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OCTOBER 2018 • VOLUME 40 • ISSUE 10

SCAR POWER Michael Scarnecchia gives Gamecocks two winning quarterbacks


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Publishing Schedule

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purs & Feathers is the official publication of the University of South Carolina Gamecock Club. It is published monthly, 12 times per year and is available to Gamecock Club members as well as additional subscribers. To opt in or subscribe, email subscribe@spursandfeathers.com or call 803-7650707 x. 141. The Gamecock Club and Spurs & Feathers THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT.

Contents 30 Fall ball

Below is our publication schedule for 2018: Jan. 22 Feb. 21 March 21 April 25 May 23 June 20

14 Speed to burn

July 25 Aug. 29 Sept. 26 Oct. 24 Nov. 21 Dec. 19

gamecock club

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Owens: Scar handles move with class

6

Legendary Fan: Neil Crossley honored

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Pastides: A passionate president

22

Basketball Martin’s fun and games

13

28

Staley has a new style

Sound the Horn: Jaycee is special

BasebaLL

14

Shi not shy when it comes to catching ball

16

Vanderbilt Recap: Street Fight

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GAMECOCK CLUB • TABLE OF CONTENTS

30

34

Kingston starting anew

32

36

38

Gunter: Martin has talent for next step

39

Girardeau: Two QBs not a bad thing

ON THE COVER: Photo by Allen Sharpe Design by Lauren A. Haley

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Gamecocks digging new coach

columns

Lauren Chang makes a joyful noise

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Madison Thiel says ‘Cowgirl up’

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PHOTOS: Vandy, Kentucky, Missouri action

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Missouri Recap: ‘Proud to be in garnet and black’

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10 Scarnecchia weathers the storm

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

Kentucky Recap: Saturday Night Madness

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October 2018


Scarnecchia handles move from starter to backup with class By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor

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ichael Scarnecchia must have the patience of Job. He has been waiting his whole career, it seems, to prove he can lead a college football team. After playing well as a high school junior, Scarnecchia’s recruiting process did not go well. He had some small-school offers but every time a big D1 school came calling, the coach left or something else happened to block his way. “It was frustrating,” he said. As the frustration mounted, Scarnecchia decided to attend one more summer camp before his senior year. He drove to the University South Carolina to see former head coach Steve Spurrier. “He liked what he saw … and the Head Ball Coach offered me midway through my high school season,” Scarneechia said. “From there I was like, ‘I’m committed.’” He’s been committed ever since. Committed and loyal. And patient. In four years prior to this season, Scarnecchia, a fifth-year senior, took only a handful of snaps, throwing

just one pass. He spent most of his time watching and waiting. Watching other quarterbacks, like young Jake Bentley, and waiting his turn. By all accounts, he played well in spring practice and preseason camp this year, proving he could run the Gamecock offense. But when the season started, he took his place back on the sideline, backing up Bentley. Through it all, Scarnecchia remained loyal and patient. After five long years, most college quarterbacks would have given up, or transferred, like … well, you know. But according to head coach Will Muschamp, Scarnecchia “never complained, never had an issue with anything.” Against Missouri, with Bentley hobbled, Scarnecchia finally got his chance and took advantage of it, leading the Gamecocks to a thrilling victory under difficult circumstances and challenging conditions. And then, just like that, it was over. With Bentley recovering from a minor knee injury, Scarnecchia headed back to the sideline when

Muschamp announced that Bentley would return to the starting lineup against Texas A&M. The decision didn’t set well with many fans, who believed Scarnecchia deserved another chance after excelling in his first career start. The fact that Bentley was 2-2 on the season and struggled in losses to Georgia and Kentucky only added to the groundswell of support for Scarnecchia. But like he has done for five years, he handled the situation with grace and class. Asked about Muschamp’s decision to stick with Bentley, Scarnecchia said, “I understood that. He’s won games. He’s helped us go from three wins to nine wins. I can’t argue with coach’s decision because of [Bentley’s] success here.” “That’s just a testament to the type of guy he is,” Bentley said. Bentley and Scarnecchia have been best friends since Bentley arrived on campus. When they are not practicing or watching film together, they often hang out, like a big brother looking out for his younger

sibling, or vice-versa. No one was happier to see Scarnecchia succeed than Bentley. “I was really proud of him,” he said. “He has waited on that and stayed patient and not been a guy who causes problems or have any animosity at any point. Each and every week he has been beside me. That’s why I was beside him the whole game, helping him out.” Though Muschamp was right to stick with Bentley, his starter the past two years, Scarnecchia proved he could lead his team to victory, and that’s great security for a coach and team to have. Now he waits, patiently and gracefully, for his next opportunity.

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

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EDITOR’S NOTE • SPURS & FEATHERS

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Longtime Gamecock fan Neil Crossley honored for 51 years of loyalty By Brian Hand/Contributing writer

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oyalty means a great deal to Neil Crossley. He has been a loyal Gamecock Club member for 51 consecutive years. For his efforts to help make South Carolina athletics successful, Crossley was honored as the Legendary Fan of the Game before the Gamecocks’ thrilling win over Missouri at WilliamsBrice Stadium on Oct. 6. Crossley is thankful the University would honor him in this way. “I’ve been a loyal Gamecock fan since 1962 and it’s very meaningful for me because I love the University,” Crossley said. “This is just recognition for the fact that I’ve been loyal. I’ve enjoyed being a Gamecock thoroughly. My biggest form of entertainment is going to see the Gamecocks play.” The son of a Pearl Harbor veteran, Crossley knows the honor is due in large part to the efforts of his family to put him in position to be successful. “I wish my parents were here to experience this because my dad really instilled in my brother and I the importance of getting an education,” Crossley said. “He was a loyal Gamecock fan as well.” Crossley’s favorite family tradition was

Photo by Allen Sharpe

attending the home opener at Williams-Brice Stadium each year when his parents were living and the whole family would make the trip. Born in Savannah, Ga. in March 1946, Crossley first attended a South Carolina football game during the 1962 season. Just six years later he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from the University. He earned his Certified Public Accountant certificate in 1970. From the time he graduated until 1978,

Crossley spent time at two national CPA firms before founding Hobbs, Crossley, Benefield & Craven, P.A. in Charlotte in 1978. Some of his favorite memories of being a Gamecock came shortly after he founded the firm due to his favorite student-athlete of alltime — George Rogers. “He had significant talent and he also had such a good personality, just like he does today,” Crossley said of the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner. “He’s very welcoming if you talk with him. He would just never give up. He was just a quality athlete and was just the type of athlete that you really enjoyed watching play.” Crossley retired in January of 2016 and is now living in Hilton Head. He is married to Pamela Smith Crossley and they have four children and 11 grandchildren. He had 17 family and friends in attendance to celebrate being named Legendary Fan of the Game and see the Gamecocks pick up a big win over Missouri. The Missouri game was the just the latest of many games he has seen at Williams-Brice Stadium. In fact, he has missed only six home games in 51 years. “It’s just been an honor for me to be able to graduate from the University,” Crossley said.

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Passion for Athletics Photo by Allen Sharpe

SC President Dr. Harris Pastides shows his love for Gamecock sports, student-athletes

By Jeff Owens/Executive Editor

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hen Ray Tanner first met University of South Carolina President Dr. Harris Pastides, he knew immediately he was in a good spot. “He loves baseball. He supports it all, but he grew up loving baseball and played baseball,” said Tanner, the legendary coach who is now South Carolina’s Athletic Director. “He’s a president that is beloved who loves baseball, so I’m like, ‘This is pretty good, if I win enough.’” Tanner did, of course, winning back-to-back national championships in 2010-11 and playing for a third in 2012 before becoming the school’s AD in 2013. He will never forget Pastides’ reaction after the two College World Series victories. “I just remember the joy and sheer enjoyment he got out of being a part of that national championship, both of them, and the success we had,” Tanner said. Though he is best known for the school’s record enrollment and academic success during his 10 years as university president, there is no bigger fan of South Carolina athletics than Pastides, who announced on Oct. 3 that he will retire in the summer of 2019. Pastides came to South Carolina as a professor and dean of the Arnold School of Public Health in 1998 and was named the school’s 28th president in 2008. He led the university to record numbers in enrollment and to new heights in academic success and graduation rates while guiding the campus through numerous expansion and capital improvement projects. But he also supported an athletic program that also reached new heights during his tenure, winning four national championships (baseball, equestrian, women’s basketball) in the past decade. He has a ring case in his house representing the university’s national and conference championships during his tenure. Tanner marvels at that success and gives Pastides much of the credit. “I said to him one day, ‘Dr. Pastides, do you

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GAMECOCK CLUB • DR. HARRIS PASTIDES

think there is a president in the United States at any college or university that has more rings and success than you have had?” Tanner said. “He looked at me and said, ‘I have never thought about that.’ I said, ‘You’ve had a pretty good run athletically. “He’s been wonderful for this university, but he loves his sports teams, he loves the coaches and student-athletes and he believes that this is a big part of the university.” Pastides has never been shy about his passion for Gamecock athletics. He was in the stands waving a white towel and leading the cheers when the men’s basketball team played in the Final Four in Phoenix in 2017. And when the women’s team won the national championship two days later, he was on the floor at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, covered in confetti and celebrating with head coach Dawn Staley and her team. “This coach, Dawn Staley, she said that’s our goal, a national championship, and a lot of us said, ‘whoa, that’s a high bar,’” Pastides said that night. “But if she doesn’t believe, the team won’t, and if the team doesn’t, the fans won’t. And here we are, the culmination of a lot of hard work, great skill and unity of purpose.” Tanner recalls celebrating with Pastides that night in Dallas. “It was just so special to him,” he said. “Winning was great but he loved the student-athletes and interacting and being a part of that. There’s a lot of universities across this country, they don’t even know who the president is. I dare say that’s not the case on this campus.” It certainly wasn’t with the basketball teams, who saw Pastides often. “He has been a phenomenal president,” said A’ja Wilson, who led Staley’s Gamecocks to the national title and is one of the most accomplished athletes in SC history. “I can’t even put into words how much he has really helped out this university, helped out our team. It’s rare that you have a president that know everyone’s names. It’s just something special.”

