JUNE 2019 • VOLUME 41 • ISSUE 6
Paul Jubb makes Gamecock history by winning NCAA singles title
SATURDAY, JULY 13 SPENCE ISLAND
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Owens: SC preparing stars for pros
20 Kingston promises better days ahead
Dodie Anderson earns deserving honor
Gamecock ticket sales buck national trend
23 Special Memories: Jacob Olson’s emotional farewell 24 Proud Gamecock: TJ Hopkins wraps up stellar career
31 Coming Up Big
26 Photos: Baseball Season Review
Promise Fulfilled: Paul Jubb wins national title
12 Paul Jubb Scrapbook 14 Terrific Tandem: Martins-Horvit end season ranked No. 1
Football 16 Five who could surprise in 2019
#HighHopes: Smith sees bright future
Fight to finish: Gamecocks make dramatic comeback
Kennedy Clark was SC’s ‘Glue Gal’
18 Spurs Up Tour: Lowcountry rich with talent
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Scott Stevens leads Gamecocks to NCAA Championships
Track & Field 33
Athletes make their mark at NCAAs
Gunter: Our annual yearbook superlatives
Girardeau: Historical perspective on the big three
On the cover Paul Jubb
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Gamecocks having great success developing pro athletes By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor
or any college sports program, and their fans, making the NCAA Tournament is a great accomplishment, and South Carolina had its share of teams make it again this season. Winning a national championship is even better. Itâ€™s the pinnacle of college sports, and South Carolina captured a couple of individual titles as well this season with womenâ€™s track & field capturing the 4x400m indoor relay and Paul Jubb (see page 8) winning the NCAA Singles Championship in menâ€™s tennis. But for each individual athlete, there is a greater goal as well, one Gamecock fans should also take pride in. As important as success at the collegiate level is, the ultimate goal for most athletes is to play professionally. And South Carolina is sending its share of student-athletes to the professional ranks at an impressive rate.
Numerous former Gamecocks are on NFL and MLB rosters, with more on the way. Deebo Samuel was a second-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers, while offensive lineman Dennis Daley and defensive back Rashad Fenton were also drafted. Several more players from the 2018 team received free-agent opportunities. The South Carolina baseball team had five current or graduating players selected in the June MLB Draft this month, as well as eight signees, an indication that Mark Kingstonâ€™s coaching staff is succeeding on the recruiting trail. Both menâ€™s and womenâ€™s basketball teams also have had success sending players to the pros, with Sindarius Thornwell and P.J. Dozier both on NBA rosters and Aâ€™ja Wilson and others starring in the WNBA. Chris Silva hoped to add his name to the NBA list this month. Several menâ€™s and womenâ€™s golfers have turned pro over the years,
and now South Carolina could be on the verge of seeing two tennis stars turn pro. Jubb will turn pro sometime in the next year or two after winning the national singles title and womenâ€™s No. 1 Ingrid Martins also has pro potential. One of the keys to Jubbâ€™s rapid development and meteoric rise in the tennis world was his keen desire to play professionally. â€œWe kept on telling him and giving him the perspective of, college tennis is awesome, but thatâ€™s not what you are here to do,â€? menâ€™s coach Josh Goffi told me recently. â€œYou are here to lead the team, but most importantly, on a personal level, you are here to get developed into a professional.â€? Jubb certainly did that and could give Gamecock fans a professional tennis star to follow for years to come. South Carolina has become a training ground for numerous pro athletes over the years, especially in baseball. The Gamecocks have sev-
eral stars playing in the majors, or on the way, and Kingston has had 15 players drafted in his two years here. Many he hated to lose, but heâ€™s conscious of the bigger picture and bigger goal. â€œWeâ€™re never going to stand in the way,â€? he said. â€œIf a guy gets offered $2.5 million, weâ€™ll give him the pen to sign. â€Ś We want to be a great piece to these playerâ€™s development.â€? South Carolina is doing that. It is not only developing winning, championship-contending teams, it is preparing its athletes for the next level as well. Gamecock fans should take great pride in that.
Jeff Owens can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Jowens_SpursUp.
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The Order of the Palmetto well-deserved for Dodie Anderson By Brian Hand | Contributing writer • Photo by SC Athletics
native of Chicago, Dodie Anderson moved to South Carolina in 1950. Like so many others when she moved to the Palmetto State, she knew she had to pick a side. To her, it was an easy choice to pick the Gamecocks. “I moved down here from Chicago, so you come to Carolina and you’ve got to pick a school and I went back to school [at USC Upstate],” Anderson told me in November of 2014 after being honored as the Legendary Fan of the Game before the South Carolina-Tennessee football game. “I got a Carolina diploma from Upstate and I felt like it made me legal anyway, and I joined the Gamecock Club to be a card-carrying member years ago. I just picked a team and said I’ve always loved the Gamecocks.” South Carolina fans everywhere are thrilled she made that decision, and it was a thrill recently to see Anderson honored with The Order of the Palmetto by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster. The Order of the Palmetto is considered the highest civilian honor in the state of South Carolina. It recognizes a person’s lifetime achievements and contributions to the state. The award comes in the form of a certificate or plaque that, in part, reads: “In grateful recognition of your
contributions and friendship to the State of South Carolina and her people. I do hereby confer unto you the Order of the Palmetto with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto.” Anderson and her late husband, Robert, have made a tremendous impact on the Palmetto state since coming to South Carolina in 1950. They were married for 53 years and together have four daughters, eight grandchildren and seven greatgrandchildren. She has been recognized for her philanthropic efforts by the University of South Carolina, USC
Upstate, Greenville Technical College and the Girls Scouts of South Carolina. One of the things she is most well-known for among Gamecock fans is the Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center, or “The Dodie.” Anderson told me for a previous Spurs & Feathers story that she was just “in the right place at the right time” when it came to helping build the pivotal academic building. “Dodie Anderson is deserving of this tremendous honor,” South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner said in honoring her recently. “Her impact on everything she has touched has been tremendous. Our student-athletes benefit from her philanthropy every day when they walk into the ‘Dodie.’” That impact has meant so much to so many over the years, and I am personally thankful she made that decision many years ago to be a Gamecock. That was an easy choice for Anderson. “I’m so happy I picked South Carolina,” Anderson said in 2014. “There was no chance I was going to pick Clemson.” Brian Hand is life-long Gamecock fan and the former executive editor of Spurs & Feathers. He is currently the Assistant Athletics Director for External Relations at UNC Asheville.
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Gamecocks bucking national trend with rising demand for football tickets By Brad Muller | SC Athletics • Photo by Jenny Dilworth
n the heels of three straight bowl appearances, as well as the excitement of one of the most attractive schedules in all of college football for 2019, South Carolina is bucking a trend of declining attendance at many major college football schools and enjoying its best ticket renewal rate in the last three years as Gamecock fans are once again showing their commitment to the program. “The difference between this point in time last year and right now is that we’ve seen an increase of 17 percent in season tickets sold,” said Lance Grantham, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Ticket Operations. “That’s an ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison. That’s a significant number.” “There’s nothing like a full Williams-Brice Stadium cheering on the Gamecocks,” Athletics Director Ray Tanner said. “With the way our fans have responded to season ticket sales so far this year, it sends a great message to the nation about the loyalty and passion of our Gamecocks. The support of our fans is very important as Coach [Will] Muschamp leads our program as we contend in the SEC and nationally.” Season tickets will continue to be on sale until August 31, but with seat-selection underway since May 20, fans are encouraged to order their tickets to get the best seats in their desired location. The current trend among major college football schools has been a steady decline in attendance in recent years. According to a report from CBS Sports, attendance at FBS games dropped for the seventh time in eight years in 2018, sinking to its lowest point in 22 years with a 3.2 percent decrease. Attendance at SEC football games declined to its lowest point since 2003 last season. The 2017 season saw college football’s largest per-game attendance drop in 34 years and second largest decrease on record. Increased television coverage may be one of the contributing factors to the decline as fans often don’t know the kick-off time until two weeks before games.
“We can’t dictate what times that games will be played,” Grantham said. “That can hurt depending on where you’re coming from and what the weather will be.” As for South Carolina’s numbers heading in the opposite direction, there are a number of reasons that circle back to Gamecock fans’ desire to be at Williams-Brice Stadium. “The talent has been upgraded on the field,” Grantham said. “Coach Muschamp has done a great job of getting players for South Carolina to be able to compete. The competition level is great. That gives our fans hope. You also have to look at the quality of opponents this year on the home schedule. That helps move tickets as well. If you could see your team win those games, who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?” The home schedule includes both teams that played in the national championship game
last year, Alabama and Clemson, as well other programs on the rise, Florida and Kentucky. Other factors include a better game day environment, thanks to many improvements in and around Williams-Brice Stadium in recent years. This includes the recently upgraded video board, creation of the Springs Brooks Plaza and Gamecock Park, as well as upcoming improvements in the 2020 Williams-Brice Stadium Renovation Project. “It is a great environment,” Grantham. “When the stadium is full, it’s as good as anywhere in the country, and I’ve been everywhere in our conference. Our fans can make a difference. They know it. When it’s full, they can really make a difference.” For more information about tickets for South Carolina football, visit gamecocksonline.com/ sports/2018/11/28/tixhome.
Ticket plans on sale for Alabama, Clemson games, home schedule Mini Plans are now on sale to Gamecock Club members, including the September 14 game against Alabama. Four different plans are available for 2019, which include two two-game plans (Alabama/North Carolina, Clemson/North Carolina), a three-game plan (Florida/Kentucky plus Vanderbilt, Charleston Southern or Appalachian State), and the return of the Football Flex Pass. The 2019 Gamecock football home season features several attractive games, which has led to an increase in demand. Single-game tickets to the Alabama or Clemson game will be sold exclusively to Gamecock Club members who are football season ticket holders beginning July 29.
