Recruits taking notice of success on hardwood

Many times, you will hear people say that rankings don't matter until March. But not everyone thinks that way. "If (South Carolina can) get into the top 25, I'll be really looking into them," said Luke Cothron, a 2010 four-star big man from Alabama that the Gamecocks are starting to pursue. "The coach came in and really turned the program around."

A couple of big-time wins are just the type of things that can bring a program into the limelight, and despite a loss last Tuesday to Florida, the Gamecocks came into the game riding a four-game winning streak and were tied for first place in the Southeastern Conference's East division. USC has since returned to its winning ways, with a convincing home victory over Georgia on Saturday night.

"It makes me want to work harder and get in there and play," said 2009 South Carolina commit Ramon Galloway of the Gamecocks' recent success.

Often times, recruits look at programs that can get them some exposure and that can get them to the next level. Marquee wins over storied programs like Kentucky seems to be a path that could potentially intrigue some.

"That big win over Kentucky, I like that," Cothron added. "Yeah, that caught my attention." The big man from North Carolina is currently playing the best ball of his career and is considered to be one of the premier players in the country. He holds early offers from schools such as Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, and Florida State just to name a few.

Cothron is weighing his options and letting the whole recruiting process unfold instead of just jumping at schools with the big names. Watching South Carolina coach Darrin Horn turn the program around and infuse some excitement into USC basketball has certainly helped the Gamecocks' chances with the elite big man.

One of the others is 2010 forward from Georgia Jaeel Roberts. The Gamecocks have shown some interest in the big man with huge upside. "The recent wins of USC make me feel good as a recruit," Roberts said. "It makes me feel like if I go to USC, I will be in good hands at a school that will help me develop into more than just a basketball player."

According to the coach of one of South Carolina's premier underclassmen Damien Leonard, this is a "huge advantage" for the Gamecocks.

"I think to see South Carolina do the things that they are doing is great for the state of South Carolina," Willis Holliday said. "By South Carolina and Darrin Horn doing the things he's doing right now, it's wonderful."

Holliday — who is Leonard's AAU coach with the Carolina Cougars and is a key instrument in the wing's selection process — constantly preaches the importance of staying in-state to the 2011 J.L. Mann star. He admits that wins like this can help that cause for the sophomore that already holds a scholarship offer from the Gamecocks.

"A lot of people want to play with them because of (Horn) and the way they play. They say that they are winning because of the coach," Leonard said. "He coaches the way I like to play." According to Holliday, who resides in Greenville, S.C., he's not just noticing a change in attitudes for the prospects.

"For what Horn has brought to South Carolina, it's day and night. It's absolutely a different type of Gamecock basketball. You can feel it in the fans and in the community. We went to the (Ole Miss) game (on an unnofficial visit), and it's tottally different basketball."

Holliday attributes some of the success to the players buying into Horn's system and philosophies, and thinks it could be a potent formula to keep up their recent winning ways.

Galloway is excited about the future of Gamecock basketball under the direction of Horn, and the USC signee feels recruits will continue to take notice.

"When you're beating teams with big names (who) have a little history behind them, it feels kind of good," Galloway said. "The coach has turned it around. That gives the recruits a good look."

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