Staley says her lasting memory of Pastides will not be the celebration after the national championship game, but the mere fact that he is a fan and supporter of her team. “President Pastides has been coming to our games for so long, so the most memorable part is that he is present,” she said. “Yes, we can look at the national championship and the Final Four for both programs, but he’s not a president that comes around just when there is a success. He’s a president who has been there in the trenches with us when we were not winning. “When it wasn’t popular to come to women’s basketball, he and his wife were in the stands.” Men’s head coach Frank Martin, who was hired during Pastides’ tenure, also saw the university president support his program. “He has a charisma and enthusiasm for what we do for this university,” Martin said. “I don’t think there is a day I have come across him, whether it has been at a work function or in a social setting or in passing as two friends where he has not had an enthusiasm for saying hello and speaking about these guys or the university. “He’s a unique president because he obviously comes from the world of academia but he understands how to connect academia and athletics. We’re in a time and place in today’s day and age where those two things, everybody is trying to separate them. He’s one of the people that has tremendous pride in both and he figures out a way to excel at both.” Like Pastides, Tanner has led the athletic program through unprecedented growth and expansion in the past seven years. He says it wouldn’t have been possible without Pastides. “We have a tremendous board of trustees too that supports athletics but without the relationship he has with our student-athletes and our coaches and his vision for our athletic teams, we wouldn’t have been able to make the progress that we have made in the last few years,” he said. October 2018


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FOOTBALL

Saban’s national championship teams at Alabama and coined the phrase “So What, Now What” that South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp has made his team’s motto. Elko had spoken to the team recently and something he said stuck with Scarnecchia. “Dr. Elko always talks about, ‘See a little, see a lot. See a lot, see nothing,’” Scarnecchia said. “That really helped me because I had been really focused in on what I had to do and not the big picture and who we were facing. I focused on what was important.” Scarnecchia remembered those words when he took the field for the first time as South Carolina’s starting quarterback. They would be invaluable a few hours later when he faced the most intense pressure of his college career.

Biding his time

Weathering the storm Patience pays as Scarnecchia leads comeback By Jeff Owens/Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe

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ichael Scarnecchia could have had that deer-inheadlights look when he took the field in front of more than 70,000 fans Oct. 6 at WilliamsBrice Stadium. The fifth-year senior had never started a game at Williams-Brice. Heck, he had barely played in his five years at South Carolina, throwing only one pass prior to 2018. Entering the season, his most famous play was a 20-yard pass that his former head coach, Steve Spurrier, dropped in the back of the end zone in this year’s Garnet and Black Spring game.

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FOOTBALL • MICHAEL SCARNECCHIA

But with starter Jake Bentley hobbled by a knee injury, there was Scarnecchia trotting onto the field for a key SEC game against Missouri. After Bentley went down against Kentucky, Scarnecchia had taken first-team reps all week but didn’t know for sure if he would start, or even play, until right before kickoff. Adding to the drama, across the way stood Drew Lock, one of the nation’s top quarterbacks and a possible No. 1 pick in the next NFL Draft. Scarnecchia would not only have to lead his team against another explosive offense, but he

likely would have to duel with one of the nation’s best QBs. With an anxious fan base desperate for a win after disappointing losses to Georgia and Kentucky, most players would be nervous and stressed out prior to the biggest challenge of their career. Not Scarnecchia. “I felt confident in my abilities and how the coaches had prepared me and the rest of the team,” he said. Scarnecchia’s calm came from some advice he picked up from noted sports psychologist Dr. Kevin Elko, who has worked with Nick

Recruited by Spurrier, Scarnecchia had visions of being the Gamecocks’ next big-arm quarterback. But he redshirted his first year in 2014 and got into just one game in 2015, completing his only pass for nine yards against LSU. That year turned out to be a disaster for everyone. Spurrier resigned in the middle of the season and the Gamecocks wound up 3-9. When Muschamp came in as the new head coach, Scarnecchia saw it as a fresh opportunity. But he injured his non-throwing shoulder while working out at home that spring and needed surgery during the offseason, costing him the 2016 season. Frustrated and eager to show what he could do, Scarnecchia could only sit and watch as Muschamp used three different quarterbacks in his first season. By midseason, a young freshman who was supposed to be a high school senior had taken over the team. Scarnecchia watched last season as Bentley led the Gamecocks to a 9-4 record. His only playing time came in mop-up duty against Arkansas and Wofford, when he repeatedly handed the ball off to his running backs to run out the clock. While waiting his turn, Scarnecchia, a finance major, concentrated on his studies. He made the SEC Academic Honor Roll five times and was the Dr. Harris Pastides Outstanding Student Athlete in 2017. He graduated with honors in May. All the while, he remained patient and positive. “Mike is the same all the time,” October 2018


to soak it all in. The crowd, the atmosphere, his teammates looking to him for leadership and the first play-call of the game. He admits it was a surreal moment. “That’s when I realized, this is it, it’s time to give it everything I’ve got,” he said. It was also a bit emotional for a player who had waited five years for such a moment. He had not played a key role in a big game since he led Fleming Island (Fla.) High School to a 10-1 record as a senior. “It has been a really long time since I have gotten an opportunity to play,” he said. “It was emotional because I have stuck it out at South Carolina and I love it here and I wanted to give this team everything I had, no matter what the situation. “Things didn’t always go my way, but that’s alright because there is a bigger picture, and that’s the team. So when my opportunity got called, I was ready and I was confident and I just wanted to give my team everything I’ve got.”

‘See a little, see a lot’

Photo by Allen Sharpe

Muschamp said. “He is extremely bright, extremely intelligent, always seems to be in a good mood, upbeat.” “Mike’s a good guy off the field and he works hard on the field,” said center Donell Stanley, one of his best friends. “We just kept telling him, stay calm, we brought you here for a reason.” As Bentley became the future of the team, Scarnecchia was right by his side, studying game film with him, helping him master an evolving, complex offense and pushing him to be better. “Scar pushes me every single day,” Bentley said prior to the season. “Sometimes he makes some throws and you’re just like, ‘Wow, that’s a big-time throw.’ … He prepares the same that I do … because you never know.” Scarnecchia consistently performed well in practice, proving he could run the offense while October 2018

patiently waiting for an opportunity to play. It was not easy, though, accepting his role as a backup and support player when he knew he had the ability to do the job. Then, through the help of his teammates and motivational speakers like Elko and former Gamecock great Marcus Lattimore, he realized that the team and the ultimate goal are more important than any individual player, even Bentley and the stars of the team. “It’s hard,” he said. “A lot of people, they don’t really figure it out. Once you realize it’s bigger than you … once you realize it’s about the team and it’s about helping South Carolina and the University any way you can, it’s like a calming feeling. “You are playing a part in a bigger picture, and that’s really what got me through it. I really only understood that after I got my shoulder injury that put me out for

a year. I finally realized it’s bigger than [me].” Muschamp always knew Scarnecchia could throw the ball, but he was impressed last spring with his command of the offense and began to gain confidence in him during training camp this summer. “We felt very confident with Mike that if he was called upon he would do a really good job for us,” he said. What impressed him most, though, was Scarnecchia’s patience and maturity. “Some players get frustrated with where they are and this is a guy who has never complained and never had an issue with anything,” he said. “We would be straight up with him and tell him where he is and what he needs to do to improve and get better, and that’s what Mike has done.” When Scarnecchia took the field against Missouri, he took a moment

After a five-year wait, Scarnecchia was more than ready for his big moment. But he couldn’t have asked for a greater challenge than the one he faced on a bizarre day at Williams-Brice Stadium. As expected, Lock and 3-1 Missouri were a formidable foe. The Tigers scored 23 points and rolled up 321 yards in the first half, but Scarnecchia made some big throws to keep his team in the game. On his second pass, he hit Deebo Samuel on a slant for 32 yards. Then he lofted a perfect pass over a falling defender and into the arms of Bryan Edwards in the corner of the end zone. Down 17-7, he found Edwards again, connecting with the junior receiver on a 17-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to three. Then Scarnecchia and his teammates faced a truly surreal moment. When they exited the locker room after halftime, it was pouring, forcing fans onto the concourse to take shelter. Throughout the third quarter, they played in driving rain and hail that turned the field into a swamp and had players slipping and sliding all over the place and struggling to hang onto the ball. Unfazed, the calm and cool Scarnecchia continued to bring the Gamecocks back. Down 23-14, he capped a 12-play, 66-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Samuel. After a Missouri turnover, he led the Gamecocks to a 42-yard field goal MICHAEL SCARNECCHIA • FOOTBALL

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that gave them their first lead at 24-23. With both teams struggling to find their footing and making a bevy of weather-induced mistakes, Missouri rallied, scoring nine unanswered points to go ahead 32-31. But Scarnecchia was not done yet. He drove the offense down the field again, setting up an-

other 42-yard field goal for a 34-32 lead, the third lead change of the half. That’s when the drama and strangeness intensified. Missouri was driving for what would be a go-ahead field goal when the game was suddenly halted by lightning. With just 2:41 remaining, the stadium was evacuated and both teams were sent to the locker room for two delays lasting more than an hour. With the game on the line and not knowing what might happen next, Scarnecchia, the first-time starter, kicked back, relaxed and had a peanut butter sandwich he brought from home. “I just chilled,” he said. When the teams returned to the field, Missouri kicked a 57-yard field goal with 1:18 remaining to take a 35-34 lead. After the kickoff, Scarnecchia had 1:15 to do what he’d dreamed of for the past five years. That’s when he relied again on the lessons he learned while watching and waiting. “See a little, see a lot.” “I focused on what was important and that was going down the field and getting the gamewinning field goal,” he said. Scarnecchia was 4-for-7 on the drive and converted two crucial third-down plays. With 42 seconds remaining, he spotted a gap in the Missouri defense and made a split-second decision that set up a 27-yard pass to wide-open tight end Kyle Markway. Three plays later, he threw a 12yard strike to Edwards on third down to set up Parker White at the 16-yard line. When White booted the game-winner with two seconds remaining, Scarnecchia had done

the unthinkable, leading the Gamecocks to a dramatic, last-second victory under impossible circumstances in his first career start. And he out-dueled Lock, passing for 249 yards and three touchdowns to Lock’s 204 and two interceptions. Scarnecchia completed 20 of 35 passes. After the game, Muschamp asked him how many snaps he had played prior to that game. “Less than 20,” he said. “You completed 20 balls, so you completed more than you played in total snaps before this year,” he proudly told his quarterback and team. His coaches and teammates were not surprised. “He has never been asked to do it on that stage,” Muschamp said. “You think about being a first-time starter under that weather, that’s a pretty daunting task and he did a fantastic job.” “I knew Mike had it in him. We had all the faith in him,” Stanley said. “We just knew he was going to get the job done for us.” Senior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams has been close friends with Scarnecchia since they both came to South Carolina as freshmen in 2014. It was Scarnecchia who taught BAW to play FIFA and other video games. The two used to dream about getting their opportunity to shine for the Gamecocks. “We always talked about being ready when your opportunity comes,” said Allen-Williams, who had a sack and three tackles for loss in the game. “A lot of people never really counted Mike in, but I’m glad he was able to go out and show the world what he had.”

