Fall would benefit South

The production line at the BMW plant in Greer. Over the past decade, the South has evolved into the U.S. hub for foreign automakers. If the Big Three were to falter, the South is poised to become the next Detroit.

KEN OSBURN

Horn's first visit to the Lowcountry, at least with his team, was an overtime loss to Charleston.

"That was a game we inherited. I would not have scheduled that one," Horn said with a laugh. "We played that out of respect for coach (Bobby) Cremins."

His experiences since then have been more pleasant.

Last week, Horn got letters of intent from Fort Dorchester wing R.J. Slawson and Berkeley point guard Bruce Ellington.

They'll be important parts of the 2010 team.

"I think it's an important area for us. It's a populous area in our state," Horn said. "This year, in particular, there's some really good players coming out of there that we were fortunate enough to have a chance to sign. It's a great area, basketball aside."

The Gamecocks (2-0) will surely acquaint themselves over the next five days.

Last year, ESPN brought in Clemson for the inaugural event. The Tigers defeated Temple in the tournament final.

This year, it only made sense to follow up with the Gamecocks.

"It was us scouting something like (the tournament) and ESPN finding us," Horn said. "It was important to them when they got this tournament started to have sort of an anchor.

"You've got a main team there that will be familiar. We wanted to be in a quality tournament in an exempt event where we would get quality opponents on a neutral floor."

Horn has talked about La Salle (1-0) as quality since before the season even began.

He thinks a lot of the Explorers, who return four starters and add a 6-10 freshman center.

"We wanted to upgrade (our non-conference schedule), and this is a big example," Horn said. "This is a team that's going to compete for a league championship in a very good league."

This will certainly be one of the bigger lineups that the Gamecocks will see in the non-conference season.

The starters range from the 6-10 Aaric Murray to 6-5 point guard Rodney Green.

Murray had 16 points and 11 rebounds in his debut. Green, a senior, had 23 points and seven rebounds.

At 6-5, he could be a headache for the 5-9 Devan Downey.

"You don't see a lot of teams in the country that have a 6-5 point guard," Horn said. "He's a terrific player. He's going to be a real test for us."

South Carolina matches up pretty well with length, beyond Downey.

Lakeem Jackson's 6-5 presence at the 2 guard helps. So does 6-7 Dominique Archie at small forward. Sam Muldrow (6-9) and Mike Holmes (6-7) hold their own down low.

"Hopefully that's something that doesn't hurt us," Horn said of La Salle's size. "At the same time, they're a good team and they're good at what they do."

Reach Travis Haney at thaney@postandcourier.com and check out the South Carolina blog at www.postandcourier.com/blogs/gamecocks.