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Brian Steele's last basket at Colonial Life Arena came March 5, 2011.  Then a junior at Wade Hampton High School in Greenville, S.C., Steele scored 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Generals to a 79-68 win over Darlington in the Boys Class 3A title game. 

 

Two years and a day later, Steele got his next shot.

 

The freshman walk-on, making his second consecutive start Wednesday, scored six points and added two rebounds in the Gamecocks' 79-72 win over Mississippi State.  In one week, the 6'5," 196-pound Steele has gone from a total of five minutes of playing time to becoming a valued member of Frank Martin's rotation. 

 

Brian Steele Wade Hampton.jpgNot bad for someone who had a sprinkling of low-major and Division II offers out of high school, but preferred to follow his heart and walk on at South Carolina.

 

Freshman walk-on Brian Steele (right) averaged 17.0 ppg and 8.0 rpg as a senior at Wade Hampton HS.  (Photo courtesy:  Anderson Independent-Mail)

 

"You're either an energy giver or an energy drainer," Martin said on "Carolina Calls."  "That enthusiasm, that energy, that courage that he shows each and every day has paid off."

 

So how did Steele's transformation from walk-on to freshman SEC starter - all in the span of 10 months - take place?  It began with a phone call and a weakness.

 

"I'm always a sucker for a really good shooter," associate head coach Brad Underwood said.

 

Late last Spring, Underwood took a call from a coaching friend, raving about a deadeye shooter he had been working out individually.  Underwood was intrigued ("We got here and we were looking at everybody," he said). 

 

He took down the name - Brian Steele - and started investigating.

 

"I actually saw a YouTube, or maybe a video on him.  So I watched this.  [I thought,] this kid makes everything.  He's playing, and he's making the right passes," Underwood recalls. 

 

Steele and his father visited the staff over the summer, where he reaffirmed his desire to walk on to the team.  That passion did not go unnoticed.

 

"He was dying to be a part of the program.  That's a big part of wanting to be a walk-on.  You've got to have tremendous pride, which he does," Underwood said. 

 

Still, when Underwood oversaw walk-on tryouts in September, he offered no guarantees.  There was no "preferred walk-on" status, not even for someone who averaged 17.0 points per game and earned all-state honors his senior year. 

 

It mattered little.  Steele would separate himself quickly.

 

"We had an idea he was a pretty good player.  He was spectacular in the tryout.  It was a pretty easy decision," Underwood said.

 

As he showed Wednesday night, Brian Steele continues to make the most of his shots.

 

More pre-tip reads before the Gamecocks head to Memorial Gymnasium to face Vanderbilt (13-16, 7-10 SEC) in the regular season finale (1:30 p.m. EST, Gamecock IMG Sports Network):

 

The Four Factors:  South Carolina's first game against Vanderbilt defied most of the natural laws of basketball.  The Gamecocks shot 23.7% from the floor, their worst shooting percentage since 1998, yet still had three consecutive chances to take the lead with two minutes remaining.   So what did we learn from that 58-51 loss January 19?  Pay attention to these four factors:

 

1.)    "Turn the floor."  Vandy's guards do an excellent job of staying between the ball and the rim, and the taller Commodores repeatedly handcuffed the Gamecocks on dribble-drives.  In halfcourt sets, Eric Smith, Bruce Ellington, Brenton Williams, and Brian Richardson all struggled to finish at the rim. 

 

Eric Smith vs. Vandy.jpegCarolina's coaches often holler for their players to "turn the floor" - swing the ball quickly, so a weak-side defender gets off-balance when he meets the pass.  That opens up driving lanes, and can neutralize the size of taller backcourts.  Underwood praised Carolina for its spacing and quick passing against Mississippi State's 1-3-1 zone.  Can they "turn the floor" effectively, and duplicate that effort against the Commodores?

 

Eric Smith (right) drives against Vanderbilt January 19.  The Gamecocks struggle to finish at the rim against the Commodores' tall guards.

 

 

2.)     Vanderbilt's biggest strengths are its spacing and three-point shooting.  Outside of Florida, no team has more players capable of stroking the three than the Commodores.  With players like Kedren Johnson, Dai-Jon Parker, and Kyle Fuller good at getting to the rim, Vanderbilt can become a deadly "pick-and-pop" team in the halfcourt.  The best way to squelch that?  Defend the initial ball screen well, and close down one-on-one driving lanes so the kickout pass becomes unavailable. 