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FOOTBALL • MICHAEL SCARNECCHIA

October 2018


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Freshman Jaycee Horn making impact in Gamecock secondary By Josh Hyber/Staff writer

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He also had three tackles. lmost halfway through “I don’t think there’s any the third quarter of South question that he certainly raises Carolina’s dramatic victory the level of the guys around him,” over Missouri, Tiger running back Muschamp said. Damarea Crockett took a handoff Horn was the talk of South and dashed toward the end zone Receive your exclusive offer and learn Carolina’s training camp this sumfor what would have been a touchmore about our partnership down to give his team a nine-point mer. “He looks like a young Patrick Peterson,” Gamecock safety Steven lead. But out of nowhere came South Montac said. Now he has been a revelation Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn, who forced Crockett out of bounds during the regular season. The Georgia native, who became the at the 11-yard line. Seven plays later the Tigers fumbled a punt and seventh true freshman to start for SC in a season-opener (and turned the ball back over to the the first since 2009), had five pass Gamecocks. breakups through five games, The play essentially saved the including four against Missouri. game. “He has got good length, he has “I think he hit 22 miles per good pedigree,” South Carolina hour on his Catapult system defensive coordinator Travaris on that play, so that was pretty Robinson said at the beginning impressive,” Will Muschamp said, of camp. “He’s a guy who is very referring to the team’s device that confident in his abilities and righttracks players’ change of speed, so.” workload and directional changes. Nationwide Insurance has made a financialfully contribution to this organization in return for the opportunity to market products and services to its members The first word Muschamp Seeing a player make a play like or customers. Products underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies. Home Office: Columbus, OH 43215. Subject to thinks of when describing Horn, that “makes you put a lot of trust underwriting guidelines,sophomore review, and approval. discounts the sonProducts of formerand NFL star Joe not available to all persons in all states. Nationwide and the Nationwide N and in him,” Gamecock Horn, is maturity. backmarks Jamyest Williams Mutual Eagledefensive are service of Nationwide Insurance. © 2018 Nationwide. AFR-0497AO (01/16) 7878221 “I mean obviously God has said. “I know I can depend on him. blessed him with a lot of ability,” I know he’s always going to play the head coach said. “[But he’s] hard until the end of the game and really mature when you’re in the until every whistle. That’s what I meeting room, when you’re in love about my bro.” walk-throughs. He’s very focused, Horn, a 6-1, 195-pound true very dialed in to what he needs to freshman, was recognized for the Nationwide Insurance has made a financial contribution to this organization in return for do to be successful to be a good performance by being named the the opportunity to market products and services to its members or customer. Products football player. SEC Freshman of the Week, and it underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies. Home “… And no moments are too wasn’t just because of the crucial Office: Columbus, OH 43215. Subject to underwriting guidelines, review, and approval. Products and discounts not available to all person in all states. Nationwide and the big. You know, he handles the mostop. He was a key factor in the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance. ment very well, regardless of the Gamecocks holding Drew Lock to © 2018 Nationwide. AFR-0497A0 (01/16) 7878221 situation.” just 17-of-36 passing for 204 yards.

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October 2018

JAYCEE HORN • FOOTBALL

13


Catch him if you can Electric Shi Smith has speed to burn for Gamecocks By Josh Hyber/Staff writer • Photos by SC Athletics

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here was an immediate chatter in the Kroger Field press box after South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley threw an incomplete pass late in the second quarter of the Gamecocks’ Sept. 29 game at Kentucky. It was an out-route toward the near sideline intended for Shi Smith and the Gamecock receiver, despite getting a hand on it, did not come down with the catch. Eyes immediately went to television replays. Was it a drop? General consensus: No. Crisis averted. Smith finished the night with four catches for 40 yards and had

14

FOOTBALL • SHI SMITH

18 catches for 263 yards and one touchdown through the South Carolina’s first five games this season. Most impressively, to that point the steady sophomore had 40 catches for 672 yards and NO drops in any of his first 17 college games. “That’s something I’m supposed to do,” Smith said before the season began. “I’m supposed to catch the balls.” Has he ever. Smith has, well, shined in his role as both an inside and outside receiver with Deebo Samuel back from injury and attracting attention as the Gamecocks’ No. 1 wideout and Bryan Edwards on his

way to stardom as the team’s No. 2. “I’m prepared,” the Union, S.C. native said when asked about a more prominent role. “I mean, I’ll do everything I need to do to be prepared for it. But I’m just going to stay humble and do what I need to do to do my job.”

That ‘Wow’ factor Bentley praised Smith during training camp, pointing to one play he made when Gamecock cornerback Jaycee Horn came down with an interception in the end zone and began running downfield. But Smith, Bentley said, chased Horn 60 yards down the field.

“He’s made some plays where you kind of go, ‘Wow. That’s a bigtime play,’” he said. Bentley says Smith has the same “I’m the best player on the field” mentality as Samuel. “[Shi] is a very intelligent guy in grasping everything we are doing, whether it be new or old or finetuning from stuff that we have been doing since he got here,” Gamecock offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon said. Bentley’s comment took many in the room by surprise, but head coach Will Muschamp concurs. “[Shi] could go play corner or nickel or safety for us right now and October 2018


be really, really good at it,” Muschamp said. “[But] he’s going to stay on offense … nobody panic.” “Many people may not know this, but Shi is one heck of a defensive player,” Bradley Adams, Smith’s head coach at Union High School, told Spurs & Feathers in early October. “I’d be willing to bet you he could definitely play somewhere in the secondary right now if he was allowed to. “He is one explosive young man on the back end of the defense. … It was just an ankles-up pursuit that not everyone understands. It was just a natural thing for him.” Smith did not start on defense for Union but did play some safety and cornerback in crucial down and distances and often during the South Carolina state playoffs. Adams first met Smith when the former was hired as the head coach at Union in March of 2016. Though he had coached in the Lowcountry, he knew of Smith’s talent and that he was about to coach one of the state’s best players. “You could tell he was very humble, very easy going,” Adams said. “But you could tell also that he was definitely someone who carried a lot of weight with those around him. He was just so well-respected.” The on-field talent stood out immediately. “He made a catch on the first day we were out there, a one-handed grab behind his back,” Adams said. “Every coach that was out there that had seen him before knew, but those who hadn’t just stared at each other and said, ‘Wow.’ Just amazed. But that was a normal thing for Shi. Every day at practice he would do something like that.” Adams figured out how fast Smith was that day as well, recalling one crossing route that Smith caught and immediately turned up field. “When he got vertical, he got vertical, and he was gone,” Adams said.

October 2018

Like McClendon now, Adams tried to get Smith in as many one-on-one situations as he could, whether that meant stretching the field or in the screen game, out wide or in the slot. He also lined Smith up in the backfield and used him on kickoff and punt returns. “No one had the athletic ability that he had,” Adams said. “… You just don’t get a player like Shi in high school very much. It’s a rare thing. I’m going to go a long time before I get another one like that.” Smith, a four-star recruit, chose the Gamecocks in June of 2016. He had offers from Alabama, Clemson, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma

and Tennessee, among others, according to 247Sports. “I loved [Shi’s] tape, but then you got him in camp and this guy is really, really fast, really fast on the top end, phenomenal ball skills, competitive, tough,” Muschamp said.

Special talent Shi Smith exudes a sense of calmness and politeness. He hangs out at his locker before games and listens to music. He’s a player who goes about his business, outrunning receivers and catching everything that’s catchable. “He’s just so electric, so fast,” Bentley said. “Just put it up for him and let him go get it.” Like the one-handed catch he made against Florida last season over Gator defensive back Duke Dawson, who was drafted by

the New England Patriots in the second round (56th overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft. Or the 53-yard touchdown grab he made in the Outback Bowl by outsprinting one of the nation’s top safeties, Tyree Kinnel, for about 30 yards. Or the 45-yard touchdown catch against Texas A&M when he made Kansas City Chiefs fourthround pick Armani Watts look like a pylon. Then there’s the speed. Smith said before the season that he or A.J. Turner is the fastest Gamecock. Samuel, a burner himself, said Smith is faster than he is. “As everybody can see, Shi is probably the fastest guy on the team,” Samuel said. “He really can run, so if you give him a little space you can see what’s going to happen.” Is Smith the next Samuel? Who knows. It’s too early to jump to a conclusion like that. But Bentley has made the comparison. So has Muschamp. Edwards called him a “special talent.” Will he ever drop a pass? Probably. Samuel disagrees. “I don’t think it’s going to happen,” the senior said. If he’s right, Samuel will graduate after this season and hand his title of Gamecock No. 1 Option to a player that will be gunning for his records. Gamecock fans should turn out to catch the show.

SHI SMITH • FOOTBALL

15


South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 14

Street Fight Gamecocks answer challenge, pummel Vandy in Nashville

By Jeff Owens/Executive Editor • Photos by SC Athletics

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ASHVILLE — Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason wanted a “street fight.” A “no gloves, you throw a punch, I throw a punch” street fight. He got one, and his Commodores got whipped on their home turf by South Carolina, 37-14. “He called us out to come fight, and that’s what we did,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “You want to call somebody out, you better know who you are calling out,” offensive lineman Zack Bailey. “That’s the bottom line. We came ready.” Two weeks after getting pushed around by Georgia, South Carolina rolled up 534 yards of total offense and held Vanderbilt to just 284. The Gamecocks used a balanced attack that featured a combination of big pass plays and a strong run game to overwhelm the Vanderbilt defense. The Gamecocks had 273 yards rushing, with Rico Dowdle leading the way with 112 yards on 20 carries. It marked the second time this season the Gamecocks topped 500 yards of total offense.  Bentley completed 19-of-28 passes for 261 yards and connected with Shi Smith five times for 119 yards and a touchdown. Dowdle, Ty’Son Williams and Mon Denson each scored rushing touchdowns and the Gamecock defense had two sacks, eight tackles for loss and forced two turnovers.  Will Muschamp and his coaches made sure their players heard about Mason’s “street fight” vow. They heard about it during practice that week, at the team hotel in Nashville and again in the locker room after the game. “We heard about it and, and we took it personally,” Bentley said.  “Every day we heard it,” Dowdle said. “That was something we harped on. Coach said he called us out, and we responded to it. ... We came into the game with a street-fight mentality. We came out and attacked them.”  After struggling offensively against No. 3 Georgia, South Carolina was

16

FOOTBALL • VANDERBILT RECAP

determined to run the ball and develop a more balanced attack. They did it with four different players rushing for more than 40 yards, including 46 by Bentley. “I liked the mentality of our football team, the way they came out and established the line of scrimmage and played extremely fast,” Muschamp said.  “The O-Line came in with a mentality that they were going to move people off the ball and the running backs were running hard,” Bentley said. After Mason’s “street-fight challenge,” the Gamecocks answered the bell, pummeling Vandy from beginning to end. “There is no ‘ding, ding, ding’ in a street fight,” linebacker Bryson AllenWilliams said. “I feel sorry for him now,” Bailey said of the Vandy head coach. “He probably wishes he could take that back.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Javon Kinlaw Kinlaw led Carolina’s dominant defense with five tackles and three tackles for loss, including two sacks. He also forced two fumbles, had two quarterback hurries and broke up a pass to earn SEC co-Defensive Lineman of the Week honors.

October 2018


3

NUMBERS THAT MATTER

1

October 2018

Parker White booted three field goals from 33, 35 and 36 yards to start the season 4-for-4.

