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"Miracle Child" Enjoys VIP Gamecock Basketball Experience

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Not only did South Carolina Basketball get to enjoy a conference win over Ole Miss Wednesday night, they also enjoyed the company of a young fan who had a wish to attend a game and meet the team.

Keldon Hemingway, 11, is a "Miracle Child". Each year, University of South Carolina students participate in a Dance Marathon event to raise awareness and funds for Palmetto Health Children's Hospital, our local Children's Miracle Network Hospital. Dance Marathon is the largest student-run philanthropy on campus with this year's event taking place at the Strom Thurmond Wellness Center on March 1st-2nd. Each year they ask some of the children who have been patients at the hospital for a wish and they do their best to grant them. Keldon was diagnosed with a tumor in the center of his brain at age six. Since his diagnosis Keldon has undergone several surgeries, multiple MRIs, and two different types of chemotherapy. With treatment his tumor has remained stable and he attends school full time and even recently completed a season of basketball. Keldon's wish was to attend a men's basketball game at South Carolina and meet some of the team members. With support from head coach Frank Martin and the basketball staff, Erica Nelson (Coordinator, Life Skills and Community Outreach in the athletics department) worked to help facilitate a great experience for him.

Keldon and his family arrived early at the game to meet the team and Coach Martin during warm-ups, even getting to sit on the pre-game speech in the locker room. They enjoyed the game from seats right behind the bench and vouchers for the concession stand. Keldon proudly wore his new men's basketball t-shirt and took an autographed team poster. The Gamecocks provided a thrilling game, beating Ole Miss 63-62. After the game, Keldon joined the team in the locker room to celebrate (great picture below!) as many of the players called him their "good luck charm".

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Tune in to The Frank Martin Show on Sunday, March 3rd, at 11:30 AM and/or 7:30 PM on SportSouth for a behind the scenes video feature on Keldon's special experience with the Gamecocks. Tune in to this week's show on February 24 for a behind the scenes look at practice through Lakeem Jackson.

In addition to liking basketball, it turns out Keldon has some pretty slick dance moves! Check him out at the 2011 Dance Marathon event on campus:

Fort Jackson Troops Visit Athletics Facilities

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Fort Jackson trainees who didn't head home for the holidays hung out with us today! They toured Carolina Stadium and Williams-Brice (even taking time for a race on the field), then went to cheer on Women's Basketball in their 65-45 win over SC State.

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Thank you, soldiers! Go Gamecocks!

CAMP KEMO Cheers on the Gamecocks (Video)

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Check out what the kids and staff at CAMP KEMO, a Palmetto Health summer camp for children with cancer and their siblings, came up with to cheer on the Gamecocks as they head to Omaha!

Many folks may remember last year when several Gamecock baseball players showed up at Carolina Stadium with shaved heads - they had gotten them shaved as part of an event on campus to support CAMP KEMO: 

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The Gamecocks open up play in the College World Series on Saturday, June 16, at 9 p.m. ET vs. Florida on ESPN/ and the Gamecock Radio Network.

Gamecock Shares Haiti Mission Trip Experience

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The following blog post was written by rising junior student-athlete Taylor Josserand from the swimming & diving team about her mission trip to Haiti.

Hope for Haiti
On May 19th I returned from Titanyen, Haiti (just north of the capital, Port-au-Prince) where I was working at the Mission of Hope Haiti Organization.  While there I helped at the orphanage, worked on construction projects and went to different villages surrounding the area to visit with the kids, minister, and pray with the families. It was truly a remarkable experience and one that I can say has changed my life.

I was in Titanyen for one week and stayed on the main campus of Mission of Hope (MOH). MOH has two other campuses as well, but the main one, located in Titanyen, consists of an orphanage, church, schooling from kindergarten through high school, a prosthetics lab, staff and guest housing, as well as their Three Cords building. Three Cords is a business of headbands, housing supplies, recipes, bags, and much more all designed by disabled Haitian women.  All of the proceeds go to these women to support them.