The Football Flex Pass is an all-mobile ticket plan that fans can purchase for only $200 and receive four passes valid for admission to any home game except Clemson or Alabama. Fans choose the matchup and the quantity of passes needed for each game. The Football Flex Pass enables buyers to bring different people to each game. Passes do not need to be printed, as the program is 100 percent mobile. Additional passes may be purchased for $50 each. Mini Plans can be purchased by calling the Ticket Office at 800472-3267 or by signing into Account Manager at Gamecocksonline. com/Tickets. Season tickets are still available. Visit ItsGreatToBeAGamecock. com for more information. TICKET RENEWALS • FOOTBALL
Proud Moment Paul Jubb fulfills promise, makes history as NCAA national champion
Photo courtesy of USTA
By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor
hen Paul Jubb takes off his shirt, the words on his chest grab your attention like a powerful overhead smash. Make the most of every opportunity. Do the ones who support and help you proud.
The impressive calligraphy tattooed on the left side of his chest is his creed, a code the humble teen has lived by since he first picked up a tennis racquet at age 5. It somehow seems prophetic, and now, all too fitting. 8
MEN’S TENNIS • PAUL JUBB
Jubb, a junior from Great Britain, carried those words with him to Columbia, South Carolina, where he made history as the best player ever to walk the campus of the University of South Carolina. When Jubb first met Josh Goffi, he made the South Carolina head coach a promise. Goffi had traveled to Hull, England to recruit the 17-year-old player who was rapidly climbing the junior ranks, and Jubb vowed that if he came to South Carolina, Goffi would not regret it. “That was when I told him if you give me the same opportunity all these other players are getting,
I will be the best, I will rise to the top,” Jubb said. “Somehow it happened.” Jubb fulfilled his promise — and prophecy — by winning the NCAA Singles Championship, the first tennis national championship in program history. After going 32-4 during the regular season, Jubb, the No. 4 seed, surged through the 64-man tournament, winning five straight matches to reach the finals. Then he knocked off No. 1 seed Nuno Borges, who had beaten him twice during the regular season, to win the national title.
After blasting a forehand winner on match point, Jubb collapsed to the court in jubilation — and relief. “It was just so much relief,” he said. “From being able to bottle up all the emotions and stuff and release it at the end was just perfect.” After realizing he had accomplished his dream — and promise — Jubb hugged his coach, the man responsible for bringing him to America and South Carolina. “I said, ‘We did it,’ and all the emotions just kinda came out of me,” Jubb said. “I thanked him for taking the chance and recruiting
me and allowing me to come here. I was just so happy in that moment.” So was Goffi, who molded Jubb from a 17-year-old freshman who could barely crack his six-man starting lineup into a national champion just two years later. “It was pretty intense,” Goffi said of the emotional moment. “Just knowing Jubby and where he’s come from
and what he brings to the table daily … there are a lot of people in the world who wanted it for him. For me, I wanted it really bad for him. There’s not a better kid in the world who deserves something like this to happen to him. That was a special moment for me, as I know it was for him.” After fighting his way into the South Carolina lineup as a young freshman, Jubb quickly began raising his game to an elite level. Playing No. 1 singles by the end of his sophomore season, he made the NCAA singles tournament as an alternate, upset a nationally ranked player in the first round and finished last season ranked No. 56 in the nation. What followed a year later was a meteoric and historic rise. After losing just four matches all season and beating 17 ranked opponents, he believed he could contend for the national championship. “There was always something in the back of my mind, that bit of belief that I could beat anyone in the tournament,” he said. “But I was taking it round by round and not trying to think too far ahead, and I think that’s what helped me focus
on each match and just do what needed to be done.” Jubb had to win five matches in five days to reach the finals of a grueling tournament held in intense heat at the USTA National Campus in Orlando. Jubb, Goffi and a few of their teammates arrived in Orlando two days before the start of the singles tournament and started preparing and putting a plan in place. “We were very disciplined in our routine before matches as far as what we were eating, when we were eating, how we were doing things,” Goffi said. “It was the same every day, and that provided a foundation for him to relax and know that things were going to be OK, that we weren’t going to be rushed, and the body would feel good going into competition time.” The biggest step was developing the right mentality, a day-to-day, match-by-match approach for taking down one nationally ranked opponent after another. “It wasn’t until the morning of the first match that he really got that right mentality down. He knew that he could do well this year and I think it was weighing on him,” Goffi said. “Players tend to have the mentality of looking ahead to
Arulram Sriram photo
win the tournament before it’s even started, they try to play their very best tennis on the day of the first round versus working through the tournament. As we all saw, his tennis got better with every round, and that was the goal. He did a great job building from match to match.” Jubb rolled past Penn State’s Constant De La Bassetiere, 7-5, 6-2, in the first round and beat Dan Little of Utah, 6-4, 7-6, in the second round. In the third round, he faced a rematch against North Carolina’s Benjamin Sigouin, whom he upset in the tournament last season. Sigouin had just led the Tar Heels to the semifinals of the NCAA team tournament, but Jubb made quick work of him, 6-1, 6-4, to advance to the quarterfinals. In the quarters, he beat Borges’ Mississippi State teammate Giovanni Oradini, 7-6, 6-3, to reach the semifinals. That’s when he faced his first biggest challenge, falling behind No. 7 seed Aleksander Kovacevic of Illinois. Jubb lost the first set — the only set he dropped the entire tournament — before rallying to win 4-6, 7-6, 6-3. That was a turning point for both Jubb and Goffi. “The start didn’t go how I wanted it to go, I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be, but halfway through that first set, I started playing the right way,” Jubb said. “Coach kept telling me, even if I run out of [time in] this first set, you are playing the right way and you are going to gain momentum, so I just tried to keep doing that and I was able to get my momentum in the second set and take over.” That set up a dramatic rematch with No. 1 Borges, who went 25-0 during the spring dual-match season (12-0 in the SEC) in leading Mississippi State to the SEC Championship. He had won 31 singles matches in a row and had not dropped a set during the NCAA tournament. Jubb was 20-2 during the dualmatch season and 11-1 in the SEC. His only two losses were to Borges, both in the three sets. The first time they played, Jubb had a match point before losing a third-set tiebreaker (8-6). Throughout the tournament, Jubb and Goffi did very little scouting of opponents, choosing instead to focus on Jubb’s game. Instead, Jubb watched videos of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, whom he patterns his game after.
PAUL JUBB • MEN’S TENNIS
It wasn’t until the finals that they began reviewing video of the previous matches against Borges. Even then, the focus was on Jubb, not Borges. “We were just looking at things that I did well when I was winning the match, just to keep that in mind, that’s what I’ve got to do,” Jubb said. “It wasn’t exactly looking for his weaknesses, it was just looking at my strengths, what worked against him, just being able to sustain that throughout the match.” “We were focusing on the fundamentals of Jubb’s game, what he needs to bring to the table that makes him great,” Goffi said. “We buttoned those things up and got back to technical work on each area of the game. As the two weeks progressed, we pushed him into more of an external focus, using those areas of his game to create the stress across the net that he’s so great at doing. He was able to execute both of those things pretty flawlessly.”
Despite the two previous losses, Jubb was relaxed and confident entering the final against his SEC rival. His powerful forehand was dialed in, his serve had become a dangerous weapon and he was one of the best conditioned players in the tournament, able to stay in points longer and outlast opponents during long rallies. “The last three times I had played Nuno, I won the first set and after I won that first set, I was really like, I can do this,” he said. “I just didn’t want to allow myself to go to three sets with him. I believed I could really take him out in two.” Jubb was aggressive from the start. Though he lost his serve to start the match, he held to tie the first set 3-3, and then broke Borges for a 4-3 lead. He then held serve and broke Borges again to take the first set 6-3. He stayed aggressive in the second set, taking a 2-0 lead before Borges broke him to get back on
serve. Borges rallied, fighting off a match point to get even at 5-5. After both players held serve, Jubb dominated the tie-breaker, finishing off the match with a forehand winner up the line. “I just came out swinging and believing in my shots,” he said. “Overcoming that fear of having lost to him twice already and trying to regain that belief that I could beat him was the toughest thing to overcome. Once I got into the match and realized it was possible, then things started to move my way.” In college tennis, coaches are allowed courtside during matches. Jubb credits Goffi with giving him the right advice and keeping him focused in the second set. With a large contingent of Mississippi State fans behind him, they knew Borges would rally and come back strong. Goffi told Jubb when that happened to keep punching back. “I did that every time he made a push,” said Jubb, who forced
mistakes with a big first serve and repeatedly put Borges away with forehead winners. Having his coach courtside was a big asset during such a huge match. “He just drops little things now and then … just little hints of knowledge and it worked out perfectly,” Jubb said. “It was great that he was there beside me the whole way.” While Jubb vowed to be one of the best college players in the country, Goffi had made Jubb a promise too, predicting that he would develop into a player ready to join the pro tour by the end of his tenure at South Carolina. Jubb credits Goffi and South Carolina assistant coach Kyle Bailey with helping develop his game both mentally and physically. “Their tennis IQ is unbelievable. They know so much about the game,” he said. “My tennis IQ has been raised so much more since I got here. I just understand so much
Josh Goffi & Paul Jubb
Photo courtesy of USTA
MEN’S TENNIS • PAUL JUBB
more about the game and how to maneuver matches and things like that. I think that has been one of the biggest developments for me.” Goffi, a three-time All-ACC player at Clemson and former ATP pro, took Jubb under his wing, built on the things he had learned from his coach in England and molded him into an American national champion. “I was happy I got to play a small part in his journey,” Goffi said. “It’s been a great responsibility for me, but it’s also been an amazing pleasure to do that. It was a really fulfilling role for me. To see him go out there and face all the fears in the world out there, face every ounce inside of him that wanted to look backwards. “He’s a true champion, grabbing the bull by the horns and making it his. That’s why he’s a special kid.” After the match, Jubb was flooded with messages of congratulations, from Athletic Director Ray Tanner and other South Carolina coaches to Jonny Carmichael, his coach in England, and legendary British coach Judy Murray, the mother of former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
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“The support has been unreal. It has been really cool,” he said. With a 38-4 record, including 23 wins over ranked opponents, Jubb finished the season No. 3 in the national rankings, the highest in program history. A first-time AllAmerican, he also picked up other honors along the way, including the ITA Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award and the ITA Carolina Region Arthur Ashe Jr. Leadership and Sportsmanship Award. After showing off his national championship trophy in Columbia, he headed back to England, where he planned to play the grass-court season this summer and continue to develop his game, preparing for the day when he reaches another goal by turning pro. He plans to return to South Carolina next season, hopefully repeating as national champion and leading Goffi’s team back to the NCAA team tournament. “I still want to come back and finish my time here,” he said. “One of the reasons I came here so early at a young age is because I have got the time to fully develop and do my full four years without feeling the need to rush out on the tour like some guys feel the need to do. I don’t need to do that so I can come back and
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work on things and still develop my game to give myself a better chance to do well on the tour.” He will approach next season and the future the same way he developed into a national champion — by remembering and always adhering to the words written on his chest. “I’m trying to be as humble as possible and still be the same old me, determined and hard-working,” he said. “I am not going to let it get to my head whatsoever, because
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that is not me. I still always consider myself an underdog. I’m just going to be the same old me and work so hard to get better.” No matter what the future holds, Jubb will go down as one of the greatest players in South Carolina and NCAA history. He’s got the trophy to prove it. “It’s a great thing when you know you have made history and you are in the history books,” he said. “It’s going to be a thing I cherish the rest of my life. ”
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PAUL JUBB • MEN’S TENNIS
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MEN’S TENNIS • PAUL JUBB
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PAUL JUBB AT 2019 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
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PAUL JUBB • MEN’S TENNIS
Dynamic Duo Close friends Ingrid Martins, Mia Horvit form nation’s top doubles team
By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe
he first time Ingrid Martins and Mia Horvit stepped onto the court together for a doubles match, it did not go well. Martins was a sophomore, Horvit a highly recruited freshman. They simply did not mesh. “Our first doubles match was not a good one,” Martins said with a laugh. “We said we were never going to play together again.” “We were in Charleston on clay courts and we had not had that much practice together. It wasn’t too pretty,” Horvit recalls. “It was just awful,” head coach Kevin Epley explained. “They were conflicted. They are sort of an all-on or all-off team. If something goes wrong, they don’t really adapt that great and it’s hard in a six-game set to adapt. You start panicking. I think that was just one of their off days.”
