Horn Targets Talent-rich Charlotte Area

Since taking over at South Carolina, Darrin Horn has made it obvious he is going to be a tireless recruiter in his effort to promote the Gamecock program with high school athletes in the Carolinas. One area Horn has targeted is the Charlotte metro. Horn struck gold once there when he landed four-star Lakeem Jackson. It appears that may not be the last time he lands a top talent from the area.

When South Carolina head basketball coach Darrin Horn was recruiting Charlotte-area prospect Lakeem Jackson, his head coach joked that Horn had moved into his guest bedroom.

Jackson's coach may have only been half-joking. And Horn may soon need to look into a second home in the Charlotte area.

While North Carolina is generally considered ACC country, since his arrival at South Carolina Horn has made it apparent that the Charlotte metro area will be one of the top areas he targets.

Recruiting is about relationships as much as anything else and Horn was able to use the relationship he had already built with Jackson while at Western Kentucky to snag the four-star wingman from the likes of UNC Charlotte and Clemson.

Jackson's pledge to the Gamecocks already served as a special one as the first of the Darrin Horn era. But the long-standing effects of that one commitment may run deeper than anyone even knew at the time. And the commitment of the Charlotte-area prospect may serve as an indication of things to come.

"I think he has definitely grabbed the attention around here with the buzz around Coach Horn, with him picking up a big recruit (in) Lakeem Jackson," said Ced Canty who helps run the United Celtics AAU team. "Lakeem Jackson is a kid that has been around most of the kids in this program."

Scout.com National Recruiting Director Dave Telep echoes Canty's thoughts on the importance of the Jackson pick-up for Horn and staff.

"Lakeem is big on a number of fronts," Telep says. "Above all else, he's good enough and is a match style wise. However, his name recognition in Charlotte is high and for a program that wants to have a presence in that city and beyond, he's a bridge recruit. If he has a big career in Columbia it will open doors in the Queen City and maybe other parts of the state."

Horn and the rest of the Gamecock staff began taking advantage of the relationships built in Charlotte this weekend when Jackson along with seven other prospects from the Charlotte area made the trip to Columbia to see the Gamecocks. Those prospects were treated to a dominant victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in a jam-packed Colonial Life Arena.

"All of the boys we took down loved it and really enjoyed it," said Jacoby Davis, Sr. who also helps run the Celtics program. "We had some kids get in the van and say, ‘Coach, I can go here.' So it was definitely a great experience for the boys."

Davis' son, Jacoby Davis, Jr. was one of the 2011 prospects who made the trip to Columbia. Davis, Jr. has an offer from Ole Miss as well as a few mid-major programs. Despite not having an offer from the Gamecocks yet, Davis has South Carolina at the top of his list.

Davis and backcourt mate Marquis Rankin, who is ranked the No. 4 point guard in the nation in the 2011 class, are two prospects whose recruitment could be directly affected by the Jackson commitment, according to the elder Davis.

"He came up through our program. My son and Marquis and all our kids, they know Lakeem," Davis Sr. says. "He used to work out with us and he still works out with us, he still comes in sometimes. He's a good kid. All of our kids know Lakeem and they look up to him. Lakeem is a hard worker so everybody loves Lakeem."

The seemingly overnight change in perception of the South Carolina program did not take place as a result of landing just one recruit. At 17-5 overall and 6-3 in the SEC, Horn's infectious personality and tireless work off the court has been the perfect match to the Gamecocks' recent run on the court. The result of that perfect storm is that the program long-considered an afterthought in recent years is now considered a real option for high school prospects in the Carolinas.

2011 combo guard Ron Trapp, a 6'3" Lancaster native and under-the-radar prospect that also plays for the Celtics and visited this weekend, has followed the Gamecocks and Clemson Tigers growing up in South Carolina. Trapp has been amazed at the program's speedy turnaround and the change in perception from the prospects around him.

"South Carolina basketball is finally coming back. It's like they had fell off," Trapp said. "You would hear about South Carolina and be like, ‘Ah, they're decent and have got a couple of decent players,' but now they've actually got a shot. They're contenders if you ask me."

Former South Carolina basketball star and current assistant coach Michael Boynton should also be credited with the Gamecocks having that shot with recruits. Since Horn hired him, Boynton has hit the recruiting trail with a vengeance and his knowledge of the program has not gone unnoticed.

Davis Sr. says that much like Horn made it well-known that Jackson was his top priority that Boynton has made the Charlotte prospects feel wanted by making the hour and a half drive up I-77 often.

"Mike's a good guy. He's been up there to watch (Davis, Jr.) and Marquis Rankin… I really like him. They were really nice to us."

The prospects are more interested in the fact that Boynton played at South Carolina and knows the ropes of being a student athlete in Columbia.

"He played there, so I think he knows what I'm thinking too as a player playing at the level I am right now," the younger Davis said. "He's a real nice guy. He's came up to at least five of my games this year. He's letting me know he's really interested in me."

Which is something that Gamecock basketball fans maybe should get used to hearing from Charlotte area prospects.

"Trust me. I'm telling you. My son talked about it, Marquis and his dad were like we really enjoyed it and they liked the atmosphere, they all said it," the elder Davis said. "They were talking about…V. Tech has been down, NC State has been down… so the things that Coach Horn was saying in his presentation, I think it really got to the kids. And us, just running the program, I had already said I wouldn't mind sending some kids down to South Carolina because I feel like they're going in the right direction."

A direction that could first involve a detour through the Charlotte area.

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