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Josserand with a young girl in a Titanyen orphanage

It's hard for me to put my experience into words, as I'm still in the process of taking in everything that occurred and I experienced and much of what I felt cannot even be described through words.  Many have seen photos of this third world country, but you truly cannot be impacted to the full effect without having been there and seen it with your own eyes.  Many assume the worse about Haiti and when people heard that I was going there for mission work they automatically asked if I was scared or nervous. Yes, I was both, but I can tell you I felt so safe while there and the people of this country are so genuine, happy, and appreciative of what they get. I have never seen so much happiness and joy, especially in the children, while having absolutely nothing.  Life over there is so hard and people have absolutely nothing, yet they somehow manage to find hope and put a smile on their face. I honestly was shocked. I don't know how they live the lives they do.  Most do not have food, do not have homes, and do not have much clothing. The children I saw out in the villages rarely had both a shirt and pants on, and most did not have shoes on. The homes they lived in, if they had homes, were made of plywood or tent-like structures, serving very little purpose except to maybe supply some shade and coverage during the rain. It was so hot and most of these villages do not have trees to provide any type of shade, so it makes it very hard for anyone to really escape the heat.  The children I met were incredible.  I have never seen such obedient children, who were all so loving and gentle!  They flock to you and simply want your hand to be held and you to hold them, and that puts a smile on their face.

Haiti is a beautiful country, full of so many wonderful people.  The MOH Organization started in 1998 and is continuing to grow and to help the people of Haiti so that one day they can be self-sufficient and help the country become successful without MOH.  They have so much love for their country, but they just need the education, so much of this organization is focused on the younger generation, as they are the hope this country has.

Going to Haiti is one of the best decisions of my life, and I will continue to support and do all I can for Haiti through this organization, as well as planning another trip to Haiti this year, and many more to follow. It was a life changing experience full of so much love, joy, happiness, and hope. I recommend everyone to one day make a trip there, as it will change your life!

South Carolina head men's basketball coach Frank Martin had the opportunity this weekend to attend the Seventh Annual Dick Vitale Gala in Sarasota, Florida. Led by noted college basketball commentator Dick Vitale, net proceeds from the event benefit pediatric cancer research through The V Foundation. This year's event netted a record amount, over $1.6 million. The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary North Carolina State basketball coach and ESPN commentator.   

Martin met Valvano early on when he was a high school coach in Miami and Valvano came to recruit his players. Once he became a college head coach he knew he wanted to get involved with Vitale and The V Foundation to use his new job title and elevated exposure to help the cause.

"Vitale has utilized his place in society to do great things and the gala is spectacular - the amount of money that is raised, celebrities who believe in him and believe in the cause," said Martin. "Even though Jimmy V has been gone for so long, it goes to show just how powerful he was that even since his passing he still continues to touch so many lives."

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Martin (right) with Coach Jim Haley of Ocala Vanguard High School at the Dick Vitale Gala (Photo courtesy of

Around 800 people attended this year's event, among them college basketball coaches, entertainers, professional athletes from multiple sports, governors and politicians, professional sports team owners. Several kids fighting cancer and their families also attended the gala and a separate event for them at Vitale's home. This year's coaching honorees were former Maryland head coach Gary Williams, Villanova head coach Jay Wright and legendary football coach Lou Holtz, who led the Gamecocks from 1999-2004.They each shared speeches of their own, including how their lives have been affected by cancer.

"Everybody has a great time. It's great to see people who live their lives in front of the cameras in a relaxed setting where they can kind of let their hair down and just enjoy the moment," said Martin. "I still get starstruck when I see people who have impacted the business that I'm in and made coaching a better profession to allow me to be a part of it now, whether it be Lou Holtz or Gary Williams who are retired from coaching, or Josh Freeman, quarterback for Tampa Bay who I knew from his Kansas State days there with [Pro Bowl wide receiver newly signed with Tampa Bay] Vincent Jackson. And to have Vincent Jackson come over and say he's a big fan - a guy who's that successful as an athlete to say he's a big fan of what we do is a lot of fun."

"The amount of college coaches who are there from John Calipari to Bob Huggins to guys that coach Division II, just shows how powerful it is. This time of year is down time for us - students are off campus, it's a recruiting dead period and coaches tend to relax with their families - but these coaches are traveling across the country to support Dickie V and Jim Valvano in the battle to fight cancer."

Read Dick Vitale's own recap of the event.

Celebrating National Student-Athlete Day

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Guest post written by Life Skills & Community Outreach Coordinator Erica Nelson

Today we celebrate the 25th Annual "National Student-Athlete Day"!   Co-sponsored by the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations, this special day honors student-athletes who have achieved excellence in academics and athletics, while having made significant contributions to their schools and communities.  Many schools use this day to give back to the community or to organize special ceremonies and presentations to recognize student-athletes.