 

Vanderbilt also runs a lot of action through its "5" man at the elbow.  The Gamecocks want to "extend and deny," and force those passes to come three or four feet farther away on the floor.  That could disrupt the timing and flow of Vanderbilt's spread-floor offense.  For as good as Vanderbilt is defensively (a surprising 3rd in the SEC in Defensive Efficiency behind Florida and Alabama), they can be just an anemic offensively (last SEC, 59.5 ppg).

 

 

3.)    Be prepared for long rebounds.  Carolina grabbed a season-low 26% of its missed shots against Vanderbilt (12 of 45).  Many of those missed opportunities came on long tap-outs or "50-50 balls."  On the flip side, Vanderbilt ranks 2nd in the nation, scoring 38.9% of its points from three-point range.  The Gamecocks need to renew their intensity on the boards, and beat Vandy's perimeter players to "chase-down" rebounds.

 

 

4.)     Kedren Johnson will score.  The Gamecocks just can't give him baskets.  The Commodores' leading scorer (13.7 ppg) is a rangy, slashing guard who loves getting to the rim.  In a 66-40 loss to Florida Wednesday, Johnson ran off a streak of 13 straight points. 

 

The Gamecocks held him in check, limiting him to 0-for-6 shooting from the field.  A repeat of that performance seems unlikely.  Carolina simply needs to make Johnson earn his points - i.e., no easy layups or free throws.  

 

 

Can We Press Fast Forward?  In the last three games, South Carolina has shot 24.3% from the field in the first half against Vanderbilt.

 

First Half Shooting vs. Vandy  

Year                       FGM-FGA            Deficit

2013:                     5-29                      -5

2012:                     9-23                       0                             

2011:                     5-26                      -10

    19-78 FG  (24.3%)

 

Brenton Williams vs. Vandy.jpegPop Off:  In a post-practice shooting drill last year, Brenton Williams once made 31 straight three-pointers.  A lights-out shooting night always lurked in the 5'11" junior guard.  Wednesday night, Williams erupted for 38 points against Mississippi State, smashing his previous high of 22 points.  He also blew past his season average of 10.0 points per game coming in.

 

Brenton Williams (left) scored 38 points against Mississippi State, the most by a Gamecock since Terry Dozier in 1987.

 

How unlikely was Williams' scoring explosion?  By my research, he had the third-lowest scoring average of any player in the nation with 35 or more points in a game this season.

 

Player                                       Opponent                      PPG Entering     Points

Sam Prescott, Mt. St. Mary's      Bryant 2/14                     9.2                      44

Elijah Johnson, Kansas               Iowa State 2/25               9.1                      39

Brenton Williams, S. Carolina      Mississippi State 3/6       10.0                    38

 

*-Stats courtesy statsheet.com, mountathletics.com, and kuathletics.com

 

Defense and sure passing have kept Williams from a more secure spot in the rotation.  Martin has called Williams' practices "rock solid" over the last few weeks.  It's paying off in the form of a strong closing stretch for the Kissimmee, Fla., junior.

 

Record Chasing:  Williams has also made 17 straight free throws, raising his season average to .842.  With a few more foul trips, he could have one of the highest single-season free-throw percentages in school history among players with 100 or more attempts.

 

Highest Season Free Throw Percentage (Min. 100)

1.       Scotti Ward                      .868                      (118-136)

2.       Michael Foster                  .848                      (95-112)

3.       Mike Doyle                       .845                      (93-110)

4.       Brenton Williams               .842                      (80-95)

 

And Finally...  Vanderbilt's tallest player, 6'11" center Josh Henderson, has a connection to South Carolina not even acknowledged by the Vandy media guide.  Henderson is the great-nephew of Jim Slaughter, the Gamecocks' first basketball All-American in 1951.   Slaughter averaged 22.8 points per game during his All-American season.

 

Our pre-game coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. EST on the Gamecock IMG Sports Network. See you in Nashville.  -AD-

 

Throwback Thursday: Terry Dozier

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It's Throwback Thursday! Terry Dozier scored 1,445 points as a Gamecock from 1985-89. Last night Brenton Williams scored a career-high 38 points - the most points in a game since Terry Dozier scored 38 in an 86-85 win over Florida State in
the Metro Conference Tournament 26 years ago to the day on March 6, 1987. Terry's brother, Perry, also played for the Gamecocks, and freshman women's basketball player Asia Dozier is Perry's daughter. It's Great to be a Gamecock!!


