USC adds experience with Page

LaShay Page, who is transferring from Southern Mississippi, visited South Carolina Thursday and Friday and gave a verbal pledge to first-year coach Frank Martin.

The former Dillon High (S.C.) star will have one year of eligibility left and will be able to play right away since he will have graduated.

"It feels great," Page said. "I love the coaching staff. I'm real thrilled with South Carolina, even though they had a down year. I feel thrilled with having a chance to come in and change the program."

Page was Southern Miss's second-leading scorer with 11.6 points a game, and the 6-foot-2 guard also hit a team-high 75 3-pointers last season, for a squad that went to the NCAA tournament.

It was Southern Miss's first trip to the NCAA in over two decades, and ironically, Page will join the coach that ended one of the program's most prized seasons.

"(Martin) made all his players play hard, and that's how my coach was at Southern Miss. I saw that when Kansas State beat us in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

"He holds his players accountable for their actions and just makes them better. He's honest. I feel like everything he said is straight forward."

The visit to Columbia gave Page, who will officially enroll in the fall, a chance to also meet with some key figures to help jumpstart his path that will lead him to his passion one day.

"The visit went well," Page said. "I got a chance to visit with compliance. I got a chance to visit with the director of master arts in physical education. I will be able to get my masters in Physical education, and that will allow me to become a coach at the high school level if my dream of becoming a college division 1 coach doesn't come true."

The decision to become a Gamecock also gives Page the chance to be closer to his family, giving them a chance to see him play.

"My mom passed back in February," he said, "and (my family) wasn't able to come watch me play much. She was able to watch me play once, and I'm grateful for that.

"I have two daughters, and I'm just grateful to be able to see them every day now."

The process of being away from his family helped him mature quickly, but it was still tough for Page.

Before transferring to Southern Miss, Page attended Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla., where he averaged 14.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals, while connecting on 49 percent of his 3-point attempts.

"It was adversity to help me grow up," Page said of his experiences away from home. "Being able to graduate from Southern Miss and come take a masters degree at South Carolina is a blessing."

Being from Dillon also pairs Page with a familiar face at South Carolina. Page knows current guard Eric Smith really well, and the two have had their share of battles on the court.

"It was always competitive," Page said. "He played well. He was a really solid point guard back then, and he still is today.

"I look forward to playing in the backcourt with him — he's a point guard, and I'm a two guard."

Page realizes how youthful South Carolina is, and with his experience and leadership, he believes he can help put the Gamecocks on the right path.

"I want to come in and lead. I want to teach the younger guys how to win," he said. "Winning isn't easy. I was able to help lead Southern Miss to its first NCAA tournament in 20 years. These guys haven't been to the tournament, and I just want to be able to help them get there and show them what it takes. I want to be a leader in the locker room and just help the program."

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