Alex Holland cotton candy.JPG As our student-athletes have already created deeply rooted relationships with the Columbia community, the Life Skills department decided to use this opportunity to celebrate Gamecock student-athletes for their accomplishments. We created a party-like atmosphere for dinner at training table in the Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center (affectionately known as "The Dodie").  From the D.J. spinning popular music, to cotton candy and BBQ hamburgers, to the distribution of National Student-Athlete Day t-shirts, fun was had by all! Brian Richardson, a sophomore on the men's basketball team commented, "I wish we could do this everyday!" 

The Athletics Department has good reason to celebrate our student-athletes today.  From the five consecutive years they have led the SEC Academic Honor Roll, the nine teams who finished the 2010-11 year ranked in the top 25 nationally and the over 3,700 hours they have contributed in community outreach since July 1st, our student-athletes continue to make us proud! 
At today's home women's tennis and baseball competitions, they will also be recognized in honor of National Student-Athlete Day and some of you driving in to campus near the Blossom Street/Huger Street intersection may also notice the kudos being paid to them today on our digital billboard.

"It is with great pride and appreciation that we recognize how admirably they have performed as student-athletes and in connecting with the community," said Athletics Director, Eric Hyman.  

Gamecock Swimmers Help Give Hope to Harper

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Written by student assistant Rebecca Duensing

The Women's Swimming and Diving team has their eyes set on a big event coming up, but it's not a swim meet. In a few weeks they will participate in Relay for Life on campus, with a very special motivation for their walk.

Her name is Harper Doughtie, a seven-year-old girl living in North Carolina who they have never met. Harper was diagnosed with leukemia on September 9th, 2011.  The form of leukemia that Harper has is very rare, attacking her immune system. While she is undergoing chemotherapy, her immune system is so weak that she isn't allowed to have visitors.

Maryn Bieganski_crop.jpegHead Coach McGee Moody and Harper's mother, Vickie Doughtie, were friends in college and he learned through Facebook about her daughter's illness. Moody thought that it would be a good idea for the team to support her and Maryn Bieganski (left) and several other members agreed. Bieganski said that the idea of helping Harper really "hit the hearts" of the team. Over the last six months, Moody says that "Harper has become an integral part of our women's team and they talk about her often."

According to Moody and Bieganski, it was senior captain Mallory Cage who really organized the effort and assigned members to send Harper cards, games or books at least four times a month. Bieganski said that for every holiday the team would send a basket of crafts they made or activities for her to do. Doughtie said the team "took the ball and ran with it," that the women all of a sudden started sending letters to cheer Harper up. Doughtie knows it's hard for Harper, who isn't able to be around children her own age, to be cooped up at home all the time with her and her dad. Doughtie said that the team has been "really great," and that "she [Harper] loves getting her packages in the mail."

The team made a video to send to Harper as an introduction. Moody said it was "nothing major, just an introduction where they all talked for a second, said hey, and let her know they were sending some gifts."  Bieganski said it was a chance to let Harper know they were "praying for her and fighting for her." The team also sent Harper a swim team shirt that Doughtie notes has become her favorite nightgown.

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From Harper's Facebook page: "Harper in one of her t-shirts from the Univ of SC swim team - she loves to wear it as a nightgown. Thank you to the ladies swim team for all the support for Harper! We really appreciate it!"

Doughtie remembers one package specifically; it came around Thanksgiving, right when Harper got sick again and had to be admitted to the hospital. The package was full of hand-drawn turkeys made from the team's handprints. Doughtie said the best thing about it was being able to see Harper smiling and laughing because the team took time to make them. She loves that the things Harper receives from the team aren't generic. They "take time to make it personal; that's what's so cool."

"Anytime anybody takes interest in your child and does anything to make your child happy when they're going through something so tough, I can't even express it. It just means a lot," said Doughtie.

Moody believes that Harper has given the team some perspective of what is really important. Bieganski noted that the team comes to practice every day a little bit happier.

"Our situations aren't as bad. You could be having a bad day at school, you could have a bad exam, but you aren't in quarantine," said Bieganski. "It's something you really have to think about."

For Bieganski individually, Harper has really come to mean a lot. Bieganski shared that she thinks about Harper daily because she has loved ones with cancer, some of whom have passed away. Bieganski said it affects her and helps her be "grateful to be able to go through daily life without complications like that, and to be thankful for all that I have."

Bieganski and teammate Rachel Elliot organized a Relay for Life team in Harper's honor and have chosen to name themselves "Harper's Helpers." They have designated the money they raise to go toward research in the field of childhood cancers.

Moody and Doughtie both hope to be able to bring Harper to a meet in the future once she is well enough to travel. Doughtie was enthusiastic that there was "no doubt" about whether they would come down.