Carolina has won 10 straight games against Vanderbilt, its first 10-game winning streak against an SEC opponent since Kentucky in 2000-09. It’s the second 10-game winning streak against an FBS opponent ever. Photo by SC Athletics

10

RECORD book

Jake Bentley completed 19 of 28 passes for 261 yards and a touchdown, moving him into sixth all-time in completions (441), passing Anthony Wright (1995-98). Bentley also moved to seventh in attempts (688), passing Tommy Suggs (1968-70).

DE Kobe Smith started for the first time in his career, while DE Daniel Fennell made his first start of the season. RB Mon Denson saw his first action of the year and scored his first touchdown. Rico Dowdle rushed for 112 yards, the fifth 100-yard game of his career.

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VANDERBILT RECAP • FOOTBALL

17


Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10

Saturday Night Madness Gamecocks refocus, regroup after disappointing loss at Kentucky By Jeff Owens/Executive Editor • Photos by SC Athletics

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EXINGTON, Ky. — You know what happened at Kentucky. You don’t need to relive it again. If you’re like most Gamecock fans, you won’t soon forget. What’s important is what the Gamecocks said and did after the fifth straight loss to the Wildcats. How did they approach the rest of the season after one of the worst games of Will Muschamp’s tenure? The first thing they did was flush it. Forgot it and moved on. “We got to flush it,” T.J. Brunson said. “It’s a long season.” “We ain’t going to dwell on it,” Deebo Samuel added. Then they set about correcting mistakes and addressing issues that cropped up during the loss to the No. 17 Wildcats. Missed tackles. Dropped passes. Four

18

FOOTBALL • KENTUCKY RECAP

turnovers and 11 penalties. The first step was to simplify. “As a team we need to do the simple things better, whether it’s catching the football, whether it’s holding onto the ball, gap control defensively,” Muschamp said. “That’s really the emphasis to me with our football team, lets do simple better.” Of particular concern were the 11 penalties, including three unsportsmanlike calls that led to signs of an undisciplined team, one that lost its composure at times in a big game. As South Carolina prepared for home games against Missouri and Texas A&M, Muschamp focused on his message to a team that lost its composure at times in Lexington. “When you self-inflict wounds

such as unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, we’re not going to tolerate it,” Muschamp said. “We have discipline in our organization.” “We have to hold guys accountable for their actions,” senior guard Zack Bailey said. “We can’t give up selfish penalties that hurt us. … We are not a team that makes those selfish decisions.” Against a surprisingly dominant Kentucky team, Carolina made plenty of uncharacteristic mistakes. Like three interceptions by Jake Bentley and dropped passes by veterans Samuel, Bryan Edwards and Rico Dowdle. “We didn’t throw and catch it very well against Kentucky, we’ll call it like it is,” Muschamp said. More than anything, Muschamp was preaching consistency.

His team was outstanding on both sides of the ball in wins over Coastal Carolina and Vanderbilt but struggled in all areas against Georgia and Kentucky. “I was disappointed in the run game against Georgia and the throwing game against Kentucky,” he said. “Just too inconsistent to be successful.” With Missouri, Texas A&M and Tennessee up next, Muschamp was confident his team would turn things around quickly. “I think these guys have taken ownership in what we need to do as a whole,” he said. “Starting with me, [we need] to do a better job putting the guys in situations to be successful.”

October 2018


NUMBERS THAT MATTER

1

PLAYER OF THE GAME

T.J. Brunson South Carolina’s Mike linebacker and defensive captain led the Gamecocks with eight tackles against Kentucky, including five solo stops. He also had two tackles for loss and a pass breakup as Carolina held Kentucky to just 75 yards in the second half.

7

TE Jacob August made his first start of the season against Kentucky. DB Rashad Fenton intercepted his third pass of the season. Fenton, a senior, entered the season with two career interceptions. WR Deebo Samuel scored his seventh career receiving touchdown, giving him 17 total touchdowns for his career.

DB Keisean Nixon collected a careerhigh eight tackles. His previous high was four in last year’s Outback Bowl.

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3

8

Jake Bentley and Samuel hooked up for a 58-yard touchdown pass, the longest pass play of the season in the first four games.

P Joseph Charlton had a 66-yard punt in the second quarter. Charlton averaged 51.7 yards on three punts, boosting his season average to 44.2 after four games.

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KENTUCKY RECAP • FOOTBALL

19


South Carolina 37, Missouri 35

‘Proud to be in garnet and black’ Muschamp pleased with fight, resolve in dramatic win over Missouri By Jeff Owens/Executive Editor

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ill Muschamp had plenty of reasons to be unhappy with his team after the Oct. 6 game against Missouri. The Gamecocks gave up 35 points and 490 yards of total offense. They committed nine penalties and struggled to run the ball again. They fumbled and stumbled through the second half, allowing a blocked punt, fumbling the snap on another punt and coming up short on a fakefield goal attempt. And they played in perhaps the worst conditions they have ever seen, with a driving rain soaking the field in the third quarter, followed by a one-hour delay for lightning. It was so miserable, Muschamp was drenched and disheveled after the game. Yet he was as happy as he could be after his team’s dramatic 37-35 win. “You talk about guts and toughness and resolve on your football team, that’s what you are talking about,” he said. “You are talking about a team that continued to fight regardless of circumstances going into the game and regardless of circumstances during the game, whether it was the weather delay or poor play or poor coaching. Guys continued to fight. “That ought to make you be proud to be in the garnet and black.” A week after a mistake-filled loss to Kentucky, the Gamecocks fought and rallied all day against Missouri, swapping the lead five times in the second half with the Tigers. After Missouri kicked a 57-yard field goal to

20

FOOTBALL • MISSOURI RECAP

take the lead with 1:18 remaining, South Carolina drove for the winning score in the final minute, winning it on Parker White’s 33-yard field goal with two seconds left. And they did it behind backup quarterback Michael Scarnecchia, who made his first career start in place of injured starter Jake Bentley. Faced with the loss of Bentley, Muschamp preached all week for his players to “control what you can control.” That was the message throughout the game and during the long delay at the end. “It’s no different in life. Life is unfair. You are going to have things happen to you,” he said. “Ten percent of life is what happens to you and 90 percent is what you do about it. You got to respond in life. So what, now what.” Scarnecchia was outstanding, throwing for 249 yards and three touchdowns. And despite giving up 490 yards, the defense did its part, forcing two big turnovers (one for a Sherrod Greene touchdown) and playing great red-zone defense to hold the Tigers to five field goals. Though it wasn’t pretty, Muschamp was thrilled with the fight and effort of his team. “I have sometimes questioned our focus and questioned our discipline a little bit and our composure, but I have never questioned the effort this football team plays with,” he said. October 2018


NUMBERS THAT MATTER

1

QB Michael Scarnecchia, TE Kiel Pollard and WR Josh Vann made their first career starts. TE Kyle Markway made his first start since 2015. LB Sherrod Greene had his first career interception, which he returned for a touchdown. DB Jamyest Williams had his first interception of the season.

3

Bryan Edwards tied a career high with two touchdown catches. He also had two against Georgia this year.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

October 2018

Carolina has won three straight games against Missouri and is 5-2 against the Tigers since they joined the SEC.

Bryson Allen-Williams had a career-high three tackles for loss, including one sack.

Michael Scarnecchia Playing in place of injured starter Jake Bentley, Scarnecchia completed 20 of 35 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Gamecocks to a 37-35 win.

2

Parker White tied a career-high with three field goals, including his second career game-winner.

15

Deebo Samuel passed Brian Bennett for 13th in career receptions with 112. Ty’Son Williams set a career-high with 15 rushing attempts for 51 yards.

13

MISSOURI RECAP • FOOTBALL

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Carolina vs Vanderbilt Photos by SC Athletics

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FOOTBALL • XXX

October 2018


Carolina vs Kentucky Photos by SC Athletics

October 2018

XXX • FOOTBALL

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October 2018


Carolina vs Missouri Photos by Allen Sharpe, jenny dilworth

October 2018

25


BASKETBALL

Justin Minaya

Fun and Games Martin enjoys Gamecock Tipoff event, excited about new team By Jeff Owens/Executive Editor •Photos by Allen Sharpe

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o one had more fun during the first Gamecock Tipoff at Colonial Life Arena than Frank Martin. The South Carolina head coach got to watch his team square off against Dawn Staley’s women in a three-point shooting contest and then go head-to-head in a game of Family Feud. He got to watch his team run the floor and throw down some spectacular dunks. Martin even got to jog down the court and shoot an awkward layup with his team watching and laughing from the sideline. “I got set up, because that’s the most running I have done in a long time,” Martin said. “I’m just glad it went in. I would never have heard the end of it.” But what Martin enjoyed most was meeting and chatting with fans and watching his players interact with Gamecock supporters. Martin had hoped there would be such an event prior to the 2017-18 season, when his team was coming off a Final Four appearance and the women a national championship. “These are things that are needed,” he said. “You have to have these

26

BASKETBALL • MEN’S

Hassani Gravett

kind of events. It’s the beginning of the season and it generates some real interaction between fans and players. The stronger that bond and connection is the more committed the fans are and the more committed these guys are to go out there and perform for the people who believe in them. “I hope this is something that we can keep growing and continue making it an event that everyone looks forward to every year.” Martin’s good mood was also fueled, in part, by his excitement over his 2018-19 team. Two weeks into practice, Martin liked what he saw from a team that returns four starters and welcomes five exciting freshman and a key grad transfer. “We’re way ahead of where I

thought we would be, not even close,” he said Oct. 5. “The returning guys have been great. … Our first-year guys, they have an ability to learn at a pretty quick clip. They understand. “We are in a good place, we really are. It’s a fun group of guys.” The thing Martin was most pleased with at the start of training camp was the leadership of returning players like seniors Chris Silva and Hassani Gravett, junior Maik Kotsar and sophomores Justin Minaya and Felipe Haase. After the loss of four key players from the Final Four team, Martin was not happy with the team’s leadership last year, when the Gamecocks finished 17-16 and 7-11 in the SEC. “I just wasn’t happy with how it was being handled, but these two guys [Silva and Gravett], Maik, Justin, Felipe, that nucleus of guys that played a lot of minutes for us last year, they are in a much better place right now as players and people,” he said. “They are a lot more comfortable with who they are, and for people to lead, they have to be comfortable with who they are first. They are doing a better job.”