Looking back, it’s hard to imagine South Carolina’s dynamic duo not clicking on the court. Three years after that disastrous start, they finished the 2018-19 season ranked No. 1 in the nation in doubles. With a 29-8 record, including a 16-5 mark in dual matches and 8-1 in the SEC, Martins and Horvit claimed the No. 1 ranking twice during the regular season and finished the season on top after advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA Doubles Championship. With a 15-7 mark against ranked opponents, Martins and Horvit helped lead South Carolina to one of its best seasons in school history. The Gamecocks (23-4) won their first SEC championship and advanced to the Elite Eight for just the third time in program history. They finished the season ranked a program-best No. 5 in the final
WOMEN’S TENNIS • MARTINS–HORVIT
team rankings and Martins, Horvit and senior Paige Cline were all named AllAmericans, another program-first. While Martins (No. 4 nationally) and Cline (No. 23) led South Carolina in singles, Martins and Horvit were dominant in doubles. They were ranked No. 3 in the nation entering the NCAA Tournament and won three straight matches at No. 1 doubles to help the Gamecocks secure the doubles point and beat North Florida, Virginia and Southern Cal. Against the Trojans, they took down the then-top-ranked
doubles team in the country, beating Angela Kulikov and Rianna Valdes 6-1 in the Sweet 16. After South Carolina fell to Duke in the Elite Eight in Orlando, Martins and Horvit went on another run in the NCAA doubles tournament. The No. 4 seed, they won three straight matches over duos from Florida State, Washington State and NC State before losing in the semifinals to a team from Michigan. With a 15-7 record against ranked opponents, they proved they had come a long way since that first doubles match together. After rooming together for three years, the close friends forged a deep relationship on and off the court. “I think our chemistry was getting better and we were getting closer and we liked to be around each other,” Martins said. “Even on court, we liked to play with each other and we look at each other’s faces like, ‘We are going to do this. Let’s work together and let’s make each other better.’” “She’s like my sister,” said Horvit, who finished the season ranked No. 82 in singles with a 24-5 record. “It’s just understanding her and understanding myself and what we have to do in different situations and just committing to our game style. Seeing the progress over the course of time, it’s really come together.” While Martins grew up playing doubles with her parents in Brazil and was a strong doubles player when she arrived at South Carolina, Horvit didn’t see much doubles action her first two years. But at the end of last season, Epley put the pair together and they wound up going 123, 8-2 in the SEC. While Martins has a powerful serve, Horvit compliments her with a strong service return. Their aggressiveness on the court makes them both strong at the net. “We actually have completely different styles, and that’s what makes us so good together,” Horvit said. “She has a great serve, I’m a great returner and we have both worked on our net [games] and being more dominant. Once Ingrid and I really clicked together, we started thinking we could do something really special.” With Martins and Horvit leading the way at the No. 1 spot,
the Gamecocks were 45-22 overall in doubles in dual matches and won the doubles point in 21 of their 27 contests. The No. 2 tandem of Rachel Rohrabacher and Megan Davies finished the season ranked No. 39 nationally with a 14-7 mark, 6-1 in dual matches. For Martins and Horvit, their close relationship off the court often made the difference. “Your relationship off the court impacts the team on the court,” Horvit said. “If you don’t get along with a person off the court it kinda puts pressure on you on the court and it’s not really true to self. It just takes a lot of time to really spend with one another, not only just me and Ingrid but the other girls too. It’s a very big part of our culture.” It doesn’t always work out that way, of course. Even the best tandems go through slumps. Martins and Horvit lost two of their three matches in the SEC Tournament before going on a three-match winning streak in the NCAA Tournament. “It can be a strength and it can be a hindrance too,” Epley said. “When we played Florida in SECs, they got into a little bit of a tift
on the court in doubles and they both pouted and it became about their respective political battle as opposed to, ‘Hey, look at the big picture,’ which is something we talk about all the time but it kind of swallowed them up. Ninety percent of the time, it is helpful in the sense that they can trust each other and they can be vulnerable with each other and they know they are in it together.” Regardless what happens on the court, the two were always there for each other, pulling for one another and their teammates, which was critical in the team’s deep run in the NCAA Tournament. “It’s just checking in with each other, seeing how we’re
doing, whether it’s tennis or not,” Horvit said. “Just coming home every day and just being there for each other really means a lot.” “Sometimes I can see in her face that she is having a hard time and you’re like, ‘What’s up? I can help you,’ and she opens up to you and you can be more free, and that’s how we play our best,” Martins said. “When we are having fun and
laughing on the court, we play our best.” Just like their South Carolina team, they’ve come a long way since that first match together. “Looking back on it, who would have thought we would be No. 1 in the nation and dominating college tennis in doubles,” Horvit said.
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Pushing for Playing Time Five players who could break out in 2019
This spring the 6-2, 235-pounder worked as the first-team middle linebacker while senior T.J. Brunson sat out with an injury. When fall arrives, Jones hopes to push Brunson — as well as Sherrod Greene, Eldridge Thompson, Damani Staley and Rosendo Louis — for playing time. “Obviously, one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity — T.J. not going through spring, I think really helped Ernest,” Muschamp said. “He had to play the Mike [linebacker]. He had to make all the calls. “And Ernest is really smart. … I think that was really good for him,
By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Allen Sharpe & SC Athletics
he dust has settled and the South Carolina football roster has begun to take shape. With seniors departed, a few players transferred, new recruits coming in and injury recovery timetables in clear view, Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp knows mostly what he will have heading into fall camp. Spurs & Feathers looks at five players who are prime candidates to break out and make significant contributions this coming season.
stop in Charleston. “Not our fault. I tell [his mom] that all the time.” Smith was limited in spring practice and did not play in the spring game. “[But] OrTre has been cleared,” Muschamp said. “He’s doing everything. Really pleased with his rehab.” At 6-4, 224 pounds, Smith has a body that can get open in traffic. With Deebo Samuel now a San Francisco 49er, there are roughly 60
catches and 900 yards receiving to be accounted for. So is a starting receiver spot opposite Bryan Edwards. Will OrTre play in the slot with Shi Smith outside? Vice-versa? How will Josh Vann factor in? Whatever those answers are, OrTre Smith will have a chance to put up great numbers, especially in year two of Bryan McClendon’s up-tempo offense.
WR OrTre Smith
As a true freshman in 2017, Smith ranked third on the team in catches (30) and made 10 starts. He ranked fourth among SEC freshmen in catches per game and sixth in receiving yards per game. But as a sophomore last season Smith played in just two games before he had season-ending surgery to repair a genetic issue that affects his knee. “That’s his mom’s fault,” Muschamp joked at his Spurs Up Tour
16 FOOTBALL • BREAKOUT CANDIDATES
LB Ernest Jones
Jones — who did not practice last spring while recovering from a fracture in his back — played in five games last season and had 16 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He led the Gamecocks with five tackles and forced a fumble against Chattanooga. He also played the majority of the Clemson game and had five tackles.
to see him step forward like that.” Said Jones, “Whoever is out there doing the right job and getting the job done and giving us the best chance of winning deserves the more snaps.” Jones will back up Brunson, but could get significant playing time, allowing Brunson to play outside at times.
DT Jabari Ellis
When asked in Charleston about the player who has impressed him most during summer workouts, the first name Muschamp mentioned was the 6-3, 272-pound Ellis. The redshirt-junior from Vance has impressed on what the coach calls his deepest, most talented defensive line since arriving at South Carolina. “Jabari Ellis is a guy that I think made huge strides,” Muschamp said. Despite having six tackles and one sack in just four games last season, Ellis said Muschamp reassured
him, “You’re going to be a good player for us.” That could come sooner rather than later. Ellis worked with the scout team last season, so he faced South Carolina’s starting offensive line. He battled with NFL draftee Dennis Daley and All-SEC second-teamer Zack Bailey. “Me being on scout team was the best thing for me,” Ellis said in April. Ellis played both outside and on the interior line this offseason and “soaked everything up like a sponge” — his words — from new defensive line coach John Scott Jr. He worked on polishing his techniques and mastered the playbook so the game could slow down even more. The Gamecock defensive line is loaded with depth, but Ellis should see significant playing time on the interior alongside Javon Kinlaw, Kobe Smith, Keir Thomas, Rick Sandidge and Zacch Pickens.