"[Harper] can't wait to make it down there and give all of them hugs," said Doughtie. "They've got to be a pretty special group to do this for a little girl that they've never met."

Even though they live in Tar Heel country, Doughtie says they've become a whole household of Gamecock fans.

Gamecocks Help Kick-Off Local "Fuel Up to Play 60" Event

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Two Gamecocks were on hand Wednesday at Satchel Ford Elementary School to help kick-off the students' participation in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. Senior Terrence Campbell, who just completed his final season at Carolina, and former Gamecock Corey Miller both participated in the event.

Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) is a national program sponsored by the NFL, the National Dairy Association and the US Department of Agriculture. Stephanie Morris, a physical education teacher at Satchel Ford, along with Tracy Dixon, Richland One Student Nutritional Services, wrote a grant to increase awareness of nutrition and healthy eating habits as well as ways to increase physical activity at the school. The FUTP60 program awards grant funds to help promote schools' initiatives to encourage students to make more healthful food choices as well as exercising at least 60 minutes per day.  Although almost all schools in the Richland One district have signed up to participate in FUTP60, Satchel Ford was the first to complete the application and be awarded the full grant of $4,000. The goal of the kick-off event was to educate the students about FUTP 60, both the nutritional "plays" as well as the physical activity "plays", along with a little help from the Gamecocks.

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Campbell said his three biggest tips for the kids were, "Drink plenty of milk, play outside and turn off video games."

"I train everyday - football is just a way of life," continued Campbell. "It all started with my mom giving me milk. I wake up and eat breakfast - EVERYDAY. Cereal is my favorite because of the milk. You only have one body and one mind, so take care of it."

Well, it's a good thing Campbell likes milk because he was put to the test with a milk chugging contest!

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Pictures and program information courtesy of Twyla Wofford of Satchel Ford Elementary.

Gamecocks Help Out at Oliver Gospel Mission

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Team and staff members from South Carolina Men's Basketball and Baseball went out to Oliver Gospel Mission leading up to Thanksgiving to help pack holiday meals for donation to needy families in the Columbia area.

"We've grown from packing about 50 boxes in 2002 to about 1,000 boxes that were distributed last year and this year," explained Oliver Gospel Mission President/CEO Wayne Fields.

In years past, the Men's Basketball team has gone to the Mission to help serve dinner on Thanksgiving Day, but this year they will be out in Las Vegas for a tournament.

"To be able to pack some boxes to make sure families could have Thanksgiving dinner is something we wanted to make sure we did," said Coach Horn. "We always have a great time helping out with Oliver Gospel Mission which does such great work in the Columbia area."

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in Gamecock Nation!

Gamecocks Participate in Light the Night Walk

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IMG_2899.JPGSeveral South Carolina student-athletes, coaches and staff participated in last week's Light the Night walk to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The Baseball and Women's Soccer teams were there as well as student-athletes from Volleyball and Swimming & Diving and several athletics staff members.

Many staff members supported baseball associate head coach Chad Holbrook's team in honor of his son Reece, who battled and survived leukemia.  The cause is close to the hearts of many on staff, including women's soccer head coach Shelley Smith, who led her team at the walk.

Check out more photos here and the video feature below.


Student-athletes from Men's Soccer, Women's Soccer and Men's Basketball joined forces with the University of South Carolina's GoodBodies program to participate in their "Week of Play."

The university's Exercise Science department in the Arnold School of Public Health oversees the GoodBodies program, which promotes exercise and healthy, active lifestyles for kids. The "Week of Play" was planned to celebrate nickelodeon's "Day of Play" on September 24th, an annual worldwide event designed by Nickelodeon to encourage kids and parents to turn off the television and play, especially outdoors.

Gamecock student-athletes went to area elementary schools before the school day started to talk about being active and participating in sports, along with several fun group activities to get the kids up and moving.

Soccer at day of play.JPGMembers of both men's and women's soccer participating in group activities

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Men's Basketball student-athletes leading activities

Basketball Participates in "Beat Hunger" Carnival Event

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IMG_0662.JPGCarolina Dining's "Beat Hunger" campaign took over Greene St in front of the Russell House Wednesday afternoon for their third annual carnival event to collect money and canned goods to donate to Harvest Hope Food Bank.  Meredith Fievet of the university's Continuing Education and Conferences office helped Carolina Dining with the event and reached out to get Gamecock athletics teams involved. 

Student-athletes from Men's Basketball and Women's Basketball came out to the event to show their support for the festivities. Students could donate five canned goods or five dollars to the cause to earn tickets to play a variety of carnival-style games. Winners were able to pick out prizes such as Gamecock t-shirts, water bottles, and more.

