COLUMBIA -- Now both of South Carolina’s transferring basketball players officially have new homes.
With power forward Anthony Gill off to Virginia after just one season at USC, center Damontre Harris has found a destination as well – Florida, one of the Gamecocks’ Southeastern Conference East Division opponents. Florida announced Harris’ transfer today.
Both players must sit out next season because of NCAA transfer rules. They decided to transfer after USC fired Darrin Horn and replaced him with Kansas State’s Frank Martin. Gill will have three years of eligibility remaining, Harris two. USC athletic director Eric Hyman let Harris transfer wherever he wanted, with the exception of North Carolina State, according to Heath Vandevender, who coached Harris at Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville, N.C.
Vandevender has said he believes Hyman took that stance because Hyman thought N.C. State assistant coach Orlando Early, a former USC assistant, prematurely spoke to Harris about possibly transferring.
Harris, a sophomore last year, also considered transferring to Kansas before picking Florida. The Gators are getting a former highly regarded recruit – a 6-9, 226-pound player who was ranked the No. 15 power forward in the Class of 2010 by Rivals.com and the No. 64 overall recruit.
Harris led USC last season with 5.5 rebounds per game and tied for fourth with 6.8 points per game. Gill was third in scoring (7.6) and tied for second in rebounding (4.7). Gill was also a well-regarded recruit – No. 29 among power forwards and No. 144 overall.
USC is losing just one other player from last season, but it is senior wing Malik Cooke, who led the Gamecocks with 12.3 points per game and also averaged 4.7 rebounds.
Because point guard Bruce Ellington, who averaged 11 points last season, will play football for the second straight year, the Gamecocks will begin next season with just one returning starter – shooting guard Damien Leonard, who tied for fourth on the team with 6.8 points per game.
Martin’s first freshman class currently includes four committed players, though USC has not officially announced the signing of any. The one recruit who signed under Horn, power forward Tyrone Haughton, has been released from his letter of intent and will not join USC as scheduled next season.
Martin has two Lithuanian forwards in his first class: Laimonas Chatkevicius (6-10, 230) and Mindaugas Kacinas (6-7, 205). He also has a commitment from small forward Thaddeus Hall (6-5, 180) and 6-2 point guard Tarik Phillip. Chatkevicius had signed with Martin at Kansas State.
Because Ellington was on a football scholarship last season (as he will be this season), USC had 10 scholarship players last season. The departure of three (Cooke, Gill and Harris) and likely arrival of the four freshmen means Martin has two scholarships remaining if he wants to fill them for next season. Or he could use them for the Class of 2013. He will have just one senior next season, Lakeem Jackson, whose departure would give Martin three spots for 2013.