TE Kiel Pollard
Two years removed from the Hayden Hurst era and a year removed from K.C. Crosby and Jacob August, there’s room for another Gamecock tight end to make a name for himself. In May, Pollard — who had 15 catches for 181 yards and two scores last season — ranked eighth on Saturday Down South’s list of best tight ends in the SEC. “I don’t see any drop off,” Muschamp said about the tight end transition. “I think Kiel is a mismatch in the passing game, but he’s also a guy that can block well enough … to be fine.” Pollard said in March he sees himself being a bigger part of the offense and wants to be the guy
quarterback Jake Bentley looks to in big moments. “I know what I have to do,” Pollard said. “I’m excited to make plays and be that guy for my teammates.” Pollard also has some team goals in mind. “I want to win championships and I want to be in Atlanta playing for the SEC championship,” he said. “I believe that if I get the ball, I can help make that happen.”
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OL Hank Manos
Three starting spots on the offensive line seem set, with Sadarius Hutcherson at left tackle, Donell Stanley at guard and Dylan Wonnum at right tackle. But questions remain about the final two spots, with center coming down to Manos, a redshirt-freshman, Chandler Farrell, a redshirt-junior, and possibly redshirt-sophomore Eric Douglas. The consolation prize may be the team’s other starting guard position, which also could go to Jovaughn Gwyn or Jordan Rhodes. But Manos, a redshirt-freshman, could be a future star alongside Hutcherson and Wonnum. Manos did not play last season until week 10 against Chattanooga and made his first start in the Belk Bowl against Virginia. The Chapin product worked this offseason on his strength and weight. The former wrestler was 278 pounds at the beginning of last season and played just below 300 pounds against Virginia. Like several other interior offensive lineman this offseason, he worked at center and guard. “You can never say you’re exactly where you want to be,” Manos said. “You’ve always got to improve.”
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BREAKOUT CANDIDATES • FOOTBALL
Lowcountry Stars Dakereon Joyner
Muschamp high on Joyner, Charleston-area players By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Travis Bell & Josh Hyber
CHARLESTON — Of the players on the South Carolina football roster from all the states and all the pockets of the country, there’s no bigger group than from South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Ten players on the team’s roster hail from the football-rich region. “This area has been great for us,” Will Muschamp said in mid-May while standing a few hundred yards from Charleston’s iconic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. But the player at the forefront of discussion at Muschamp’s
Spurs Up Tour stop in Charleston was redshirt-freshman quarterback Dakereon Joyner. Several times during Spurs Up Tour events, Muschamp reiterated that if Joyner improves the Gamecocks’ chances of winning, he will play. The coach repeated that point on May 14 when answering a fan question. “Coach, Dakereon Joyner needs to be on the field in some way. He’s too valuable an asset for our football team,” the fan began. “Couldn’t he play in the wildcat
FOOTBALL • CHARLESTON SPURS UP TOUR
formation like [former Gamecock] Pharoh Cooper did?” “Well, I’m not going to give away any secrets,” Muschamp answered. “But I agree. Number one, he’s an unbelievable human being, a great person. He’s got natural leadership ability. He positively effects everybody around him. And we’re really excited about him. “He’s in competition right now for the backup job and continues to be. He understands how important this summer is for him
and how big fall camp will be. But I wouldn’t disagree with that.” Joyner was 10 of 23 for 185 yards and a touchdown and an interception in the Garnet & Black Spring Game. He also rushed for 60 yards on eight carries. At Fort Dorchester High School in North Charleston, Joyner threw for more than 10,000 yards and, as a sophomore, led his team to its first state title. As a junior he passed for 3,642 yards and 44 touchdowns and rushed for 1,089 yards and 12
scores. As he senior, he accounted for more than 3,400 yards and 52 touchdowns and finished his career 40-3 as a starter. As an Elite 11 quarterback, South Carolina’s Mr. Football chose South Carolina over some of the top programs in the country. Now the 6-1, 205-pounder finds himself in competition for the backup quarterback position with true freshman Ryan Hilinski. “[He had] a fantastic transition from year one to year two at the quarterback position,” Muschamp told reporters about Joyner before the event. “We’re excited about his future.” “I’m a more comfortable player,” Joyner said after the spring game. “I got my head in the playbook, I got into film and I really dialed into what coach was trying to teach me. This year compared to last year, I think I am more coachable than I have ever been.” The May 14 event at Harborside East in Charleston wrapped up Muschamp’s seven-stop tour across the state (the Atlanta event
was canceled due to weather). After signing autographs and posing for photos, he updated members of the Charleston Gamecock Club on his team and how the 2019 roster is developing. Muschamp also commended several other Charleston-area Gamecocks, including Javon and Caleb Kinlaw (Goose Creek High School), OrTre Smith, Parker White and Bailey Hart (Wando), R.J. Roderick (Cane Bay) and Chandler Farrell (Summerville).
Muschamp’s Scouting Report On Javon Kinlaw:
“He’s doing well. He’s been full speed and looks great and has been working hard. … He’s having a real good summer. I’m excited about his progress and really looking forward to his senior year.”
On Caleb Kinlaw:
“He’s coming off his ACL [injury]. I saw him [on May 14]. He looks great.”
On OrTre Smith:
“He’s been cleared [after a knee injury]. He’s doing everything. I’m really pleased with his rehab and how that’s gone.
On Bailey Hart:
“He has been a real solid contributor to our football team.”
On R.J. Roderick:
“I’m really proud of him. He came in as a true freshman and started for us. He had a great spring and I expect big things from him.”
On Chandler Farrell:
“He’s a young man that walked onto our football team and earned a scholarship. He’s competing to be a starter at the center position and possily at a guard position. He’s done a fantastic job.”
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Looking Ahead Kingston makes changes after disappointing season, promises better days coming By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe & Jenny Dilworth
hen Friday night starter Carmen Mlodzinski limped off the pitcher’s mound with a broken foot at Clemson March 1, it started the downfall to South Carolina’s 2019 season. “To me, that started the dominoes of the pitching staff having to be stretched and pushed a little bit too far,” head coach Mark Kingston said. “Obviously, there were more [injuries] after that, but I look at that as kind of the beginning of what turned into some struggles for us.”
Despite losing its No. 1 starter, South Carolina beat Clemson that night — thanks to a spectacular performance by another young pitcher — and won the rivalry series to start the season 9-2. The Gamecocks were 14-3 in non-conference games before the wheels fell off when SEC play began. Four more pitchers missed significant time with injuries, in addition to three who missed the season after having Tommy John surgery and closer Sawyer Bridges, who struggled with a damaged shoulder all season. With Mlodzin-
BASEBALL • SEASON REVIEW
ski out for the season, 11 different pitchers made starts, including five freshmen. A thin, injury-riddled pitching staff, along with 11 new position players, was too much to overcome for the Gamecocks, who finished 28-28 and 12th in the SEC (8-22) in Kingston’s second season. “We were doing pretty well and holding our own, but by the time we got to the SEC, it was just too big a hill to climb based on who we were playing and who we had healthy,” Kingston said. “It didn’t go as well as any of us wanted, but
we are going to move on and we are going to make things better.” After losing in the first round of the SEC Tournament and missing the postseason, Kingston immediately began making changes to his program and looking toward the future. “You evaluate everything,” he said. “That’s after a winning season, that’s after a tough season. You always look to make sure everything is being run at its highest level. The decisions we are making are trying to get us there.” His first move was shuffling the coaching staff. Director of Player Development Trip Couch, a long-time college and pro scout, will now hit the road to take charge of recruiting. Assistant coach Mike Current will take over his job, becoming Kingston’s right-hand man in the dugout and on a day-to-day basis. Assistant coach Stuart Lake will become the full-time hitting coach, taking the reins of an offense that struggled mightily in 2019. “I think that will optimize everybody’s talents and continue to get this program as good as it possibly can be,” Kingston said. “I think this is clearly the best use of all of our guys’ talent.” With 19 new players on this year’s roster, 2019 was essentially a transitional year for Kingston and South Carolina, which lost seven position starters and its entire starting rotation from 2018. With only three seniors, it will return the bulk of the roster next season, including as many as 14 pitchers. Depending on how the June MLB Draft shakes out, it could return five starters in the field and 11 pitchers who threw significant innings this year, plus three more returning from injury. They will be bolstered by a recruiting class that could feature as many as 16 players — eight freshmen and eight junior-college transfers. Seven of the eight transfers were ranked in the top 100 among junior-college players, including potential starting pitchers Thomas Farr, Brannon Jordan and Andrew Peters, and two or three position players who could work their way into the everyday lineup right away. “Obviously, if the class stays together, this is a really good class, both in high-school high-end play-
ers and the JUCO class is the best class in the country. I don’t think that can even be debated,” Kingston said. “A lot of impact players coming in. … When you look at what we are losing compared to what is coming in, I think we can safely say there is going to be some significant improvement just from a numbers standpoint.” The biggest challenge will be improving an offense that was anemic at times. The Gamecocks were last in the SEC with in batting average (.236), 13th in on-base percentage (.333) and 12th in runs scored. While they were third in the league in home runs (75), they were tied for second in strikeouts (511). “We struck out too much,” Kingston said. “Obviously, we had good power but it didn’t lead to enough runs because we struck out too much. Sometimes that’s a guy trying to do too much, sometimes that’s guys not built to put the ball in play with two strikes.” Lake’s primary responsibility will be developing an offense that makes more contact and produces in critical situations. While South Carolina had four players hit 10 or more home runs, they struck out once every four or five at-bats. “The kind of offense we want is guys who have line-drive power, not just swing as hard as you can and hope you hit a home run and if you
strike out, so what,” Kingston said. “That’s the furthest thing from what we want. We want an athletic lineup that provides power but not at the expense of 12 strikeouts a game. We want balance. We want to be tough outs. It all has to come together.” The Gamecocks averaged just four runs per game and hit just .208 in conference play, leading to the program’s worst SEC record since joining the conference in 1992. “The kind of offense we want is a offense that is very tough to pitch to and when you make a mistake, we will drive the ball, often out of the yard, but we will also fight you with two strikes and a runner on third and two out,” Kingston said. “That’s what we want to be and that’s what we will be as we continue to move forward and build the kind of offense we want to have.” He could have two of his top three hitters back in juniors Andrew Eyster and Luke Berryhill, who was drafted in the 13th round by the Reds but expected to return. Eyster, a junior-college transfer as a sophomore last season, finished strong and led the Gamecocks in hitting with a .309 average with 10 home runs. Berryhill, another transfer, hit .279 with 12 home runs and a teamhigh 49 RBI. The duo combined for three home runs and seven RBI in a 10-8 win over Mississippi State on the final day of the regular season
to get South Carolina into the SEC Tournament. “They were clearly two of our better hitters by the end of the season,” Kingston said. “They were two of the better hitters in the SEC by the end of the season. What they did on the last day of the season versus Mississippi State speaks volumes to what they can do for us. They are big pieces of the puzzle moving forward.” A big key will be the improvement of Noah Campbell, a preseason All-American who struggled all season, hitting just .239 with 47 strikeouts in 188 at-bats. “I think it was just a matter of putting a little too much pressure on himself,” Kingston said of the sophomore leadoff hitter. “He just got into a little bit of a funk and had a hard time getting out of it. He also hit a lot of balls hard that were at people. The stats show that he probably should have had a little bit better numbers than he did but I think he also learned some things. I think he learned that the bunt needs to be a big part of his game.” Campbell, the starting second baseman, planned to return this summer to the elite Cape Cod League, where he was an all-star and one of the league’s best hitters last season. Kingston said Campbell may need to alter his mental outlook and approach at the plate.
