Horn helping Downey weigh pro decision
South Carolina men's basketball coach Darrin Horn knows a lot about his program. He knows his team is young and talented. He knows that going through the tough SEC schedule this past season and coming out with a share of the division title is a testament to their work ethic and could make them a better team next year.
But there is one big question mark still hanging over his program – will the star of the show be back for an encore?
Junior guard Devan Downey continues to mull over the possibility of foregoing his final year of college for a shot at the NBA, and while Horn has been talking to his star player about the decision, it is an issue that has yet to be resolved.
"We've definitely visited. (I) do not have a feeling one way or another," Horn said while meeting with the media for a season ending press conference. "And really my role in that is to do what's best for Devan Downey. My job is to support him."
In a very short time, Downey has become one of the stars in the SEC. After transferring from Cincinnati, the Chester native has quickly put his mark on the USC and conference record books. In his first season, the 5-9 guard broke the single season record for steals in the conference and was named to the All-SEC team.
This past year, Downey's 614 points put him into the 1,000 point club while at USC with 1,202 points in a garnet and black jersey. Those 614 points were also the best single season total for a Carolina player since Zam Fredrick Sr. scored 781 points en route to the nation's scoring title in 1980-81.
Those kind of statistics, coupled with his team's 21-10 record, helped Downey earn a spot on both the AP and Coaches first team All-SEC squad this season. It's also those kind of accolades that have given him the decision he is facing now. For Horn, the decision on the future comes down to what is best for Downey, not necessarily what's best for his team.
"The priority in our program is taking care of our young people, and we've talked about the process and we've talked about the importance of him following his heart and doing what he thinks is best for him," Horn said.
If Downey opts out of his senior season, the Gamecocks come into next year with a short depth chart at the guard spots. USC seniors Zam Fredrick and Branden Conrad will graduate, and the only true guard who is returning would be Brandis Raley-Ross. While knee injuries limited his playing time this season, he was named the SEC Sixth Man of the Year this season.
Incoming freshman Ramon Galloway could be called on to fill those shoes if Downey leaves, though he is more of a combo guard than a true point guard. If Downey stays, Horn is hopeful the veteran player would make a good mentor for the new face.
"He would be the guy that would be thrust into a more major role," Horn said. "Or if not, we hope could learn from a guy we all know is really good."
While the loss of Downey would alter the South Carolina lineup, Horn doesn't believe his absence would change too much of what he and his staff are looking to do.
"I don't know that it changes a whole lot we do. We'll continue to recruit the same way and potentially add someone whether he's going to be back or not," Horn said.
Whatever Downey's decision, Horn is committed to standing by his star player, even if it means watching him go.
"My goal is to gather accurate information and help him understand what the real facts are as he moves forward and tries to make a decision," Horn said. "And we'll support him in that any way we can."
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