Silva, a first-team All-SEC center and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year last year, said he feels much more comfortable in a leadership role this season. “Last year I stepped into a new role with leadership and I didn’t really know what to do,” he said. “I had to teach all the new guys and at the same time be at the top myself. Everybody who is returning is in a much better place so I am not the only one trying to lead. We lead as a team.” Martin also hopes to get veteran leadership from grad transfer Tre Campbell, who played three years at Georgetown and hopes to be the Gamecocks’ starting point guard. He believes Campbell’s experience at Georgetown will help his team. “He’s been a part of an NCAA team as a starting point guard, and he’s been a part of a team that struggled to win games as a point guard. So he has seen both sides of the game,” Martin said. “He’s in a hard spot because he’s trying to figure out what we as coaches want from him, how he can help his teammates and at the same time be confident enough to share what he understands. October 2018


“He’s done a great job of coming here and fitting in.” “He’s been great. He brings a different type of leadership to the team that we need,” said Gravett, who played some point guard last season but hopes to transition to more of an off guard or combo guard this season. “His ability to handle the ball and get us into the offense has been great. I look forward to seeing how me and him can do in the backcourt.” Martin says Campbell’s experience at Georgetown will help his team. Point guard is a critical role for South Carolina, which struggled at the position last year. Gravett shared the spot with transfers Wes Myers and Kory Holden, who have since departed. Campbell will compete with Gravett and freshman T.J. Moss for the spot. Martin believes Campbell can fill the role of Myers, a grad transfer who took over the position at the end of last season. “He shoots it, he’s crafty with the ball, he guards, he’s competitive,” he said of the 6-0 guard from Washington, D.C. Another big key is perimeter shooting. The Gamecocks, who

were last in the SEC in field goal percentage last year, lost two of its top three-point shooters in Myers and Frank Booker. Booker, who averaged 12.7 points per game, made 85 threes, the third-most in school history. Minaya, Gravett and Hasse combined to make 92 threes last year, but Martin needs more outside shooting to free up Silva and Kotsar in the post. He believes freshmen swingmen Jermaine Couisnard, A.J. Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant can combine with the point guards to give the Gamecocks a better perimeter threat. “All the returning guys are in a better place right now. They are just more comfortable so they are all going to shoot it better,” Martin said. “There are a whole bunch of guys who can shoot the ball. I’m sure some guys will step up and become that guy.” Martin even hopes to see Silva take more perimeter shots. He was 5-of-12 from 3-point range last year. “We spent countless time with him trying to get him [to shoot from the perimeter],” Martin said. “Every basket he shoots can’t be a fist-fight. He has to be able to let it go from three and 15 feet.”

2018-19 ROSTER NO. NAME

POS HT/WT

CLASS HOMETOWN

00 A.J. Lawson

G

6-6, 172

FR

Toronto

1 T.J. Moss

G

6-2, 193

FR

Memphis,Tenn.

2 Hassani Gravett

G

6-2, 188

R-SR

Villa Rica, Ga.

4 Tre Campbell

G

6-0, 183

GR

Washington, D.C.

5 Jermaine Couisnard G

6-4, 202

FR

East Chicago, Ind.

10 Justin Minaya

F

6-5, 215

SO

Harrington Park, N.J.

13 Felipe Hasse

F

6-9, 253

SO

Osorno, Chile

14 Nathan Nelson

F

6-5, 174

FR

Murfreesboro, Tenn.

20 Alanzo Frink

F

6-6, 265

FR

New Jersey City, N.J.

21 Maik Kotsar

F

6-11, 264

JR

Tallinn, Estonia

23 Evan Hinson

G

6-4, 240

JR

Deltona, Fla.

24 Keyshawn Bryant F

6-6, 190

FR

Winter Haven, Fla.

30 Chris Silva

F

6-9, 234

SR

Libreville, Gabon

33 Jason Cudd

F

7-1, 263

SO

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

52 Jair Bolden*

G

6-3, 210

JR

Brooklyn, N.Y.

* Bolden has to sit out the 2018-19 season after transferring from George Washington.

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October 2018

MEN’S • BASKETBALL

27


A New Style Staley to rely heavily on backcourt in post-A’ja season By Josh Hyber/Staff writer Photos by Allen Sharpe

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n every season Dawn Staley has been the head coach of South Carolina women’s basketball, her Gamecock roster has had at least two more guards than it does post players. Three times it has had at least twice as many guards as forwards and centers. But even with Staley — a former guard herself — leading the way with guard-heavy teams, much of Carolina’s recent success has come because of the play of its post players. Over the past four seasons, forwards and centers have accounted for 56 percent of the team’s points, with three-time All-American A’ja Wilson leading the way. That statistic should flip this season. Though South Carolina has its most balanced roster of the Staley era (seven guards, six post players), the Gamecocks will no doubt be a perimeter-oriented team. (Ten of the team’s 13 players are 6-foot-1 or shorter.) “We have to rely heavily on our

28

BASKETBALL • WOMEN’S

guard play right now because that’s the strength,” Staley said in early October. “As a whole, when you don’t have a dominant low-post player — we do have that in Alexis [Jennings] — but after that it’s face-up players. Players who feel comfortable facing the basket.” With Ty Harris, Doniyah Cliney (who started all 36 games last season) and Bianca Jackson (who started 25 games) returning — as well as fifth-year senior Bianca Cuevas-Moore and the additions of Clemson transfer Nelly Perry, Tennessee transfer Te’a Cooper and highly-touted freshman Destanni Henderson — the team has a crowded backcourt. Seven players — three seniors, two juniors, a sophomore and a freshman — will compete for playing time at, most likely, three spots. “We have seven guards and we’re competing day in and day out,” Harris said. In all likelihood, the team will play three or even four guards at a

time, as it did when Harris, Cliney and Jackson started most of the team’s games together last season. Harris and Cliney also have experience playing with Cuevas-Moore, who started 19 games during the team’s 2017 national championship season but missed 2017-18 with a left knee injury. Then there are the newcomers: Cooper, Perry and Henderson. Cooper transferred from Tennessee last summer after sitting out the 2016-17 season due to injury. The 5-8 guard was an SEC AllFreshman selection in 2016 when she started 15 games and averaged 8.6 points per game for the Volunteers. Perry, a 5-10 wing, led Clemson in points and assists per game as a junior. Henderson was the topranked point guard in the 2018 recruiting class and the No. 9 player overall. As time passes combinations and playing time will sort itself out. In a brief video posted to the

team’s YouTube page, Harris and Henderson were seen scrimmaging with both black and garnet jerseys, proving Staley will tinker with lineup combinations at least until the season starts and likely after it starts. Other than Jennings, even the team’s post players — Kiki Herbert Harrigan, Lele Grissett and Elysa Wesolek — are more comfortable facing the basket. Herbert Harrigan is often lethal in the midrange (she shot almost 50 percent from the field last season), and Grissett has shown flashes of a smooth jump shot. “Obviously, a lot of people have packed it in for the last few years [against us],” Staley said. “By us being able to shoot and hit some 3s, it’s something we’ve been working on and stressing, that we have to be a better 3-point shooting team in order for us to utilize some of the other skill sets we have, like driving to the basket. “It’s a strength of our team October 2018


LaDazhia Williams and Bianca Jackson

being able to drive to the basket and attack, so we have to be able to protect that by being able to hit outside shots.” Staley spoke after the team’s first official practice on Oct. 4 and commended her group for not having any lulls during the three-hour practice, something she said was “a lot different” than previous years. The group was hungry and ahead of where Staley thought they would be. She also spoke about her depth at the guard position and how she plans on getting all the players she

thinks can contribute onto the court. “We are working towards just position-less basketball, where we work in concepts,” Staley said. It’ll be a similar style to the one she uses as the head coach of the U.S. women’s national team. “I think it’s going to be a lot different, but I think it’s going to be a good different,” Harris said. “Everybody has something to contribute to the team. We’re going to be a fast-beat, up-tempo team, so I like it.”

2018-19 ROSTER NO. NAME

POS HT CLASS HOMETOWN

0

Nelly Perry

G

1

Bianca Cuevas-Moore G

5-6 RS SR Bronx, N.Y.

2

Te’a Cooper

G

5-8 JR

Powder Springs, Ga.

3

Destanni Henderson

G

5-8 FR

Fort Myers, Fla.

4

Doniyah Cliney

G

6-0 SR

Newark, N.J.

5

Victaria Saxton

F

6-1 FR

Rome, Ga.

10 Bianca Jackson

G

5-10 SO

Montgomery, Ala.

21 Mikiah Herbert Harrigan F

6-2 JR

Pembroke Pines, Fla.

23 Ladazhia Williams

F

6-2 SO

Bradenton, Fla.

24 Lele Grissett

F

6-0 SO

Durham, N.C.

32 Elysa Wesolek

F

6-1 FR

Charleston, S.C.

35 Alexis Jennings

F

6-3 SR

Madison, Ala.

52 Tyasha Harris

G

5-10 JR

Noblesville, Ind.

October 2018

5-10 RS SR Camden, N.J.

WOMEN’S • BASKETBALL

29


Photo by Jenny Dilworth

BASEBALL

Starting Over

After strong finish to 2018, Kingston begins rebuilding for another postseason run By Jeff Owens/Executive Editor

W

hen Mark Kingston took the field with his first South Carolina team last fall, he had no idea what he had or what to expect. Two months into the 2018 season, he still didn’t know as the Gamecocks were struggling and their NCAA Tournament hopes looked bleak. But by May and June, Kingston had his veteran team playing its best baseball of the season as the Gamecocks not only made the postseason but made a run at the College World Series, coming up just one game short in Game 3 of the Super Regional in Arkansas. “By the end, we had things about as good as we could be with that club,” he said. “I think you got a glimpse by the end of last year what we want to look like.” Now Kingston is starting over. He lost 14 players off last year’s team, including eight to the MLB Draft. He began fall practice with 20 new players, including eight junior-college transfers. He spent the first month of the fall season challenging and evaluating the new players to see where they fit with 18 returning players. “We got it to where we wanted it last year, but now so many of those guys are gone, so it’s almost like we are starting over from square one,” he said as fall camp began. “… If that

30

BASEBALL • FALL CAMP

was Chapter 25 [at the end of last year], we’re back to Chapter One right now where we are having to reinstitute everything and teach these new guys how it should be done. There is a long way to go.” Kingston inherited a veteran team last year, one that included five experienced seniors, future MLB Draft picks Carlos Cortes and LT Tolbert and two key starting pitchers in Adam Hill and Cody Morris. This year he returns just three starters and four position players who have gotten significant playing time and only one starting pitcher who made more than six starts. Expectations will be modest entering the spring, but Kingston proved last year he can develop talent and mold a suspect group into a winner. “We lost a lot. I wouldn’t say that we are where we want to be yet where we can say we are a legitimate national championship contender from day one of fall ball,” he said. “We are not to that point yet. But does that mean we can’t have a really good season? We can have a really good season. I see a lot of talent out on the field.” The 2019 team will be led by four key players: seniors TJ Hopkins and Jacob Olson, sophomore Noah Campbell and second-year starting pitcher Carmen Mlodzinski.

