Spurrier: I did not 'poach' Ellington
COLUMBIA -- Steve Spurrier is not happy with the notion that he somehow "poached" Bruce Ellington from South Carolina's basketball team, an idea floated Sunday by a Columbia newspaper columnist.
"That statement is false, wrong and totally incorrect," Spurrier said, also using the word "fabrication."
The USC football coach said Ellington, a freshman who starred at Berkeley High School, made the decision on his own earlier in the week to play both sports.
Receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said Ellington contacted him on Monday about his interest in joining the football team -- something that had been rumbling around Berkeley County since Christmas. Spurrier Jr., who said he last spoke with Ellington in August, told Ellington that he first needed to make his intentions known to USC basketball coach Darrin Horn.
Ellington did that later in the day Monday, and then Horn and Spurrier spoke with one another about Ellington. Spurrier assured Horn that Ellington would be made available to the basketball team in the interim between the Clemson game -- or the SEC title game, if USC returns to Atlanta -- and a potential bowl game. Horn was initially concerned about being without his leading scorer until January.
On Tuesday, Ellington visited Williams-Brice Stadium to talk with Spurrier, who told Ellington, among other things, that he could practice and work out this summer with the basketball team, if he would like.
"That was certainly OK with me," Spurrier said.
Horn on Friday explained his perspective on Ellington's decision. "It's not a football-basketball thing," Horn said. "I know people are going to try to make it that."
Horn said he knew from the beginning that this could become reality. He said it was a "risk" the program took in building the team around the dynamic 5-9 Moncks Corner product.
"There's already a report out that I'm not happy with it. Well, that's not true. I'm in support of Bruce Ellington," Horn said. "We hope he does well. We hope he helps our football team win. If our football team wins, it helps our university. It helps our men's basketball program. I just think, you know, it's not a football-basketball thing; it's a Bruce Ellington thing. We're going to support him."
Ellington came out to football practice Thursday afternoon. He was at Williams-Brice on Saturday for the team's first official spring scrimmage.
"I've always told him, even when I was recruiting him, we'll always be open to you coming out and playing if you want to play and playing both sports and doing whatever you can do," Spurrier Jr. said. "We've always just given him the opportunity to be here and he's decided he wants to come take a shot."
An NCAA rule will prevent him from taking part in spring drills. Because Ellington signed his basketball scholarship in the early period, he has to wait until the conclusion of the academic year before participating in another sport.
Ellington could begin officially working out with the football team in June, and he could officially practice with the team when camp opens in August.
Spurrier and Spurrier Jr. say they project Ellington as a slot receiver. He could also help give the middling return game a spark.
Ellington helped the Stags to the 2009 state title, as a quarterback who often used his legs to hurt opponents. Berkeley coach Jerry Brown said again this week that Ellington is the best high school football player he's ever seen in his distinguished career.
Spurrier said Sunday that incoming freshmen Damiere Byrd (track) and Shon Carson (baseball) plan to play two sports upon arrival. Carson, though, might not make it to campus since he's a highly rated prospect who could make a jump to pro baseball.
Spurrier said any player would have his blessing to play multiple sports, so long as they're in good academic standing. Horn echoed that sentiment Friday.
"If any of our football players, Alshon (Jeffery), Stephon (Gilmore), Marcus (Lattimore), Jadeveon (Clowney), want to play basketball or any other sport, they have my blessing to do that," Spurrier said. "I admire how coach Horn has handled this. I also believe that all college coaches should allow the student-athlete to play two sports, if he or she is able."