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Throwback Thursday - Terry Dozier (1985-89)

*Bonus throwback points- with our brief research (everything on the internet is true, right?) the opponent with the awesome facial expression in the picture is Villanova great Harold Jensen.

Meaningful ROTC Contracting Ceremony at Hoops

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Fans at last week's men's basketball game vs. Missouri witnessed a special halftime. Cadets from the University of South Carolina's Army ROTC program were officially inducted into the Army during a ceremony at halftime led by LTC John Wright, who oversees the program. It was the second time for such an occasion, as the Army ROTC program also conducted a contracting ceremony at a recent men's soccer game.


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"Coach Martin has always been such a big supporter of the military so to do it here and for all he's been for the university in such a short time is great," said Wright. "Also, to have Coach Tanner out there has been great because a coach understands that the same commitment as an athlete is very similar to the commitment of these cadets too. It's just great to be here in front of these fans too because the fans get it. This is a very patriotic place and they love the military here so to be able to share this occasion with them is great."

The Army ROTC is often involved with athletics events, having helped with military-themed Opening Day presentations at baseball and passing out rally towels to fans at football games.

"These cadets take such a big responsibility on themselves and they are recognized as a big part of this university," said Wright. "The athletics department understands the commitment that they're making also. We call our cadets tactical athletes because being in the military is a lot like being an athlete. It has same demands on your body and the same requirement to physically fit so it's just the perfect fit for us."


Spurs Up Daily Round-Up: 3/6

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Catch up on the day's buzz about the Gamecocks! In today's edition: Baseball Wins 10-0 over Ball State; Men's Basketball Senior Night and final home game; Women's Basketball SEC Defensive Player of the Year; Football begins spring drills; Jackie Bradley Jr. in the pros; Today's fan photo of the day; And more!



GAMECOCKSONLINE.COM NEWS


Baseball: Baseball Earns 10-0 Win Over Ball State.

Softball:
Softball Single-Game Tickets On Sale Now; Sat., March 16 A Sellout

Men's Basketball:
Men's Hoops To Host Mississippi State On Senior Night

Women's Basketball: Walker Tops All-SEC Lists as Defensive Player of the Year

Football: Gamecocks Open Spring Drills Tuesday

Men's Golf: Gamecocks Fall One Stroke Short Of First At USF Invitational

Men's Soccer:
Gamecock Men's Soccer Holds Annual Awards Dinner

Men's Tennis: Gamecock Spotlight: In The Zone

Track & Field: Women's Track & Field Holds at No. 15 in USTFCCCA Rankings



GAMECOCKS AROUND THE WEB


Football: Spurrier: Shamier Jeffery looking like 'real player' (thetandd.com)

Football: Jadeveon Clowney runs a 4.5 40 at South Carolina (sportingnews.com)

Baseball: USC beats Ball State 10-0, Montgomery out two weeks (midlandsconnect.com)



GAMECOCKS IN THE PROS

Baseball: Is Jackie Bradley Jr. ready for Boston?  (bostonglobe.com)




COCK A DOODLE TWEET


Men's Basketball Senior Night and last home game of the season tonight against Mississippi State!







SPURS UP BLOG HIGHLIGHTS

"Inside The Chart" with Andy Demetra (@GamecockRadio) - Previewing MSU

Latest Conceptual Renderings of Future Facilities

This Week's Home Events: MBB Senior Day, BSB vs. Rider




VIDEO OF THE DAY

Get to know South Carolina Baseball sophomore Tanner English in his Gamecock Spotlight.






ROOSTER CROWS

Freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop retired the first 16 batters he faced and was backed by an offense that pounded out 14 hits as sixth ranked South Carolina (9-2) upended Ball State (5-5) 10-0 on Tuesday evening in the first of a two-game baseball series at Carolina Stadium. It is the Gamecocks third shutout victory in the last four games. The series concludes on Wednesday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m.

South Carolina hosts Mississippi State on Wednesday in the final regular season home contest of the 2012-13 campaign for the Gamecocks. The night will serve as Senior Night for senior forward Lakeem Jackson, senior guard Shane Phillips and managers Josh King and Bubba Wright. Senior Night festivities will begin at approximately 6:40 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3



FAN PHOTO OF THE DAY


Today's Fan Photo of the Day is from David Weiss. This is a picture of Eric, David, and Cameron Weiss at the 2013 Outback Bowl in Tampa Florida where the Gamecocks defeated the Wolverines 33-28! Cameron is only 3 but has seen two South Carolina bowl victories in person! Go Gamecocks!