Kingston will pencil Hopkins into center field and hope he can play 60-plus games. A three-year starter, he had a break-out season last year, hitting .345 with a .448 on-base percentage. But he missed 26 games and has been hampered by injuries the past two seasons. Kingston was careful with him in the fall, giving him plenty of rest and days off. Olson hit just .234 last year but had 12 home runs, 20 doubles and drove in 36 runs. A two-year starter in the outfield, he has moved to third base, where Kingston is looking for a replacement for Jonah Bride, who hardly missed a game in three years at the hot corner. Though he struggled defensively in the fall, Kingston believes Olson might be the answer. “We know he can play right field at a very high level, we know he can play center field at a very high level. We want to see if he is a legitimate option at third base,” he said. “He has all the skills you need over there. He has good hands, he has some quickness, he has arm strength. So that makes sense with that being one of the positions where we lost guys to see if he is a viable option.” After finishing last season strong in the Super Regional, Olson returned bigger, stronger and determined to lead this team. Kingston believes he

will have “a tremendous senior year.” “He’s stronger and he’s got a new maturity about him that is even better than what he had last year,” he said. “He wants to lead. I think he is going to have a tremendous year for us on and off the field.” Campbell, who was primarily the DH as a freshman, has taken over at second base, where he has been outstanding at times defensively. He hit .270 with a .372 on-base percentage as a freshman and then tore it up in the elite Cape Cod League over the summer, finishing among the league leaders in both batting average and on-base percentage. He carried that over into the fall. He led off a scrimmage against NC State with a home run and has been a catalyst at the top of the lineup while developing into a leader on the field. “I think he now knows he belongs with the elite players in the country,” Kingston said. “He is just carrying himself a little bit different. I also think he became a better baseball player offensively and defensively. He’s better all the way around. And he has taken a leadership role as well.” Kingston calls Hopkins, Olson and Campbell “elite players” he believes give an inexperienced team a strong foundation. “That’s a good starting point for our offense and now it’s a matter of October 2018


fall scrimmage. The biggest question will be pitching, where the Gamecocks lost 240 innings from Hill, Morris and swing man Eddy Demurias. They suffered a huge blow during the fall when sophomore Logan Chapman, who made 14 starts last year and was expected to be a weekend starter, tore his UCL and had Tommy John surgery in October. He will miss the 2019 season. Mlodzinski, who made seven starts in 19 appearances last year, is expected to fill one weekend rotation spot. But the other two spots, as well as the mid-week starter roles, are up for grabs. Juniorcollege transfers Hayden Lehman, Cole Ganopulos and Reid Morgan are expected to contend for a spot, along with sophomore left-hander John Gilreath, who made three starts in 24 appearances last year. Kingston also has six freshman pitchers who got a lot of work in the fall. The bullpen should be in fine shape with the return of closer Sawyer Bridges and middle relievers TJ Shook and Parker Coyne. The Gamecocks also got a bit of a break when Ridge Chapman and Graham Lawson were drafted but not signed due to medical concerns. Both returned and Chapman should be back in the spring while Lawson had Tommy John surgery and will return next year. Though there will be plenty of questions entering the spring, Kingston believes the pitching staff will be much deeper with numerous options. A big plus in the fall was the presence of pitching coach Skylar Meade, who wasn’t hired until just before the season last year. “We have to decide who is going to take that next step to be able to pitch big innings in the SEC,”

getting other guys to the point we want them,” he said. Kingston will rely on newcomers at other key positions. Freshman Josiah Sightler, a 12th-round draft pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, is battling returnees Riley Hogan and Jordan Holladay at first base. Junior-college transfers George Callil and Nick Neville both looked good in the fall at shortstop and figure to continue their fierce battle in the spring. Sophomore Mason Streater and JUCO transfer Quinntin Perez worked with Olson at third. Hopkins will be joined in the outfield by juniorcollege transfer Andrew Eyster and freshmen Brady Allen, Joel Brewer and Xavier Bussey. Eyster, a sophomore from Ocala, Fla. and Santa Fe College, is expected to be an impact hitter for the Gamecocks. He was the Mid Florida Conference Player of the Year after hitting .412 with 12 home runs and 53 RBI last year. He was the MVP of the Virginia Valley League over the summer and doubled and singled in his first two plate appearances of the fall. He also homered against NC State. “He’s a big strong guy and appears to be a very natural hitter. He has big-time pop,” Kingston said. “He’s a guy that will definitely have a major impact for us this year. He’s a guy our fans should be very excited about.” The Gamecocks also appear to have power behind the plate, where junior-college transfer Luke Berryhill and freshman Wes Clarke are competing with senior Chris Cullen. Berryhill homered in three straight games in the fall and looks solid defensively. Clarke is raw defensively but has bigtime power. He hit a mammoth home run in one

Kingston said. “But I think we are deeper in terms of guys who can be 89 to 92 [mph] with pretty good control on a secondary pitch. Just a matter of figuring out who is going to take that next step to be the guys who are going to get the bulk of the innings.” Kingston was pleased with much of what he saw in the fall as the Gamecocks won their two scrimmages against outside competition, beating NC State 2-1 in a four-inning game and Georgia Tech 14-10 in 14 innings. But he was also preaching caution with such a young team and so many question marks. “We’re getting better but we have a fairly new team across the board so we are going to have some up days and some down days,” he said. “This is a long deal and we didn’t really hit our stride last year til midseason. So to think we are going to be as good as we want to be right now in October, we are far from it.”

Photo by Allen Sharpe

2018-19 FALL ROSTER

October 2018

B/T

POS

HT

WT

CLASS HOMETOWN

R/R L/L R/R R/R R/R R/R R/R R/R R/R R/R R/R R/R R/R L/L R/R R/R L/L L/L R/R

RHP LHP RHP RHP RHP RHP RHP RHP RHP RHP RHP RHP RHP LHP RHP RHP LHP LHP/OF RHP

6-1 5-11 6-0 6-2 6-1 5-11 6-3 6-0 6-0 6-2 6-3 6-4 6-2 6-0 6-0 6-2 6-2 6-2 5-11

205 189 179 10 189 189 192 219 195 197 211 209 187 209 208 192 212 201 182

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

Summerville, S.C. Rock Hill, S.C. Kingwood, Texas Hilton Head, S.C. Liberty, S.C. Summerville, S.C. Lancaster, S.C. Taylors, S.C. Jupiter, Fla. Blythewood, S.C. Irmo, S.C. Columbia, S.C. Rock Hill, S.C. Jonesboro, Ga. Marietta, Ga. Suwanee, Ga. Summerville, S.C. Lutz, Fla. Clemmons, N.C.

R/R R/R R/R

C C C

6-1 6-5 6-2

222 224 200

JR SR FR

Canton, Ga. Cumming, Ga. Forest, Va.

S/R S/R R/R

2B 2B SS

6-0 5-6 6-4

196 161 180

SO FR JR

Durham, N.C. Charlotte, N.C. Melbourne, Austra-

R/R R/R R/R L/L L/R S/R S/R R/R

3B 2B 3B 1B/LHP SS 3B 1B 1B

6-0 5-9 6-0 6-3 6-0 5-8 6-1 5’11

190 151 193 206 191 203 206 234

SR FR SO FR FR JR JR SO

Monroe, Ga. Murrells Inlet, S.C. Duncan, S.C. Gaston, S.C. Fairfax, Va. Orcutt, Calif. Orlando, Fla. Sumter, S.C.

R/L R/R R/R R/R R/L R/R

OF OF OF OF OF OF

6-0 6-0 6-3 5-11 5-10 5-11

207 196 196 217 190 194

FR SR SO FR-RS FR FR

Lakeland, Fla. Summerville, S.C. Ocala, Fla. Suwanee, Ga. Garner, N.C. Tampa, Fla.

Head Coach Assistant Coach Assistant Coach Assistant Coach Director of Baseball Player Development Director of Baseball Operations

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NO. NAME PITCHERS 15 Daniel Lloyd 16 John Gilreath 20 Reid Morgan 21 Carmen Mlodzinski 22 Logan Chapman 23 Sawyer Bridges 27 Gage Hinson 28 Ridge Chapman 30 Shane Roberts 34 Hunter Lomas 36 TJ Shook 37 Cam Tringali 40 Wesley Sweatt 41 Cole Ganopulos 43 Hayden Lehman 44 Parker Coyne 47 Dylan Harvey 48 Julian Bosnic 49 Brett Kerry CATCHERS 14 Luke Berryhill 33 Chris Cullen 38 Wes Clarke INFIELDERS 2 Noah Campbell 4 Jonah Beamon 6 George Callil lia 7 Jacob Olson 8 Jacob English 10 Mason Streater 12 Josiah Sightler 18 Nick Neville 26 Quinntin Perez 32 Riley Hogan 35 Jordan Holladay OUTFIELDERS 3 Brady Allen 5 TJ Hopkins 11 Andrew Eyster 24 Ian Jenkins 29 Xavier Bussey 31 Joel Brewer COACHING STAFF Mark Kingston Mike Current Skylar Meade Stuart Lake Trip Couch Tyson Lusk

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SOCCER

Making some noise

Lauren Chang provides a spark for Gamecocks in her second season By Josh Hyber/Staff writer

L

auren Chang has an impeccable memory when it comes to the fine details of her soccer career, from all the premier tournaments she has played in to the lengthy list of standout goals. “I remember everything that happens on the field,” the South Carolina sophomore said in early October. But there’s one moment, among many, that stands out, and it comes from the Dallas International Cup, when Chang’s team forced overtime in the championship game late in regulation. In overtime, Chang found the ball at her feet. “I took a touch-in, faked my defender and slotted it right inside the far-left post,” Chang said. “And then I screamed at the top of my lungs and ran. … That’s one thing that hasn’t changed. I get so hyped, I love celebrating. Especially with my teammates.” A big-game, clutch performer and a lightning rod — that’s who Chang has been throughout her soccer career and what she has brought the Gamecocks in her two seasons in Columbia. Through South Carolina’s first 12 games this season, Chang led the team in goals (5), was second in points (11) and had one assist. She was also tied for the team lead in game-winning goals (2) and shots on goal (9). “She came in and brought some

32

SOCCER • LAUREN CHANG

energy right away,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “She’s like a little spark plug in the middle of the field for us and she does that same thing off the field. She gets along with everyone and keeps it light at times, but she’s also someone who will stand up and push her teammates and say, ‘We’ve got to be better.’ “She’s learning that balance of being the leader and being competitive and saying the right thing at the right time to keep our team going.” The goal in Dallas, which came when Chang was in middle school, wasn’t the last time she shined on a big stage. In the last tournament she played with her club team, at a national championship, she scored twice in the second half to force a 2-2 draw. Said Chang, “People were down in the dumps and I was like, ‘Why? We have 45 minutes to play.’” She then scored goals in each of the next three games. The Alpharetta, Ga. native has been much of the same in her time with the Gamecocks. She scored in her college debut against Central Florida on a strike from outside the box in the 79th minute. “That’s one goal I’ll never, ever forget,” she said. “I got chills. It was something that, as a freshman especially, I wanted to come in and make an impact. Just to be able to do that with a goal in the first game, that

meant a lot to me. “Oh, I guess Tennessee, too … .” Yes, Tennessee. Against the then No. 21-ranked Volunteers, she delivered the game-winning goal in the 95th minute of SC’s 1-0 overtime victory. She also scored the game-winner for the Gamecocks this season against the Volunteers as well as in the team’s game against Clemson. After the 1-0 victory over the Gamecocks’ in-state rival, Chang told reporters that she kept telling herself the team wasn’t safe and it had to keep going. “Honestly, in the 80th minute, I thought we were tied,” she said. “I was freaking out. I had to remind myself that we were up 1-0.” “It’s just because she has great energy, is always tuned in to the game and is always hyping everybody up,” said Ryan Gareis, Chang’s roommate and best friend on the team. “I think she uses a lot of that to build up her ability to score those big goals.” Smith stresses the importance of a team game and midfielders taking the scoring load off of forwards. Said the coach, “Chang has been able to do that in key moments.”