“Coming off the success he had in the Cape, sometimes it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, I did great in the Cape Cod League, I’m going to stay status quo.’ But sometimes the game will humble you a little bit and you learn other parts of the game need to be developed as well,” he said. “I think he has learned some very important things. The kind of player he needs to be is a guy who really uses that speed, has line-drive pop, not trying to hit home runs, use the whole field. I think he will have a really good bounce-back year. I think he will have a good summer in the Cape again and be prepared to have a really good junior year.” The Gamecocks could have as many as 22 pitchers on the roster when fall practice begins. The only significant losses will be starter Reid Morgan, who was also drafted by the Reds, and junior closer Sawyer Bridges, who chose to hang it up and become a volunteer coach after struggling with shoulder injuries throughout his career. The Gamecocks also were last in the SEC with a team ERA of 5.51. But several freshmen and newcomers got valuable experience that should carry over to next season. Mlodzinski, who planned to pitch in the Cape Cod League this summer, will return as well as five freshmen who combined to pitch 237.7 innings, nearly half the team total. The best of the group was Brett Kerry, who shut down Clemson in that Game 1 victory, made the SEC All-Freshman team and became the 13th player in program history to be named a Freshman All-American. Kerry led the team with a 2.62 ERA and was outstanding in a variety of roles. He collected seven saves, often pitched multiple innings in high-leverage situations and made two starts. He got the win with 6.1 strong innings in the season finale against Mississippi State. “He has clearly been as valuable as anybody we have on our team and we are really excited about what he is going to be in the future moving forward,” Kingston said. A big decision for Kingston and his staff is whether to make Kerry a starter or keep him in the bullpen, where he could close or pitch multiple times on a weekend. “Obviously he has showed us he can be a premier closer in the country,” Kingston said. “Will we see if he can be a weekend starter next year? Yeah, we will probably look at that.” The Gamecocks could have several options for the weekend SEASON REVIEW • BASEBALL
The bullpen could also get a big boost from veterans Graham Lawson and Ridge Chapman, who both missed last season with arm injuries. Both were key relievers on the 2018 team that advanced to the Super Regionals. Lawson, who had Tommy John surgery, has closer potential, while Chapman also has a power arm when healthy. “Graham is doing really, really well. I think he is ahead of schedule, feels strong, says his arm never felt better,” Kingston said. “We are really encouraged by his progress and expect him to have a major role for us next year. “Ridge is not quite as far along, has had a few more roadblocks along the way, but he is a guy we are hopeful can help us next year. If they can both help us, those are two 95-mph arms that we didn’t have this year. They could be a big piece of the puzzle.” With several key players returning and reinforcements on the way, Kingston doesn’t believe his program will suffer through another year like last season. “This year was a speed bump, obviously, but it doesn’t affect how good we are going to be in the future,” he said.
rotation with Kerry, Mlodzinski and the three junior-college transfers. All five freshman also started at times last year, as did sophomore TJ Shook. Redshirt-freshman Julian Bosnic, who was impressive last fall, also returns after Tommy John surgery. If they don’t start, the bullpen could have plenty of experience with Cam Tringali, Wesley Sweatt, Daniel Lloyd, Dylan Harley, Shook and several others expected to return. With so much depth, Kingston said there will be fierce competition in the fall. “It’s going to be, get what you earn and earn what you get,” he said. “There may be guys on next year’s team that get less innings than they got this year, and viceversa. It’s going to be how are you developing, how are you evolving, are you getting better, are you going forward or backward? “Combined with the new players coming in, there are going to be a lot of roles up for grabs and what happened this year probably will not earn much for next year because, truthfully, we don’t have a lot of guys who just put up unbelievable numbers this year. So next year is going to be wide open and full of opportunities for a lot of people.”
2019 SEASON STATS
AVG R HR
Less than 100 at-bats Cole Ganopulos .500 1 0 1 .500/.500 0 Wes Clarke .239 3 1 5 .413/.327
Jordan Holladay .238 3 0 6 .310/.298 0 Joel Brewer .235 0 0 1 .294/.278 0 George Callil
Ian Jenkins .188 8 5 9 .453/.235 0 Jonah Beamon .171 7 0 3 .171/.326
Nick Neville .127 3 0 3 .190/.191
Josiah Sightler .067 1 0 2 .133/.097
Jacob English .000 3 0 0 .000/.667 0 TOTALS
.236 308 75
ERA W-L APP GS SV IP
2.62 4-1 22 2 7 58.1 65
3.80 4-6 14 14 0 87.2 70
5.00 2-4 23 8 1 66.2 59
Ridge Chapman 0.00 0-0 1 0 0 1.2 3 TJ Shook
3.76 3-1 14 9 1 38.1 49
Wesley Sweatt 4.33 2-3 23 4 1 43.2 31 Hayden Lehman 4.91 0-1 7 1 0 7.1 7 Parker Coyne 5.26 2-1 16 1 1 25.2 35
BASEBALL • SEASON REVIEW
Carmen Mlodzinski 5.91
5.51 28-28 56 56 13 488.2 488
Emotional Farewell Jacob Olson leaves South Carolina with plenty of ‘special’ memories By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe
Jacob Olson didn’t think anything in baseball could hurt worse than walking off the field in Fayetteville, Ark. last year after South Carolina’s Game 3 loss to Arkansas in the NCAA Super Regionals. “It hurts as bad as anything can hurt right now in baseball,” he said that night. A year later, Olson discovered that there is something worse — taking off his Gamecock uniform for the final time. “That was something special coming to an end, for sure,” Olson said of South Carolina’s last NCAA appearance. “It is kinda like that. It’s definitely an emotional thing and it’s something you don’t want to think about, really. I don’t even want to think about that until somebody rips this jersey off me.” As one of three departing seniors on the 2019 team, Olson struggled with his emotions going into the final weekend of his career. As he reflected on his three-year South Carolina career, it was hard for him to believe it was coming to an end. “There are so many emotions going through that. It sucks to think about it, it really does,” he
said. “I try not to think about it because I can’t tell you how bad it is going feel when I am going up into that box for my last time. There is just a lot of emotion in that. But I am very happy that I got to do it.” A native of Monroe, Ga., Olson grew up a Georgia Bulldog fan. But he quickly adds, “that kind of died out in high school and obviously I bleed garnet and black and I hate those people over there.” The Georgia 8-AAAA Region Player of the Year, Olson spent his first season at West Georgia Tech Junior College, where he hit .351 with eight home runs, 20 doubles and 36 RBI. Though he grew up a Georgia fan, he had a keen understanding of the history and tradition of Gamecock baseball. “I was just three hours up the road so I was fairly close and I understood what this place was about,” he said. “When I got the call coming out of junior college to come here, I knew what I was getting into. It’s definitely something special.” Olson made a big impact right away. An infielder in high school and junior college, he arrived at
South Carolina as a utility player but wound up starting in right field as a sophomore. He started 56 of the 58 games he played in and led the Gamecocks with a .294 batting average. Hitting in a deep lineup, he scored 37 runs and drove in 27. Though his batting average dipped to .234 as a junior, Olson’s power numbers soared. He hit 12 home runs with 36 RBI and a team-high 20 doubles. As a senior, he got off to a hot start in 2019 before slipping to .254 at season’s end. The power numbers, though, continued to be his biggest asset as he led the Gamecocks with 13 home runs while collecting 37 RBI, the third-highest total on the team. He also had a flare for the dramatic, hitting walk-off home runs against Valparaiso and NC State and was named National Player of the Week after the Valpo series. Olson also moved back to the infield, taking over third base from three-year starter Jonah Bride and playing well there most of the season. Head coach Mark Kingston calls Olson “a true grinder.”
“Three years in the program and he has played extremely hard every single day,” he said. “Has hit for a lot of power for us, made the adjustment to third base for us this year from being a right fielder most of his career and has held his own over there and did a nice job.” “I just go out there and give it everything I’ve got every time and everything else will take care of itself,” Olson said. “This year for me was just getting back to what I do and I feel like I have done that. I have had a little bit of a slump here and there and a little bit of bad luck but I feel good about what I have been able to come back and do.” Olson was selected in the 26th round of the MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. Playing at the next level has been a lifelong dream. “I don’t want this to end here, I can’t express that enough. But at the same time, I’m really excited about the next step,” he said. Olson will leave with some fond memories, from helping South Carolina make the NCAA Tournament and advance to the Super Regionals last year to a productive senior season. “I have loved every second of it,” he said. “Honestly, I can’t even put it into words it’s been so special to me, the guys I have played with and the friends I will have forever and the memories I will have forever. Playing here has been unbelievable and I’m so happy I got to do it.”
