Gamecocks' Bruce Ellington will enter NFL Draft

South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington scores on a 39-yard pass from Connor Shaw for the Gamecocks' first touchdown in their 34-24 victory over Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. (Photo by Joe Petro)

South Carolina receiver Bruce Ellington will enter the NFL Draft despite one year of football eligibility remaining, the school announced Friday.

Ellington, a point guard on the Gamecocks' basketball team, will not finish the basketball season as he prepares for the draft. He graduated in December with a sociology degree.

"I would like to thank Coach Spurrier, Coach Horn and Coach Martin for giving me the opportunity to play both football and basketball at South Carolina," said Ellington. "I also want to thank all the Gamecock fans and my teammates for the past four years in Columbia. It's been a great experience and I've been truly blessed."

The news was not surprising. Ellington talked about the possibility of entering the draft before South Carolina's trip to the Capital One Bowl. After catching six passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the 34-24 win over Wisconsin, Ellington's departure seemed inevitable.

"I think Bruce has got a chance to play in the NFL, if that's the direction he wants to go," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said after the game, before turning to talk to Ellington. "You don't want to go to Europe and play basketball, do you? He might want to go over to Russia and play. I don't know. But, yeah, he's kind of thinking a career in football."

Ellington led the Gamecocks with 49 catches for 775 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He played in three basketball games in late December, averaging 5.7 points and 1.7 assists per game.

While expected, Ellington's departure is a major blow to South Carolina's basketball team. The Gamecocks have won four straight games to climb to 6-6, but they will be without one of their best players for the SEC season.

"I'm extremely happy for Bruce and the decision that he is making," South Carolina head basketball coach Frank Martin said on Friday. "He's a winner and he is going to utilize this as taking the first step of the next chapter of his life. All of us at South Carolina should be ecstatic that a young man his age has given so much of himself to represent this university athletically, socially and academically in a first class way."

Ellington is one of four South Carolina juniors to leave early for the draft, joining defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and cornerback Victor Hampton.

"Couldn't be more proud of My brother @BruceEllington. He put in the time that no one saw. Worked harder than anyone. He deserves it! #FAM" quarterback Dylan Thompson tweeted Friday.