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"Beat Hunger is a great event that brings together the student body and we felt it was an important cause for our guys to be a part of," explained Men's Basketball Director of Operations Justin Phelps. "This offseason we made it our goal for our guys to double the amount of community service they're doing this year and they've really done a good job of taking that on and getting involved in things."


Women's Basketball begins official practice on October 3. Men's Basketball begins practice on October 14. Season tickets are available for both teams on


Gamecock Athletics joined the fun at this week's Richland 101 for Kids event at Dutch Square Center. Around 2,100 kids and adults took over the mall concourse for the free youth program designed to teach students ages 6-12 about Richland County and the greater Midlands community.

Activities included exploring fire trucks and ambulances, speaking with Riverbanks Zoo staff, visiting the county's "Bug Man" to learn about insects, watching science experiments, etc. along with several kid-oriented tables and booths, including the Gamecocks.

Volleyball student-athletes Christina Glover, Teresa Stenlund, and Cara Howley helped pass out Gamecock Silly Bands and volleyball schedule flyers. At our display table kids got a chance to spin the prize wheel for items such as football posters and schedule cards, pom poms, lanyards and more.

Check out photos from the day's festivities below:

Always great to tell kids It's Great to be a Gamecock early on!

This is the first of several "Year in Review" posts looking back at different aspects or people of the past 2010-11 season in South Carolina Athletics. Hope you enjoy reminiscing with me!

While the 2010-11 season was a banner year for South Carolina Athletics in competition, Gamecock student-athletes also excelled in academics and in volunteering in the community.

Here are some of the year's high points:

- The Gamecocks landed the most student-athletes on the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll  for the fifth consecutive year with a school-record 79 student-athletes (including 31 football players, also the league high). We also led the conference with the highest number of student-athletes on the Spring Academic Honor Roll and the First-Year Academic Honor Roll.

- With the Fall 2010 semester Gamecock student-athletes set a new record for the highest departmental GPA ever at 3.146.

- Women's Golf led the way with a 3.568 GPA last fall, followed closely by Women's Swimming & Diving (3.512) and Women's Tennis (3.497).

- For the spring semester, 58 student-athletes earned a perfect 4.0 GPA and, with that, a spot on the President's List, while 161 were named to the Dean's List. 334 student-athletes, more than half of the student-athlete population, were named to the Athletics Director's Honor Roll (3.0 GPA).

- Two teams, Women's Tennis (3.576) and Men's Swimming & Diving (3.279), achieved their highest mark on record this spring. The Women's Tennis GPA was the department high for the spring.

- Football broke their own record for the third consecutive year, posting their highest GPA ever (2.779) this fall. They followed that up with their second-highest GPA ever this spring (2.711).

- Thirteen of South Carolina's athletic programs, including Football, ranked above the national average in the latest report of Academic Progress Rate (APR) statistics released May 24, 2011.

- Eight Gamecock student-athletes were named Capital One Academic All-Americans in 2010-11.

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A portion of the 67 student-athletes who graduated this spring.

In addition to their commitments in the classroom and competition, teams and student-athletes are involved in the community. This past year our student-athletes conducted a total of 3,884 service hours, which included contributions from every program. Football led all teams with 625 hours (Marcus Lattimore had a team-high 25.5 hours) followed by Equestrian at 472 and Women's Track & Field at 418.

For average number of hours, Softball, the Life Skills Team of the Year, led the department with an average of over 17 hours of service per team member. Women's Soccer (14 hours per team member) and Equestrian (13 hours) were also department leaders.

Individually, swimmer Lydia Hackert completed the most hours overall with 127.5 hours, followed by Kayla Blake (109.5 hours, Track & Field) and Chris Campbell (67.5 hours, Track & Field). 

Community outreach took a lot of different forms this year. Student-athletes made visits to local schools, encouraged reading and literacy, helped serve the homeless at area shelters, hosted skills camps and clinics, collected bottle caps that equated to donated dialysis treatments, visited hospitals, participated as teams in charity runs/walks, shopped for Christmas gifts for a needy family, and that is just the start of the list!

Softball in their "best" Christmas sweaters wrapping Christmas gifts to donate.

Kudos to our student-athletes for their hard work academically and their dedication to being great representatives of the Gamecocks out in the community. Also, thank you to all the staff in the Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center and the Academics/Student Support Services department for their commitment to helping our student-athletes be successful.

I look forward to writing even more great stuff this time next year!

Go Gamecocks!