JACOB OLSON • BASEBALL 23
Proud Gamecock TJ Hopkins puts finishing touches on stellar career at South Carolina By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe & Jenny Dilworth
or the past four years, you could almost always find TJ Hopkins over the near grandstands signing autographs for kids after games at Founders Park. Win or lose, Hopkins would take time to chat with kids and sign his name. He remembers when he was one of those kids, hoping to get an autograph or just a moment to say hi to his heroes, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Walker. “I just remember looking up to all of those guys. I was one of those little kids,” Hopkins recalls. “That’s why I always try to be nice to little kids because I remember me being in that same position and 24
BASEBALL • TJ HOPKINS
looking up to those guys, which was really cool to do.” Hopkins, like Bradley, has patrolled center field for South Carolina the past four years. It was a natural progression for a Summerville native who grew up a Gamecock fan. Hopkins was one of the top prep stars in the state at Summerville High School and attracted the attention of several schools as a senior. But he always knew he would go to South Carolina. He had been attending football games at Williams-Brice Stadium with his family since he was little and remembers his first Carolina baseball game at the old Sarge Frye Field. Vanderbilt star and future major-
league David Price pitched against the Gamecocks that day. “That was cool,” he said. “We’ve just always been around here … so I was pretty sure I was coming here,” Hopkins said. He was 13 when he watched his heroes, Bradley and Walker, lead South Carolina to the first of two straight national championships in the 2010 College World Series. “Me and my dad watched the 2010 college World Series at our lake house and my dad was ecstatic for about three months. My whole family was really happy,” he said. “Me, I just loved Jack Bradley and Christian Walker. Christian Walker and Jackie Bradley walked on water to me.” Six years later, Hopkins arrived at South Carolina as a freshman and showed right away that he, too, could be one of Carolina’s all-time greats. He started 31 games as a freshman and hit .322 with 25 runs scored and 26 RBI. He had a big series — including a five-RBI game — as South Carolina won four straight games against Rhode Island and UNC Wilmington in the NCAA Columbia Regional to advance to the Super Regionals against Oklahoma State. Hopkins struggled a bit as a sophomore, as did the whole team, which missed the NCAA Tournament in head coach Chad Holbrook’s final season. Hopkins hit .258 and scored 37 runs. His biggest hit came in the SEC Tournament, when he came off the bench to hit a pinch-hit, game-winning, threerun home run to beat Kentucky and keep the Gamecocks’ postseason hopes alive. He missed 26 games with hand and back injuries as a junior, but was a force when he was on the field. He led the Gamecocks with a .345 average while scoring 31 runs and driving 24 in just 37 games. He had 14 multi-hit games to help South Carolina return to the NCAA Tournament and advance to the Super Regionals against Arkansas. “That group of guys from last year’s team, that was my favorite team I have been on,” he said. “That group of guys was just so close.” The Gamecocks struggled again his senior season, but Hopkins put the finishing touches on a stellar career. He played in all 56 games, hitting .285 with a career-high 11 home runs and 42 RBI. He led the Gamecocks in hits (61), runs scored
(49) and stolen bases (18) while playing superb defense in center field. The highlight was the first series win in five years over rival Clemson. The Gamecocks won Game 3 14-3 and Hopkins was awarded the Tom Price MVP Award for the series for the second time in his career. He hit three home runs and drove in nine runs in the series to earn SEC and National Player of the Week honors. “Just because it’s Clemson,” he said. “The way I grew up, Clemson was not just another game. I was raised, you were either South Carolina or Clemson.” Hopkins’ performance against Clemson during his career — he had a game-saving catch as a sophomore and a game-winning RBI as a senior — epitomizes Hopkins’ heart and determination in big games. “TJ Hopkins will go down as one of the better players who has played here, especially in the last 10
years,” head coach Mark Kingston said. “A five-tool guy, double-digit home runs, I think this has been his best season overall. He’s done the work to stay healthy and will be remembered here as a very proud Gamecock and a very talented player. I think he will move on to professional baseball and do well.” After the season, Hopkins realized another life-long dream by being drafted in the ninth round by the Cincinnati Reds. Though he had his best season as a senior and developed into a team leader, 2019 was difficult for Hopkins. After helping lead his team to the Super Regionals twice, he watched South Carolina stumble through a 28-28 season and miss the postseason for the third time five years. “It’s just been a hard year to take in,” he said. “It reminds me a lot of my sophomore year. We were just so
close to winning a lot of games and one thing here, one thing there goes wrong and it is what it is. You just have to keep moving forward.” Throughout the tough times — nine straight SEC series losses — Hopkins leaned on some advice from Kingston that stuck with him. “He said, ‘This is not going to be the lowest point of your life. Life is going to get harder than this and I know it is hard, but you just have to keep pushing through,’” Hopkins said. “That really stuck with me and brought me back a little bit and helped me realize [how to keep things in perspective].” Hopkins used that lesson as he tried to lead the younger players on the team and keep moving forward. “I just reminded them how it gets better. There is not a better place in the world when you are winning baseball games than here,” he said. “Last year when we went on that tear, I was literally one of the happiest people on earth and I always made sure to tell them about those times and how fun it is being here. There has been some negativity [this year], but that’s life. You have to come out here and keep
pushing forward and it will get better.” And having grown up a Gamecock fan, he constantly reminded them about the rich history and tradition of South Carolina baseball and what it means to be a Gamecock. “That’s very important,” he said. “I feel like the foundation was laid way before me and way before 2010, to be honest. … If you just look out at that right field wall, it kinda brings you back and it’s like, ‘Wow, man, this is the real deal.’ It makes you proud to be a part of it.” As he prepared for the MLB Draft, Hopkins reflected on his South Carolina career and all the highlights. Making the NCAA Tournament as a freshman, the pinch-hit home run in the SEC Tournament as a sophomore, rallying to make the Super Regionals again last year and the series win over Clemson this year. “It went by fast, but it’s been fun. I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “It was always my dream to come here and I’ve had a blast. It was everything I expected.”
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TJ HOPKINS • BASEBALL
2019 BASEBALL SEASON PHOTOS BY ALLEN SHARPE & JENNY DILWORTH
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SEASON PHOTOS â€¢ BASEBALL
#High Hopes Smith sees bright future after up-and-down 2019 season By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Allen Sharpe
outh Carolina softball had #HighHopes for 2019. That was the mantra of its season, inspired by the Panic! At The Disco song by the name. Coming off of a season in which it reached the NCAA Super Regionals, the Gamecocks, like the song lyrics say, always had a vision and shot for the stars. The team was, as lead singer Brendon Urie preaches, out to manifest its destiny and rewrite its history. 28
SOFTBALL • SEASON RECAP
But the season, like the song says repeatedly, was a little complicated. For South Carolina (38-19, 9-14 in the SEC), there were highs and lows and everything between. The team advanced to its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament — setting a record for consecutive years qualifying. “There are so many positive things to draw from this [season],” Gamecock head coach
Beverly Smith told Spurs & Feathers moments after the team’s season-ending loss. “We had a lot of young players get a lot of experience this season. “I think we proved we can play and beat anybody in the country. … We’ll just continue to improve on the details and work for championships.” The Gamecocks won 30 or more games for the seventh straight season, the first time the
program has done so since 2002, when it had 16 straight seasons of 30 wins or more. Third baseman Jana Johns was named to the All-SEC second team while Madison Owens earned SEC All-Freshman honors. When it comes to standout moments and games, there were many. There was the series win against No. 4 Alabama, South Carolina’s first over the Crimson
Tide since 2009. Dixie Raley dominated and became the first Gamecock pitcher under Smith to defeat the Crimson Tide twice in a weekend. For her efforts she was named SEC Pitcher of the Week for the first time in her career. Then there was the series win at No. 12 Auburn, the Gamecocks’ first series win on the Tigers’ home field since 2013. There was the 7-5 win at No. 8 LSU in which the Gamecocks overcame two two-run deficits.
South Carolina had 10 comeback wins, including one for the ages when it overcame a fourrun deficit with two innings to play to beat Duke 5-4. The win, which came on an Alyssa Kumiyama walk-off single, gave Smith her 300th career win as a head coach. There was the 15-game win streak in late February and early March when the Gamecocks outscored opponents by 108 runs, 139-31. Overall, the Gamecocks set new season-high marks for home runs (77), RBI (323) and on-base percentage (.407). The team had a higher batting average (+ 34 points), more home runs (+12), more RBI (+14), a higher slugging percentage (+78 points), more walks (+34), fewer strikeouts (-50) and a better on-base percentage (+42 points) than 2018. Ten different players had games with at least three RBI, led by Cayla Drotar with eight and Johns with six. Eleven different players had a game with at least three hits. After blowing out the competition at a tournament in Tampa, Johns was named SEC Player of the Week for the first time in her career. Pitcher/first baseman/ outfielder Karly Heath was named
SEC Freshman of the Week on April 23. Mackenzie Boesel finished the year as the program’s hit leader for the third straight time. No player in program history has done it four straight seasons in the program’s 42-year history. Kenzi Maguire and Johns both broke the school record for hit by pitches in a career and are currently tied for the most in program history. But the wave of highs came to a crashing halt in the season’s final weeks. The team lost seven of its last 10 games, beginning on April 27 against Georgia. The Gamecocks led by two that afternoon on a sixth-inning grand slam from Drotar, but lost by two after the Bulldogs scored two runs each in the seventh and eighth innings. South Carolina lost in excruciating fashion the next day, this time by just a single run. SC then proceeded to lose three of its next four games, including its SEC Tournament opener against Florida. But with a promising showing in the Tallahassee Regional, Smith sees a bright future. She still has high hopes. Said the coach, “I think the way we finished with the fight is going to be something great to build on for next season. … I think the future’s bright.”
