I take him out too run? Why didn’t we pass? I do it and I know quick? I should have pinch hit in that spot; we all do. I should have bunted; why didn’t we hit and The reality is that the coaches at the Unirun? versity of South Carolina have a pretty firm Sound familiar? We all do it, those of us grasp of what they are trying to accomplish who watch baseball, whether we’ve played and have the cred to do it. I know over the or not, coached or not. We all second-guess last month, I have been asked many times, what’s going on through a “don’t you think we need a game. If we win, all is forgotnew baseball coach?” ten, but if we lose….. I always answer that with, Baseball isn’t the only “well, who do you think we sport. I suppose that it’s should get?” That is usually just part of being a fan. You met with an “I don’t know. watch the games and we just Somebody who wins.” can’t help ourselves, “why in I think we would look for the heck did we do that?” somebody who has been asAll Gamecock baseball Take coach Spurrier for coverage sponsored by sociated with winning. Has example. He’s won a National helped take teams many times DiPrato’s
photo by allen sharpe
to the College World Series and maybe win a couple. The coach would need to be a great recruiter and able to evaluate talent. Perhaps somebody who had been named one of top10 recruiters of all college sports and maybe assistant coach of the year in baseball. We would also need somebody who is experienced in working with batters and helping hitters succeed, leading several teams to overall batting averages of .300 plus for many years. We could go on and on as to what we would want on this list. We could add having been a head coach and lead his team to a winning record, a final ranking in the top-15 in the nation and lead his team at least to the Super Regionals. So where would we find such a coach? Chad Holbrook, that’s who. Nobody is happy about how this season has gone. Injuries have taken a toll. Bad luck in some cases has worked its way in there,
too. No one, including the coaches, is denying that poor play has contributed at times as well. That’s baseball. Some seasons don’t go your way. But before we go any further, this season is not done yet. There is still some great baseball to be played and South Carolina will have their shots. In 2010, in that first round game with our new batting order, Carolina fell behind Bucknell, 5-1. I went for a walk around the stadium to try and change South Carolina’s luck. Marzilli hit a ball that almost hit me standing behind the right field fence. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad move after all. The Gamecocks went on to win that night, 9-5, and, of course, win their first of two straight College World Series. Coach Holbrook was there in the dugout for both of them, so he’s been there, done that. I’m not saying we are suddenly going to rise up and run to the World Series, but don’t count coach and the Gamecocks out just yet.
32 • Spurs & Feathers
May 13, 2015
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