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Send in your own fan photo submissions to GamecockAthletics@gmail.com. Include your name and any back story. Some of the best submissions include Gamecock gear and showing your spurs!

 

 

Inside The Chart.pngThey honed their skills like so many kids do, on a basketball hoop standing sentinel near their house.  One was toughened up by games with his three older brothers, shaping him into a player whose hustle has always overshadowed his height.  The other practiced for hours in solitude, drawn to a sport he could practice on his own while his Dad worked long hours as a college football assistant coach.

 

Together, good friends Lakeem Jackson and Shane Phillips will make their final walks onto the Colonial Life Arena floor Wednesday, when South Carolina (13-16, 3-13 SEC) hosts the Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-20, 3-13 SEC) on Senior Day. 

 

Lakeem Dunk.jpegThey may not have envisioned a Senior Day like this, with the Gamecocks battling for the 13th seed in the SEC Tournament.  Who would?  But that's the thing about a basketball program.  Yes, you're judged by your performance in 30 games.  But there are also practices and offseason conditioning and weightlifting and study tables, a year-round commitment that leaves your imprint on a program as much as any box score.  In that respect, Jackson, the captain, and Phillips, the walk-on who spent two years as a practice player for the South Carolina women's team, feel secure in what they've left behind.

 

"We worked hard every day, so we don't have any regrets about that," Jackson, a Charlotte, N.C., native, said.

 

"They've sacrificed.  They've given of themselves to make themselves a better team, a better program. As coaches we respect that tremendously," head coach Frank Martin said.

 

But as they reflected on their careers Tuesday, Phillips stopped to give one last appeal.

 

"Get a big crowd in there.  It'll be a big night for the Gamecocks," he said.

 

Other pre-tip reads before the Gamecocks and Bulldogs jump center at Colonial Life Arena (7:00 p.m. EST, Gamecock IMG Sports Network):

 

The Four Factors:  Mississippi State comes in with renewed vigor, having just snapped a 13-game losing streak with a 73-67 win over Ole Miss.  They also have the confidence of beating the Gamecocks 56-54 in Starkville to open conference play.  What did we learn from that first meeting?  Let's go beyond the box score.  Pay attention to these four factors Wednesday:

 

 

1.     24 turnovers can't happen again.  South Carolina was worked into knots by Mississippi State's 1-3-1 zone, which resulted in an SEC-high 24 turnovers.  MSU's wing defenders "lifted" higher on the perimeter, denying easy escape-valve passes to Carolina's off-guards.  Bruce Ellington committed nine turnovers, but Martin acknowledges that only two or three of them were self-inflicted.  Most occurred because his teammates weren't spaced properly, or didn't "meet the pass" against MSU's pressure.  Similar point-to-wing passing flared up in the second half against Texas A&M.

 

MSU Steal.jpgMississippi State may only have three conference wins, but the Bulldogs will take their chances:  their 7.9 steals per game ranks 5th in the SEC.  As we've said often, a team that struggles to score - in Mississippi State's case, an SEC-low 59.7 points per game - doesn't need help.  How South Carolina manages that pressure may determine the outcome of the rematch.   

 

 

 

 

MSU guards Fred Thomas (left) and Jalen Steele (right) on a fast break following a South Carolina turnover.

 

 

 

2.      Roquez Johnson is relentless:  A tenacious offensive rebounder, the Bulldogs' 6'7" sophomore ranks among the SEC's leaders in Fouls Drawn/40 Minutes.  It was a big reason why he connected on a career-high 8 free throws against Carolina.  Johnson returned from a three-game suspension to score 10 timely points in the Bulldogs' upset over Ole Miss.

 

Freshman Michael Carrera, making his first appearance after missing two games with a hip injury, was limited to seven minutes in Starkville.  Will his presence help neutralize Johnson, a similarly bouncy, attack-minded forward?  The matchup seems tailor-made for Carrera:  both he and Johnson have 7'2" wingspans.