Anna Vest and Cayla Drotar
SEASON RECAP • S0FTBALL 29
Fight to the Finish Gamecocks rally, push top seed to the limit in NCAA Regional By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photo courtesy of SC Athletics
ALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Something no one predicted could have happened, but if South Carolina wanted to advance out of the Tallahassee Regional of the NCAA Tournament, it most likely would have to knock off top seed Florida State. Just like it had to in 1989, and did. Just like it had to in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and did not. In 2019, it did not. On May 19, in a win-or-go-home game against the powerhouse Seminoles, the Gamecocks fought toe to toe with the defending national champions, overcame a four-run deficit to take the lead but fell 7-6 at JoAnne Graf Field. The game was the culmination of the team’s season but also of an exciting weekend in Florida’s capital. South Carolina won two seasonsaving games, the first a 10-0 rout of BethuneCookman, the second a 2-1 thriller over South Florida. The weekend was highlighted by a Kennedy Clark extra-inning home run, a 10-inning pitching masterpiece from Dixie Raley and the 10-run offensive outburst against the Wildcats. Raley threw 15.2 innings overall and allowed just six earned runs (five in her last two innings) while striking out 10. Four players — Mackenzie Boesel, Cayla Drotar, Kenzi Maguire and Haley 30
SOFTBALL • NCAA REGIONAL
Simpson — had at least five hits during the fourgame span while seven players had RBI. The highlight of the tournament came against South Florida. In the top of the 10th inning in a tie game — in South Carolina’s second win-or-go-home game — Clark roped a go-ahead solo home run to right field to give the Gamecocks an edge in the eventual win. The home run ended seven straight innings of scoreless play. “I just kept thinking, ‘Hopefully we can get a hold of one,’” South Carolina head coach Beverly Smith said. “We were looking to string together a couple of singles, but I’m glad I got a hold of that one,” Clark said. With its season on the line, South Carolina threw Raley, a senior who allowed just one hit, one walk and struck out five in 3.2 relief innings against the Bulls the day before. With her curveball, riseball and screwball on point, the right-hander was stellar in 10 complete innings. She threw 179 pitches and scattered eight hits. She also had five strikeouts and walked just two. “You know, we’ve been in these situations before,” Raley said. “We wanted to finish it out. I think we showed up and we fought.” That set the stage for Clark’s heroics.
“Dixie was keeping it close, and I knew it was going to come down to the first team to blink,” Smith said. “It could have been an error or a hit. Lucky for us it was a big home run.” With the win, the Gamecocks advanced to play FSU, a team it needed to beat twice in backto-back games in order to qualify for the Super Regionals. South Carolina trailed 5-1 after two and a half innings but scored two runs in both the third and fourth innings to tie the score and another in the fifth to take the lead. It was the first time Florida State trailed in a game in more than two weeks. But FSU proved why it’s a perennial power, rallying to take a 7-6 lead. The Gamecocks showed poise and elite skill against the goliath. “I’m a big fan of South Carolina and always have been. They’re a good coaching staff and their players play hard, and that was a hardfought game every pitch,” FSU head coach Lonni Alameda said after the game. “[It] certainly didn’t come out like we wanted it to, but I couldn’t be more proud of my team and how we fought,” Smith said. “I think it was a great team effort. We had some outstanding performances. … I thought we put a lot of runs on the board against a really tough FSU pitching staff.”
Kennedy Clark makes impact throughout four-year career By Brandon Alter | Contributing writer • Photo by Allen Sharpe
n her four seasons at South Carolina, Kennedy Clark was on the Gamecock roster for 243 games. Of those, she played in 238 (98 percent) and started 225 (93 percent). She batted .310 and knocked in 36 runs as a freshman and hit .383 with 33 RBI as a senior. She committed just two errors in left field during her entire career and had perfect fielding percentages as a freshman and junior. That was Kennedy Clark. Not only consistent, but consistently productive. Reliable. A leader. Someone who believed. “I consider her kind of our glue. Our ‘Glue Gal’ is what I’ve called her,” South Carolina head coach
Beverly Smith said. “She’s got relationships with all the players. She has led by example and has literally been in the lineup every single day since she started here. “I’m so happy for her, that’s she’s leaving on top, having had a tremendous career. I think she’s left her fingerprints all over the culture of the locker room and the players that are there.” Clark capped her career with her most heroic moment: In a winor-go-home game in the NCAA Tournament regional round, with South Carolina and South Florida tied in the 10th inning, the lefty crushed a solo home run to give the Gamecocks the lead in the 2-1 victory.
“Make it a good at-bat, just stay within yourself and not try to make [the moment] too big,” Clark told herself before stepping to the plate. It was Alyssa Kumiyama’s favorite memory of her teammate’s career. “That was one moment when she was at her happiest,” the Gamecock first baseman said. A day later, after South Carolina’s season-ending loss to Florida State, Clark, a southern California native, reflected on her career and her decision to head east. “I don’t regret my decision one bit. I’m happy I came here,” she said. “My goal was to make an impact on the softball program, and I feel like I’ve left my impact on this team. … I’m just glad I made this decision. I made friends and teammates that
are life-long. I’m really happy about my four years here.” Clark’s consistency as a senior led her to the top of the team leaderboard with a .383 batting average, 16 points higher than any of her teammates. She finished second on the team in doubles (18), third in slugging (.654), fourth in RBI (33) and tied for fifth in home runs (eight). Clark also reached base nine times by getting hit by pitches, finishing in the top three in program history in the category. In the outfield, she was exceptional. She had just one error, 87 putouts and four assists. She was a magnet in the season’s final two games, grabbing five putouts in each. It was a career full of achievements. Clark set the record for highest on-base percentage (.430) for a freshman. She drew 26 walks, second on the team, and was hit by a pitch 12 times. Her first career home run came in a 6-0 victory over Virginia Tech. Later that month she doubled and homered in a 6-1 win at UC Santa Barbara. A couple of weeks later, she earned SEC Co-Freshman of the Week after consecutive threehit, three-RBI games. In one of those games, against Connecticut, Clark started a 9-3-2 double play to keep the game tied in the top of the 10th inning. The Gamecocks won on a walk-off in the bottom of the frame. Early in her sophomore season, Clark broke up a no-hit bid in the bottom of the seventh before scoring the winning run in a 2-1 over Charlotte, the 200th victory of Smith’s coaching career. As a junior, Clark scored a career-best 36 runs while hitting .279 with a .448 slugging percentage. She brought in 27 runs, hit 12 doubles, two triples and five home runs. She had 14 multi-hit games and a 10-game hitting streak. Clark is most proud of her team’s success during her career, making the NCAA Tournament all four years. “That was my whole goal coming into South Carolina — to leave an impact and to better the program,” she said. “Every year we have gotten better.” “Kennedy was more than just a teammate,” Kumiyama said. “She was someone who would pick you up when the game got rough.” — Josh Hyber contributed to this story. KENNEDY CLARK • S0FTBALL
Senior Scott Stevens leads dramatic rally as Gamecocks make National Championship round From staff reports | Photos by SC Athletics
outh Carolina was on the verge of being eliminated from the NCAA Pullman Regional, but senior Scott Stevens was not about to let that happen in what could have been his final collegiate tournament. South Carolina, fighting to advance to the NCAA Championships, trailed by 10 shots entering the back nine of the final round. But the Gamecocks made a dramatic rally to force a sudden-death playoff with Colorado State for the fifth and final spot out of the Pullman Regional. After Will Miles, Caleb Proveaux and Ryan Hall each birdied the par-5 18th, Stevens made huge birdies on 16 and 17 and saved par on 18 to force the playoff. He then made the final putt of the extra round to send the Gamecocks to the NCAA Championships for the 21st time in
school history, the seventh under head coach Bill McDonald. “Really proud of these kids and how hard they fought to bring us back,” McDonald said. “I guess it was just meant to be. It’s one of those things you can’t explain. They found a way, and it’s just really cool to be going back to the National Championship.” The Gamecocks finished 17th in the National Championship, missing the third-round cut by two shots. Stevens, a Chattanooga, Tenn. native was spectacular in leading the Gamecocks to the championship rounds. Stevens finished T-3rd after matching a career-best 54-hole score with a 198 (-12). He shot in the 60s every round, closing with a bogey-free 65, and was one of just four players in the tournament with multiple eagles. Forcing the playoff and making the final putt was a career highlight.
MEN’S GOLF • NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
“It feels absolutely incredible. It’s probably the best feeling I’ve ever had playing golf,” he said. Stevens and fellow senior Will Miles both made the All-SEC team
while Stevens, Miles and Hall, a freshman, were each named to the PING All-Southeast Region team. A four-year starter, Stevens didn’t miss a tournament in his South Carolina career and finished as the all-time leading scoring average leader in program history at 71.56, just in front of three-time All-American Matthew NeSmith (71.62). He led the team this season in scoring average (70.29), rounds of par or better (25), top-fives (3), top-10s (5) and top-20s (10). His 20 career top-10s are third-most in program history. Miles notched two individual wins this spring and was one of only two players in the SEC to tally multiple victories. The Hilton Head native recorded his first collegiate victory at the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate March 11-12 with a career-low mark of 197 (-13) for a nine-shot win. It was the lowest 54-hole score in program history. His 21 rounds of par or better and seven top-20 finishes ranked second on the team. Hall started every tournament in the fall before missing most of the spring with a wrist injury. He competed for the first time as an individual at the Wofford Invitational, where he earned runner-up medalist honors after shooting 209 (-7). The Knoxville, Tenn. native made his return to the lineup at the Pullman Regional and shot a career-best 205 (-5) to finish T-24th. He posted three rounds of par or better, including a bogey-free 4-under 66 in the final round. “I’m really proud of these seniors and I’m sorry their career has come to an end,” McDonald said. “They’re great kids and they’ve been an absolute pleasure to coach.”