‘Like Messi’ Television cameras and reporters often loom large over Chang when she handles post-game media responsibilities. The questions come quick, but the 5-foot-3 speedster handles

them in stride. Always polite and with a smile. But that demeanor changes from minutes before when she’s aggressive and in-your-face. “Look out for the girl with the really, really long brown hair.” That’s the message Landon Lambert’s coach gave her team at a local tournament when she and Chang were on rival club teams in elementary school. “We would kind of describe her like Messi,” Lambert said, referring to the five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, given yearly to the best soccer play in the world. “Super technical. Really quick. … She also has really good shots from outside the box. She has great range. She would always make those shots that were super insane.” Chang began playing soccer at 3 and, despite trying several other sports (“I was bored with softball and basketball wasn’t enough running”), really got into it when she was 7 or 8 years old. After that, it began, to use her word, an addiction. When asked what made her fall in love with the game, she didn’t answer that her friends played or she enjoyed the running or that she was good. “It was the amount of difficulty that it takes to play the game and how many little things go into the perfect pass, the perfect run,” Chang said. “It’s just the little details in soccer that October 2018


club Tophat, one of the premier I think are the most beautiful part teams in the southeast. about it.” Lambert still remembers times But it took time and effort. She when Tophat was tied late in a practiced free kicks after her team regional or national competition came back from tournaments. and it was Chang who motivated Chang was about 4-foot-5 until the team with pleas of “Let’s go!” middle school and played on a club She was, in Lambert’s words, always team that featured players who in-tune with the game and didn’t now play for the likes of Stanford, Southern Cal, Georgetown, Georgia like losing. “She was really good at getting and Alabama. away from her mark, behind ev“I was kind of an underdog eryone’s back and scoring those big throughout middle school and high goals last-minute,” Lambert said. school,” she said. “… I just had to And of course, the energy. figure out how to make people use “You can probably see when she their body the wrong way and play celebrates after goals, she’s freakin off that. flipping. She’s jumping up and “It was really challenging but it down and screaming and grabbing was super fun because people were her shirt,” Lambert said. “She’s always better than me.” really passionate. You can tell she She stands there on the South really loves soccer, watching it and Carolina practice field and explains practicing it and playing it.” — just as she did when describing After one tournament in Calithe goal in Dallas — how she goes fornia, Lambert’s dad taught some about it. of the girls how to surf. Lambert, “Most of the time on headers, Chang and Grace Nguyen (who you’ll see I won’t go up for it,” she now plays at Georgetown) drove said. “I’ll back up and get the ball around Oceanside and San Diego down to my feet. Just realizing little singing One Direction. things I can do to make sure that “Lauren’s super fun. Very loud. the height, I wouldn’t say disadvanVery vocal,” Lambert said. “Always tage, but height difference, isn’t an had a lot of energy, on and off the issue.” field. 1That10/9/18 was never something that She andSpurs Lambert became team& Feathers-October '18.pdf 12:41 PM wavered.” mates on the central Georgia-based

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Striking a balance Chang calls South Carolina “the best of both worlds” and starts with academics when describing why. The political science major is enrolled in South Carolina’s Honors College, which was ranked first among honors colleges in a 2012 edition of A Review of Fifty Public Honors Programs. After her playing career, Chang wants to work with intellectual property law, which deals with copyrights and trademarks. She also wants to get an associate degree in statistics. “She’s very easy to talk to and just has a fun personality to be around,” Gareis said. “She’s probably the funniest, she is the funniest person I’ve ever met in my life.” Yes, Chang is serious about her studies, but she knows about balance. She and her roommates watch “This Is Us” and “Chopped.” They hide behind corners and jump out and scare each other. They have Nerf guns. “It’s kind of like a little kid’s room, but it’s so fun,” Gareis said. It’s the same on the field. There’s a balance between her intensity and her calmness (even though it’s mostly intense.) “She’s going to get on you and be demanding, but it’s because she cares and wants the most out of everyone,”

Smith said. “And she wants the most out of herself.” “When you see one teammate willing to put everything on the line, you want to do the same for her,” Gareis said. “I think she’s a player that anyone on the team is willing to work for because they know that she would do the same for them.” South Carolina could be down a goal and it’s undoubtedly Chang who’s trying to ignite them. “She just lives for this, and it’s so inspiring to see that,” Gareis said. “You see your best friend and your closest teammate living for this game and loving everything that she’s doing, it makes you love it even more.” Chang still has two more years of college soccer and hopes to play beyond somewhere in Europe (“wherever they’ll take me, I’m not picky”) where she’ll immerse herself in the culture. “I’m tenacious, I’ll outwork people on the field and I’ll outwork people in the classroom,” she said. “If you make time for the little things, you will succeed. There’s no question about it. “If you really care about something, you’ll make sure you get it done.” Spoken like a clutch performer.

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33


EQUESTRIAN

Cowgirl Up Madison Thiel leads the way as South Carolina equestrian looks to return to national prominence

Madison Thiel

By Jeff Owens/Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe

T

he first thing you notice about Madison Thiel is her smile. A wide, beautiful smile that lights up a room or, in this case, a barn. Thiel’s smile is brightest when she’s sitting astride a horse for the South Carolina equestrian team. A senior on Boo Major’s 2018-19 team, Thiel excels in horsemanship, an event that requires elegance, grace and beauty. “I like to smile in horsemanship. That’s my signature look,” Thiel said on a bright, sunny day at OneWood Farm in Blythwood, S.C., home to South Carolina Equestrian. After three productive seasons for South Carolina, Thiel, a senior from Dublin, Ohio, is now captain of the team and charged with leading a group that hopes to return the program to the glory years, when it won back-to-back SEC championships in 2013 and 2014 and three national championships in 2005, 2007 and 2015. “She’s a great person to have on the team,” says Major, a two-time SEC and national coach of the year. “She’s a good leader and is real steady emotionally and in everything she does. I think the team as a whole respects her and I have a lot of respect for her.” Thiel faces her greatest challenge this season. Not only is she the leader of a young team that has only eight seniors and 11 freshman on the 38-woman roster, but she is competing in both horsemanship and reining, a rare feat at the NCEA (National Collegiate Equestrian Association) level. Thiel participated in both events as a freshman and sophomore but focused primarily on horsemanship last season with a deep roster of reiners. She worked hard on reining over the summer, participating in several independent events, to prepare to compete in both as a senior. Participating in two very different events requires not only tremendous versatility but a lot of patience and discipline.

34

EQUESTRIAN • MADISON THIEL

“Horsemanship is very elegant,” said Thiel, who has 20 career wins in the event and earned three MOP (Most Outstanding Player) awards during the 2017-18 season. “You sit very tall and stiff and you are judged on your body a lot, while reining is fast … you get to kinda cowgirl up. They are very different, which does make it difficult, but I wouldn’t trade anything to go back to just one of them.” While she relies on balance, precision and her look in horsemanship, reining is much more physical, testing the athleticism of both horse and rider through a series of spins, sliding stops and quick bursts of speed and changes of direction. In reining, her smile is not nearly as important. “That’s more of my mean look,” she said. “You like to look a little mean and get out there and get dirty.” Reining is the strength of the team, Major says, with Thiel joining juniors Carolina Gute and Jordan Scott and senior Bridgett White. Thiel and Gute compete in both horsemanship and reining. Gute won both her events in the season-opening meet against SMU, winning MOP honors in reining. Their versatility gives Major a deep lineup in both Western-style events. “They are both pretty talented,” Major said. “What I like a lot about those two is not only do they ride well but they have that get-it-done factor, the competitive factor. They don’t question themselves. You know when they go in the ring they are going to give it everything they have got. They are not going to question their ability, they are just going to go out there and ride.” Thiel is looking to help her team bounce back from two off years (7-8 in 2016, 4-10 in 2017). Major believes this year’s team will be greatly improved, and it showed with a 10-9 upset over No. 2 Georgia on Oct. 5 It is strong

Caroline Gute

in the Western events — horsemanship and reining — due to the return of riders like Thiel, Gute and a host of other upperclassman. Major believes the Hunter Seat events — equitation on the flat and equitation over fences — will be bolstered by a strong freshman class. The Gamecocks lost to SMU 9-8 in their season opener due, in part, to the absence of several freshmen who were still competing in junior events when the season started. “My outlook is that we will steadily improve,” she said. “You want to say we are going to win every meet. I think we will win some and we will lose some, but one of the neat things is they do look at Western team wins, Hunt Seat team wins and they also look at event wins. … So there are different ways our team can get to the national championship, and I think we will. October 2018


group,” she said. “I think last year we had a really diverse group of seniors that … all got along but they all hung out differently. … This group is very together. I think this group is all on the same page and they all as a whole agree with each other and with the decisions being made. I think they all know what their role is on the team, which is sometimes difficult. They are totally committed to the team.”

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Thiel, who has been riding since she was 3 years old, was thrilled to learn in high school that she could continue riding in college. “It’s just such a great thing,” she said. “I was so happy and my parents were really happy that I could get a scholarship to come and do it.” She chose South Carolina, she said, because of the campus and coaches. “I fell in love with the coaches and this team immediately,” she said. “They made me feel right at home.” Four years later, she could not imagine college without the opportunity to ride horses, hang out with her equestrian teammates and spend time in the tranquility of OneWood Farm. “I’ve been around them my whole life,” she said. “With the everyday student life and classes and everything, I can’t imagine giving up the barn life and not being able to come out and take my time and get away from campus life and having something else to spend my life with. It’s made my college experience that much better. “It’s something that I love and I always want to keep doing.”

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“I think our team will be better than last year’s team, for sure. I do think we will improve as the year progresses.” Major believes her team will benefit from a strong senior class that gets along well and seems intent on developing strong team chemistry, which can sometimes be difficult in a sport that revolves around individual competition. “I am really excited about this

“I absolutely love this team,” Thiel said. “I have been here four years and I think that we get along really well. We are very focused this year. I think we are ready for anything that it throws at us.” Equestrian is a unique sport at the collegiate level. Most teams are made up of 30-40 girls competing for the opportunity to ride in each event. But only about half of them ride in team competition, and there are no substitutions. The competition between teammates can be intense, especially for athletes who have spent their whole career competing individually instead of on a team. That’s where leaders like Thiel are so important. “You are competing as a team, but you feel you are competing for a spot to be in the lineup and that can get in the way of things sometimes,” she said. “This year I don’t really see that. I see everyone pushing forward and trying to do the job they fit best, whether they are in [the lineup] or warming up horses or in the barn, anything like that. I feel like we are all there for each other. That can get hard sometimes but I feel like this year, we really want that, we want whatever is best for the team.”