 

 

3.     Make MSU fall on its Sword.  Freshman guard Craig "Chicken" Sword leads the SEC in Usage Rate (29.5%), or the percentage of a team's possessions that end with an individual making a shot; missing a shot that isn't rebounded by his teammates; or committing a turnover.  Sword's head coach, Rick Ray, once said, "He just has so many more fast-twitch fibers than everyone else."

 

Including Sword, the SEC has four players that rank in the top 100 nationally in Usage Rate.  Here's how they've fared against the Gamecocks:

 

 

            Player                         FG's       Points           Assists      TO

Kedren Johnson (VU)    0-6          3                   4               4

B.J. Young (ARK)         3-12                          4               2

Frankie Sullivan (AU)     5-13       17                  5              1

Total:                          8-31 FG  (25.8%),  9.0 ppg,  4.3 apg,  2.3 TO/game

 

 

 

Roquez Johnson.jpgThe numbers show that the SEC's high-usage players have had more luck as facilitators than creators.  Bruce Ellington was the primary defender on all of them.  Sword's 9.7 points per game may be near that average, but he's also tied for the MSU scoring lead.  Can Ellington ballhawk Sword like he has the rest of the SEC's high-usage guards, and strip the Bulldogs of one of the lynchpins of their offense?

 

Mississippi State guard Craig Sword (right, defended by Michael Carrera).  Sword, a 6'3" freshman, leads the SEC in Usage Rate.

 

 

4.      Offensive rebounds are there for the taking.  The Gamecocks have slipped in the statistic lately, but their 38.6% Offensive Rebounding Percentage still ranks 18th in the country.  Mississippi State ranks 334th in the nation, allowing 37.2% of an opponent's misses to be offensive-rebounded. 

 

 

      South Carolina:  Offensive rebounds on 38.6% of missed shots  (18th NCAA)

      Mississippi St.:  Allows offensive rebounds on 37.2% of missed shots  (334th NCAA)

 

 

      South Carolina hit a sinkhole in the second half against Texas A&M, shooting 0-for-13 during a 14-0 Aggies run.  Dry spells have cost the Gamecocks in several games this year.  If they struggle to score, can they still manufacture points with a rugged effort on the glass?

 

Cruel:  MSU junior Tyson Cunningham collected his first career "block" on Ellington's game-winning three-point attempt in Starkville.  Quotation marks by design - Gamecock fans might argue that Cunningham was guilty of a foul.

 

Martin Head.jpgHead Games:  Texas A&M's "Reed Rowdies," like many college basketball student sections, wave giant cardboard heads of B-List celebrities and other famous figures.  In recent year, one of the heads they've waved in recent years is of Frank Martin, his countenance in a state of - how do we put this nicely - raised agita.  After Kansas State's last game there, when A&M was SEC-bound, several students autographed Martin's mug and presented it to him, signing it "to their favorite Big XII coach."  Martin still has it in his son's room.  He thought about bringing it to College Station, and ceremonially returning it to the Reed Rowdies.

 

Spotted at Texas A&M's Reed Arena:  Frank Martin, in giant head form.

 

And Finally... Phillips' Dad, Oliver, was the defensive coordinator at Duke from 1979-82.  The offensive coordinator of those Blue Devil teams?  A young, dashing, confident play-caller named Steve Spurrier.

 

Our pre-game coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on the Gamecock IMG Sports Network.  See you at CLA.  -AD-

 

Latest Conceptual Renderings of Future Facilities

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Check out a slideshow of the latest conceptual renderings (note: finished product may differ from the rendering) of future facilities for Gamecock Athletics that advanced in the approval process on February 28, 2013. View below or click here to launch slideshow.

 



THIS WEEK IN GAMECOCK COUNTRY...

Men's Basketball hosts their final home game of the season Wednesday against Mississippi State at 7:00. Come on out to give a proper farewell to Lakeem Jackson, Shane Phillips, and student members of the support staff and represent your seniors with a free "face fan" while supplies last. Baseball hosts its final nonconference weekend series vs. Rider this weekend. They'll also take on Ball State twice with two midweek games after an exciting three game series vs. rival Clemson this past weekend. Men's Tennis also collected a win over our in-state rival this weekend, upsetting No. 18 Clemson 4-3. They'll go for another upset bid in their SEC opener this Friday vs. Florida at 5:00 at Carolina Tennis Center. Admission is free so be sure to swing by and check out the state of the art facility just one year old.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

#6 Baseball vs. Ball State - 7:00 PM - Carolina Stadium
- Team posters available
*Freshman Jack Wynkoop expected to start on the mound after earning his first career win vs. Furman last Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