Unfinished Business Otis Jones makes most of final opportunity, leads nine Gamecocks to NCAAs By Brad Muller | SC Athletics • Photos by Allen Sharpe & SC Athletics
eading into the 2019 NCAA East Regional for track & field, fifth-year senior Otis Jones had already earned his degree in criminal justice, earned secondteam All-SEC honors twice and had reached the NCAA regional meet every year of his college career. There was still something missing, though, and after coming up short in his attempt to reach the NCAA Outdoor Championships the previous three years, Jones was going to make the most of his final opportunity. “It feels pretty good,” said Jones, who qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 800 meters. “I feel like I’m finally fulfilling that unfinished business. It took four tries, but I finally made it to nationals. Watching it from home each year, I had to grind it out this
year and keep pushing. This year I thought, I’m not going to lose hope. I’m going to get it right sooner or later, and I finally got it right.” Jones was one of 11 Gamecock track & field athletes to qualify in nine individual events for the outdoor championships June 5-7 in Austin, Texas. He finished 15th in the 800 to earn second-team All-American honors, Carolina’s first All-American in the event since 2002. Yann Randrianasolo also earned All-American honors by finishing third in the men’s long jump on the first day of the national championships and the Gamecocks made the finals in three other events. Quincy Hall made the finals in the 400m hurdles and Isaiah Moore made the finals in the men’s 110m hurdles. The men’s 4x400m
relay team of Jones, Hall, Arinze Chance and Ty Jay Robbins also made the finals. After a fast start at regionals in Jacksonville, Fla., Jones finished second in his race and earned an automatic qualifying bid to the national championships with a time of 1:49.77. “I knew I had to place in the top three,” he said. “After the first lap, I was in first place, but then a guy passed me and took first, and I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to keep second place.’ Everyone was closing in around me. People were diving for the line and falling, but I made it. It was a dog fight.” After the personal disappointment in seeing his season end at the regional meet in each of the previous three years, Jones had plenty of motivation heading into the 2019 postseason. “I think I matured,” he said. “I’ve probably run only around 80 races in the 800 in my career, but I felt like I was more mature than the
field. I’m still learning a lot now, but I learned a lot over the years and realized what it took to make it. I had to grow up, and I had to grow up in that moment.” Jones also credits his teammates and coaches for helping him achieve his goals. “There were a lot who helped. Quincy Hall is motivating everybody, and Isaiah [Moore] and Eric [Favors] and everyone with the 4x4 relay; they’re all motivating everyone,” Jones said. “Guys like [redshirt freshman] Blake Newcomb would come out to practice and help me, even when his season was done. “Coach [Andrew] Allden always had faith in me. He’s always saying that I’m his guy, even in the bad races when I’m down. At the Penn Relays, I had a bad race, and he told me, ‘you’re still my guy.’ He’s always motivating me and picking me up at practice. He’s helped me hit the marks I needed to hit with my times. He set me up to be great.”
N AT I O N A L Q U A L I F I E R S A l i y a h A b r a m s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Wo m e n ’s 4 0 0 m E r i c Favo r s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . M e n ’s S h o t P u t Q u i n c y H a l l . . . . . . . . . . . . . M e n ’s 4 0 0 m H u r d l e s W a d e l i n e J o n a t h a s .. . . . . . . . . . W o m e n ’ s 4 0 0 m O t i s J o n e s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . M e n ’s 8 0 0 m I s a i a h M o o r e . . . . . . . . . . . M e n ’s 10 0 m H u r d l e s Ya n n R a n d r i a n a s o l o . . . . . . M e n ’s L o n g J u m p Abrams, Jonathas, Stephanie Davis, Ta t y a n a M i l l s . . . . . . . W o m e n ’ s 4 x 4 0 0 m R e l a y Hall, Jones, Arinze Chance, Ty J a y e R o b b i n s . . . . . . . M e n ’ s 4 x 4 0 0 m R e l a y
Eric Favors Yann Randrianasolo
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS • TRACK & FIELD
Our yearbook superlatives for Gamecock football, basketball By Bill Gunter | Contributing writer
Play of the Year: Felipe Haase to Chris Silva
he South Carolina athletic year has come to a close, which means, much like when we were in high school, it is yearbook time. In other words, it is time to pass out some superlatives for football and basketball for 2019. So with your anticipation already at a fever pitch, here are my awards for Game of the Year, Play of the Year, Performance of the Year and Most Likely to Succeed (have the best professional career).
The Gamecocks basketball season had gotten off to a dreadful start with a 5-7 non-conference record when the Gamecocks started their turnaround at the beginning of January. South Carolina trailed at Florida 58-44 with 11:05 remaining but rallied to have tie game with 3.5 seconds remaining. The Gamecocks needed to go the length of the court and Haase made a perfect pass to Silva, who sealed off two Gator defenders, caught the Hail Mary pass and dunked it home to give the Gamecocks a 71-69 victory and propel them to a winning conference record.
Game of the Year: South Carolina vs. Missouri
A backup quarterback, a monsoon, a weather delay and a last-second field goal, all in one game. That is what we got when the Gamecocks knocked off the Tigers for the third straight year behind a solid performance from senior quarterback Michael Scarnecchia, who completed 20 of 35 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Gamecocks to a come-from-behind 37-35 victory. Carolina trailed 23-14 at halftime but scored 17 points in the third quarter to take a 31-23 lead. The game got really interesting down the stretch as a weather delay stopped action with 2:41 left to play. When play resumed, the Tigers connected on a 57-yard field goal to take a 35-34 lead, but Scarnecchia led the Gamecocks back down the field for a game-winning field goal by Parker White with two seconds left to move the Gamecocks to 3-2 on the season.
Performance of the Year: Chris Silva vs. Auburn
Silva was known as the go-to player for the Gamecocks going into the season and on Jan. 22 against 16th-ranked Auburn, he delivered in a big way. The best individual performance of the season came that night as Silva delivered 32 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in 31 minutes to knock off the Tigers in front of a rowdy Colonial Life Arena crowd. The stat line is impressive when just looking at the raw numbers, but digging deeper, it was the efficiency that the senior forward displayed that night, making 11 of 12 shots from the floor and 10 of 11 free throws. There were other solid performances from Silva throughout the season, including an incredible effort in the first half against top-ranked Tennes-
Most Likely to Succeed: Dylan Wonnum
There are several Gamecocks I considered for this superlative before settling on the sophomore right tackle. Deebo Samuel was drafted in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers and could have a solid career. Freshman defensive back Jaycee Horn looks like a player that could follow in the football steps of Gamecock defensive backs Sheldon Brown, Jonathan Joseph and Stephon Gilmore. And A.J. Lawson is already being projected by some as a first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. However, it is Wonnum who wins the award because of the difficultly to earn a starting position as a freshman on the offensive line. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound tackle earned that starting position midway through the season and never looked back and now appears poised to anchor the Gamecock line for at least two more seasons. With Wonnum’s athletic Bill Gunter is the frame and the teaching of of- co-host of the Early fensive line coach Eric WolGame on 107.5 The ford, I expect him to get better, Game in Columbia. which should lead to a lengthy Follow him on Twitter @WillGunter. NFL career..
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see a few weeks later, but his performance against Auburn topped them all.
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Can big three bounce back from mediocre seasons? By Ed Girardeau | Contributing writer
outh Carolina ended the 201819 school year with a flourish with Paul Jubb winning a national championship in men’s tennis. It was a good finish to a year that was a mixed bag for Gamecock athletics. There were highlights. Dawn Staley continued her excellence, reaching the Sweet 16 again. The softball team finished in the top 25 and other sports held their own, particularly on the women’s side. South Carolina won the Palmetto Series against rival Clemson, winning 8-5 with the academic finals yet to be posted. It is absolutely great that the majority of the spring sports were successful, and perhaps Jubb’s championship is an indicator that things are turning around. However, the mediocre seasons for the big three of football, men’s basketball and baseball made it a tough year. It got me to thinking, when was the last time the big three had such average seasons in the same school year? It’s been a while. The baseball program has been so consistent it’s been a long time
since it had a season worse than this year’s 28-28 record. The last time the Gamecocks had a non-winning record was 25-28 in 1996 in June Raines’ final season. Prior to that, the last nonwinning record in baseball was in 1970, when the Gamecocks were 14-20 in Bobby Richardson’s first season. That’s two losing seasons in 50 years. The baseball program has really spoiled us, but when was the last time all three sports were .500 or just one game over .500? In 1995-96, football went 4-6-1 but basketball finished 19-12, so the three finished five games over the break-even point. The 1970 season was bad for baseball, but the 1969-70 season gave us the ACC champions in football (7-4, 6-0) and the basketball team went 25-3 (14-0 in the ACC). I don’t think anybody was too worried about the baseball team after that year. You have to go back to the 1964-65 season. Football went 3-5-2, basketball was 6-17 in Frank McGuire’s first season and baseball went 16-12. Yikes! I was 4 years old.
I have no memory of that season 55 years ago, but I bet the feeling was similar to what we’re going through this year. So where do we go from here? For the record, Carolina went 5-5 in football in 1965 and beat Clemson in the final game of the season. Basketball went 11-13 and beat No. 3 Duke, an indication of the glory years ahead. Baseball went 15-8 in 1966 (they didn’t play so many games back in those days). Things were turning around. Will the same begin in 2019-20? Football should be better. Barring injuries that plagued the defense, they almost have to be better than last year. With Jake Bentley and Bryan Edwards returning for their senior years, along with a talented group of running backs and receivers, the offense should hold its own. The schedule looms large. Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and Clemson are all top-10 teams in the preseason and the others aren’t chopped liver either. Just worry about the opener against North Carolina in Charlotte with their new head coach Mack Brown and we’ll take it from there.
Basketball actually returns a pretty good lineup. A.J. Lawson removed himself from the NBA Draft and will rejoin fellow sophomore Keyshawn Bryant as the mainstays. They’ll be joined by new faces and players returning from injury. It will be important to get out of the starting blocks and not get behind the eight ball as they did this past season, when they bounced back and finished 11-7 in the SEC. Baseball has a long road back, but the history is that over the last 50 years, the program is one of the best in the country. They have had some good recruiting classes and will need some injured players to bounce back, but look for Coach Kingston to have his best season yet. Hope springs eternal. Kickoff is less than three months away. With loyal devotion, remembering the days … Ed Girardeau is a 1982 South Carolina graduate and has been a columnist for Spurs & Feathers since 2012. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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