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35


VOLLEYBALL

Raising the bar

Mendoza has volleyball team on record pace, surging toward NCAAs By Josh Hyber/Staff writer • Photos by SC Athletics

T

om Mendoza sat in a team room at the South Carolina volleyball offices in early October and spoke about his team’s 13-1 record with what could be best described as cautious optimism. Mendoza said his Gamecocks were not some “magical” group that did everything right during the best start in program history. It just played together and did the little things right. “We’re receiving votes and people are talking about paths to the NCAA Tournament,” the coach said. “Those things are all part of it and part of Division I, but at the same time, that’s not what’s going to help us get better. “That’s one of our biggest challenges, is to not get distracted by the results and not living up to our potential as a group. That has been our focus as a coaching staff and as a team. Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot.”

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VOLLEYBALL • TOM MENDOZA

Entering the team’s Oct. 12 match against Florida, it was 14-2 and had won 10 of its past 11 games. By Oct. 7, it led the SEC in aces and was fifth in hitting percentage. Senior libero Aubrey Ezell was first in the conference with 46 aces (14 better than the conference’s next best) and ranked eighth in digs. Junior setter Courtney Koehler ranked fifth in assists and sophomore Mikayla Robinson ranked 10th in hitting percentage and blocks. By October, Mendoza had seen traits of a team with high potential. “I think learning how to win is a process and is a skill, which is one of the reasons I’m so excited about this team,” the coach said. “For the fact that, we have that taste. At the end of a close game, our group just stays aggressive and keeps doing the things that are putting them in position to win points. “We have that faith now that we’re

Jess Vastine

going to find a way to be successful.” That happened when South Carolina had 3-0 sweeps over East Tennessee State and LSU, teams that reached the NCAA Tournament last season. “If you’re not winning, the alternative isn’t very good,” Mendoza said. “You better get comfortable with success, because if not you’ll get comfortable with the alternative.” The 13-1 record wasn’t just a product of luck or a hot start. “We’re pretty deep into it now,”

sophomore Jess Vastine said. “I think with a new coach and a brandnew year, all of us were really excited to get started. And that feeling hasn’t worn off.” Mendoza — who’s in his first season with the Gamecocks after leading High Point University to 47 wins and back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances — mentioned the hitting percentage and improved passing as keys to the early success. Mendoza, his coaching staff and players study the first two contacts of their possessions — the digs and sets. They will pause video halfway through a point and ask themselves, “Do we feel like we did the right thing here? Did we put ourselves in position to win the point?” Even without knowing the result of the volley. “We’re seeing that rate [of yes responses] a lot more,” Mendoza said. “Maybe at the beginning of the

October 2018


season it was 50-50. Now it’s 70-80 percent.� The Gamecocks also aren’t a one-person or two-person show. The team is balanced, which Mendoza said doesn’t take away from the quality talent it has at the top of its lineup. “Everyone has their own role on the team and everyone executes their role every game,� Vastine said. The team also had an innate “drive and hunger,� Mendoza said, characteristics that led to an improbable 3-2 win over Georgia after the Gamecocks were down two sets to none. “I think at first we were all a little bit surprised, because we hadn’t lost a set in the SEC yet,� Vastine said. “But our team wanted to keep fighting. We weren’t ready to give up our undefeated SEC year yet. We wanted to keep that feeling and keep that going. “So we found it within ourselves to pull through for each other and ride the waves until we could get things going on our side.� “We had been talking about adversity for a while and how we were going to face it,� Koehler said. “So when we went down, we knew that that was it. We knew it was the time

to prove ourselves. If we were going to come back it was going to be right then, and we did.� It seems like every game during the streak was a new record or new streak-breaker for the Gamecocks. “I know every game that we’re going to win this year, if we keep this going, is going to be a new record, every time the date gets a little further and further back,� Vastine said. So where is the bar? Is this



Gamecock team talented enough to make the NCAA Tournament? Mendoza has been there before, and because he watches so many matches from around the country, he has a credible and unbiased opinion. “Oh, for sure. I think even before the success was there this season, we said this team has the talent to be an NCAA Tournament team this season,� the coach said. “I think there’s no question. I think this team, the

ceiling on this team, I don’t know if we’ve seen it yet.� “This is what we’ve been waiting for since we’ve been playing volleyball,� Koehler said. “We’re in a great spot right now and we can’t wait to see what we can do.� “There is no bar set,� Vastine said. “That’s the best part. We’ve already surprised ourselves, so we might as well keep pushing it and keep going.�

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37


Martin, Gamecocks have talent to take next step

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COLUMN • BILL GUNTER

hen basketball season kicked off with a Midnight Madness-type event Oct. 5, it was the start of a big season for Frank Martin and his program. Last season was a big transition from a 2016-17 team that featured three seniors in Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice and Justin McKie, along with a solid player in P.J. Dozier. Their departure created a void in leadership that never seemed to be filled last year despite the best efforts of Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar. With another season under their belt and the improvement of key players Justin Minaya and Felipe Haase, both Silva and Kotsar appear ready to take a step forward not just on the court but in the locker room. What Martin has done for South Carolina basketball is one of the more amazing coaching efforts I have seen in any sport. Some may say that is hyperbole, but I believe that when Martin took it, it was one of the five worst major-college basketball programs in the country. We are talking about a program that had been to the NCAA Tournament just five times in a 30-year span and had not won an NCAA Tournament game during that time. Players that were currently being recruited did not remember the Eddie Fogler golden years and most certainly did not know of the success of the Frank McGuire era. But Martin has built a solid program that challenges the competition night in and night out. The Gamecocks have recorded the most wins ever in a four-year span under Martin and have made one trip to the Final Four. Of course, that does not mean the work is done and it is time to erect a statue and name a street after Martin. But it does show what he is capable of. This year, Martin has plenty of solid pieces to work with, starting with an experienced, talented and gritty frontcourt featuring Silva and Kotsar. Joining them in the starting lineup is Minaya, who was a key player as a freshman. The backcourt is something that Martin must sort out early during a tough non-conference schedule. Grad transfer Tre Campbell and freshman T.J. Moss are most likely to be assigned the task of handling

the ball, while Jermaine Couisnard and A.J. Lawson will need to develop quickly to give senior Hassani Gravett a breather and take some pressure off of him to play major minutes. The 2017-2018 season was a difficult one for the Gamecocks as leadership was an issue, but talent and injuries played a major role as well. Despite those problems, a midseason run showed just what Martin is capable of doing with players that buy into his philosophy and play the tough, hard-nosed defense that is required. In mid-February, a Gamecock team that had struggled early was on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament discussion before fatigue finally caught up with them and the team struggled down the stretch. But that mid-season effort should give Gamecock fans hope for this coming season as the team appears more talented and has the height and length that Martin likes to employ on defense. The roster again features several new players, but these are players who should upgrade the talent level and toughness when it matters most. Make no mistake, the SEC as a conference is improving and the schedule for this year is not going to be easy. But the Gamecocks need to take the next step to continue showing that Martin has laid the foundation for a solid program that builds upon its success. It is a big season for the Gamecocks but Martin appears to have his team poised to be in the discussion for post-season play in late February. How they handle the early nonconference schedule that features Providence, Michigan, Clemson and Virginia will certainly be interesting but it will give Gamecock fans a reason to tune in as Martin continues to take South Carolina basketball in the right direction.

Bill Gunter is the co-host of the Early Game on 107.5 The Game in Columbia. Follow him on Twitter @WillGunter. October 2018


Having two QBs may not be a bad thing for Gamecocks By Ed Girardeau | Contributing writer

I

t is hard to believe, but the 2018 season is at the halfway point. Granted there is a game to make up with Marshall, or maybe another team, or maybe not at all, but we are halfway home. The Gamecocks have won two that were not close, lost two that were not close, and won a crazy game against Missouri that they were very fortunate to win. I think it breaks down pretty easily as to what to expect. We’ll win some and we’ll lose some and will probably have some more highs and lows. It would not be surprising to win one or two that would be considered upsets and maybe lose another that maybe could have gone either way. In college football, a lot of the time you’re only as good as your quarterback. I don’t think that anyone would argue that Jake Bentley has been, at best, inconsistent. He played well in the two wins against Coastal and Vanderbilt and played poorly against Georgia and, especially, against Kentucky. Over the last two years (Bentley

didn’t play the first half of his freshman year), there have been times when Bentley has looked brilliant. Other times not so much, and sometimes both in the same game. If he could stay consistent, particularly against the best teams, he has unlimited potential. His injury in the Kentucky game opened the door for Michael Scarnecchia to make the first start of his career. How many fifth-year quarterbacks are around on any college teams, who have played virtually not at all? There can’t be many. In this day and age, QBs transfer at the drop of a helmet. That alone makes this a great story. Scarnecchia was prepared and led SC to an improbable win considering the circumstances and weather. I can’t remember a complete game to compare it to, but it is reminiscent of Erik Kimrey’s off-the-bench throw for the winning touchdown (The Fade) to Jermale Kelly to beat Mississippi State in 2000. But in this case, he threw more than one pass. His stats for the day: 20-of-35,

249 yards and three TDs. Wow. Who could have expected that? If nothing else, you have to feel good for this kid who has stuck it out and been loyal to South Carolina. He deserved something good to happen. Scarnecchia reminded me of … well, Bentley. Before we get too carried away, he was not perfect. On the last drive alone, he threw a pass intended for Deebo Samuel that hit a Missouri DB right in the hands. And then on his final snap, he completed a pass for a first down but almost took too long to get the next play off, which could have been a disaster. The good news is, if Bentley gets hurt again, he doesn’t have to stay in the game or hop on one leg. There is an option. Bentley is still a good quarterback. He’s not perfect, but who is? Connor Shaw, arguably the best Gamecock quarterback ever, had a terrible game in a loss to Tennessee in 2013. He ended up hurt and didn’t start the next game in lieu of Dylan Thompson. Not many

remember that Tennessee game, but everyone remembers the next one — a fourth-quarter comeback against Missouri with Shaw leading the way. You never know what comes next. This may be what we look back on as the turning point of the season. The 1984 season went fairly well (10-2) with both Allen Mitchell and Mike Hold sharing quarterback time. Having two quarterbacks can be a good thing. I’ll leave the decision as to who starts and who plays how much to the coaching staff. With loyal devotion, remembering the days.

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

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Spurs & Feathers October 2018  
Spurs & Feathers October 2018