#6 Baseball vs. Ball State - 4:00 PM - Carolina Stadium
*Note game time change.*
- Team posters available

Men's Basketball vs. Mississippi State - 7:00 PM - Colonial Life Arena
-    Senior Night festivities begin at 6:45 PM
-    Senior Face fans giveaway (while supplies last)
-    Cocky's Bouncehouse
-    Free food for all Carolina students


Friday, March 8, 2013

#43 Men's Tennis vs. #16 Florida - 5:00 PM - Carolina Tennis Center
-  Tennis Ball Toss Promotion - Each fan will receive a numbered tennis ball when they arrive and, during the break between doubles and singles matches, will attempt to toss their tennis ball from the stands into a bucket for a chance to win a free iPod Shuffle!
-  Free admission and parking (Heyward St Garage)
*The Gamecocks are coming off a big upset win over #18 Clemson this past weekend - come cheer them on vs. the Gators!

#6 Baseball vs. Rider - 7:00 PM
-  Team posters available
*Final nonconference weekend series


Saturday, March 9, 2013

#6 Baseball vs. Rider - 4:00 PM
-  Team posters available


Sunday, March 10, 2013

#6 Baseball vs. Rider - 1:30 PM
-  Team posters available
-  First pitch by a member of the SC National Guard 133rd MP company


*Football also opens spring practice this week. Dates/times available here, all subject to change. The first practice on Tuesday, March 5 has been moved up to 3:00 PM in an attempt to avoid rainy weather in the forecast. Spring Football Outlook



Gamecocks on the road...

No. 17 Women's Basketball vs. Miss. State OR Alabama - SEC Tournament - Thursday, 2:30 PM - TV: SportSouth | Radio: 1320 AM
Men's Basketball at Vanderbilt - Saturday, 1:30 PM - TV: SEC Network | Radio: Gamecock IMG Sports Network affiliates

Equestrian at Kansas State - Friday, 11:00 AM
Equestrian at Oklahoma State - Saturday, 11:00 AM
Women's Tennis at Florida - Saturday, 1:00 PM
Men's Golf at USF Invitational - Sunday-Tuesday
Women's Golf at Darius Rucker Intercollegiate - Friday-Sunday
Track & Field at NCAA Indoor Championships - Friday - Saturday

Softball at USF Under Armour Showcase - Tampa and Clearwater, FL - Live stats and audio online
vs. UMass - Friday, 11:30 AM
vs. USF - Friday, 2:00 PM
vs. Northwestern - Saturday, 9:30 AM
vs. Villanova - Saturday, 11:45 AM
vs. Penn State - Sunday, 11:15 AM




1075 the game logo.jpgTune in to "Inside the Roost" tonight from 7-8 p.m. on 107.5 The Game! Joining host Derek Scott we'll have Ray Tanner to discuss last week's Board of Trustees meeting and several facilities projects that advanced in the approval process. We will also have new Sand Volleyball Head Coach Moritz Moritz on to talk about South Carolina's newest intercollegiate sport (and maybe share the story behind his name!) Also joining tonight's line-up is All-American high jumper Jeannelle Scheper to share her journey from the Carribbean to now SEC Champion and school record-holder. 

Listen to "Inside the Roost" every Monday from 7-8 p.m. on 107.5 The Game for weekly insights into Gamecock Athletics and special guests. You can also listen online!  

Facebook Fan of the Week: Colin Dugan

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Check out this week's Facebook Fan of the Week winner! Melanie Dugan of Williamston, SC, sent this picture of her son Colin Dugan. Because Colin brought $1 to school to help raise money for the American Cancer Society he was able to wear his favorite Gamecock Pajamas! Colin's teacher said the Gamecocks are her favorite too!



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Want to be the next Facebook Fan of the Week? Sign up on the Fan of the Week tab on our Facebook page, upload your photo and story, then share and get your friends to vote! Winners are selected each Friday and featured here and on GamecocksOnline.com.


WBB Seniors Reflect Before Final Home Game

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This season's trio of seniors has helped lift South Carolina women's basketball to new heights. The group owns two of the program's four 20-win seasons in the SEC era and contributed to the Gamecocks' return to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003. Four-year seniors Ashley Bruner and Ieasia Walker have contributed to more South Carolina victories (79) than any four-year class since the 1991-92 graduates finished with 82 wins as the Gamecocks made their SEC debut. In the last four years, the duo has helped the Gamecocks to more than one-third of the program's total SEC regular-season victories. Individually, Bruner is one of just 18 Gamecocks all-time who have collected at least 600 career rebounds. Walker is one of just 11 in South Carolina history to accumulate 1,000 career points while also handing out 200 career assists and swiping 200 career steals. Sancheon White has established herself as one of the top one-on-one defenders, routinely taking on the challenge of shutting down an opponent's top scorer to help the Gamecocks become the fourth-stingiest defense in the nation. We caught up with them this week to talk about playing their final home game at Colonial Life Arena this Sunday vs. Florida at 1:00 PM. Be sure to arrive early by 12:45 PM for the pre-game senior ceremonies and help give them a proper farewell.


BL: Fan support at home games for this team has continued to grow over the past several seasons. What does that mean to you as a player?

Ieasia: It means that we're building a tradition. I think every year since I've been here our fan based has grown and we've done better, so I think that contributes to us playing better. The fans do play a part in our home games, getting us pumped up.  I think that will also attract more talent to come here as well so, the program will keep getting better. It just helps build tradition.

Sancheon: It means a lot. It's fun to play in front of great crowds, especially our big games and the double headers with the men. 


In four years here, you have one the most successful time periods at Carolina.  What does it mean to you to leave your mark on the program and contribute to its success?

Ashley: It means a lot, especially because we got to play with great people in our four years.  Leaving this legacy behind to the girls we're playing with now, freshmen and sophomores, to see what we came from and see too how we are now, and to know that they can just get better and better over the years.

Ieasia: It feels good; it means a lot and shows that hard work pays off.  When we got here we were put through a lot, Coach Staley was really strict and would hammer us every day, but each year we got better.  So, she would lighten up and give us some leeway on certain things.  So, it shows that we're really working hard and it's starting to pay off.  I actually joke about it with the freshmen - their first year they're going to have a great record.  When I started we were below .500, so it just shows the program is getting better. The biggest thing with me is that I want to leave a great tradition, so you come back and support.  We see people that graduated a couple years come back and we have others coming back that graduated like a decade ago so it feels good to have that support. We just want to keep continuing to grow. 


What is a funny story about Coach Staley that you can share or a something about her people might not realize?

Sancheon: People who don't know her might think she looks mean or intimidating, but she's exactly the opposite. She's a big kid; she acts like us.

Ashley: :  [Laughing] probably when she always tries to grab the net. She tries to slap it but she can't get up there.  She runs full speed and tries to slap it but can never get it. ... she's kind of strong so she tries to body you and push you out of the way, and sling a shot up there.  She's violent playing around.

Ieasia: [Laughing] she'll sometimes be down here (playing basketball) screaming like a bad little kid about nothing.  We'll all be like, "Why are you screaming?" Like, when we are playing a shooting game, she'll scream every times she shoots. ... She's just like this ball of fire in this little body."


What is your favorite place on campus?

Ashley: Probably Russell House movie theater.  We used to go often, because they have really good, recent movies. 

Ieasia: I like Einstein's bagels, they're perfect. So I always try to go there before class.

Sancheon: My room...but outside of that probably the Dodie because we eat there and do homework there, all in one.



What is your favorite thing about being a student at South Carolina?

Ashley: I like the friendly atmosphere, just everyone smiling at you or saying, "hey." Also, how close classes are to each other because I know some campuses you have to drive to and from, so this is all walking distance.

Sancheon: Just being a student-athlete, that means a lot here. On campus people see you and they know who you are.

Ieasia: I like being a business major because we don't have class on Fridays [laughing].


What will you miss the most?

Ashley: I am going to miss all the people you meet being a theater major.  They're all so different and outgoing, creative personalities. ... I will miss playing with Ieasia, I have been playing with her for four years, all my teammates and coaches.  I will miss the fan base, and not just with us or football or men's basketball, it's every sport.  Every game you go to it's a nice crowd, great fans. I'm going to miss that.

Sancheon: Probably just playing college basketball. All of it.

Ieasia: I am going to miss the meal plan, having somewhere to eat and not having to pay for it. We don't cook. ...  I am going to miss playing here and will probably cry on senior night.  I will miss playing in front of the fans and their support. I am going to miss Carolina, I'm ready to graduate but I am not ready to go.  It's bittersweet.