Notebook: Horn talks signing class, opener

GamecockAnthem.com was at the basketball practice facility on Wednesday, as Coach Darrin Horn addressed the media. Not only did Horn comment on the heralded recruiting class his program signed on Wednesday, but also previewed this Friday's season opener with Alabama A&M.


Horn pumped up about recruiting class

Wednesday was a big day for South Carolina men's basketball coach Darrin Horn, as it marked the start of the early signing period for recruits. The Gamecocks did not wait around, signing five players during this period, and putting the finishing touches on a top 10 nationally ranked class.

Darrin Horn did not hold back his enthusiasm for the new class, which consists of point guards Bruce Ellington and Eric Smith, shooting guard/point guard Brian Richardson, power forward R.J. Slawson, and center Damontre Harris.

"There's a lot going on in our program this week," said Horn. "We are thrilled with the recruiting class, and that might be an understatement for me to say that. We think this is a special class made up of special young men from some terrific families that are going to give us an opportunity to continue to grow our program."

South Carolina fans everywhere will be excited to note that Horn signed what many consider to be the top three players in the state in Bruce Ellington, R.J. Slawson, and Eric Smith.

"R.J. Slawson is another in-state kid, along with Eric and Bruce, that was huge for us because he was the first highly rated (player) to commit to us. (He's) a guy that could have gone a lot of places."

Anyone who knows anything about recruiting knows that it is not just the head coach's job, but it is up to the entire coaching staff to go out and sign high quality players. Horn was quick to give credit to his entire staff, saying that there is no way he could have pulled in the nation's No. 10 ranked recruiting class without the tireless work of his assistants.

"I think the key to this class is that it happened because of people. I think first and foremost our assistant coaches and our staff, Mike Boynton and Neill Berry, Cypheus Bunton. Those guys, they're tireless workers, they're high character guys, they do a tremendous job. A lot of times as long as I don't screw it up, we're in pretty good shape because of the hard work they put in and the relationships they build with these student athletes that we recruit. I can't say enough good things about them.

"This is a huge recruiting class for us in a lot of ways. We think for the second year in a row we've put together the kind of guys that are going to continue to help us grow our program. So we're really excited about it."


Gamecock basketball building credibility

Darrin Horn knows that to build a quality basketball program at South Carolina, he has to establish his team as a credible winner in the Southeastern Conference. That starts with recruiting, but travels all the way up to the coaching staff, players, and administration itself.

"It's a situation where we build some credibility in how we've recruited them," said Horn. "We build some credibility with how our team played. That and the things we were talking about that we want to try to build and where we want to be in the league and all that stuff. There were some glimpses of that with the shared divisional title, and getting twenty wins, and filling Colonial Life Arena, and establishing our style of play."

Setting a tone for the type of basketball they want to play has also been big for the players, and the recognition they are getting around the conference. Horn said that this basketball squad has come a long way in the year and a half since he took over, and that is evidenced by his players being voted onto numerous all-conference squads.

"Us going from one guy being recognized to four guys being recognized in league voting for end of the year honors," stated Horn. "Just some things like that show some signs that we're headed in the right direction. I think it's helped us, especially with in-state kids."


Season starts on Friday

But before any new recruits have a chance to shine or established players can receive attention for outstanding play, the official basketball season must begin. The Gamecocks will start the 2009-2010 season on Friday night against Alabama A&M at 7 p.m., and will look to reach postseason play for the second straight year.

Many more unknowns still face South Carolina heading into the opener. Horn said that against the Bulldogs of Alabama A&M, his team will be able to learn a lot more about themselves.

"It's one of those early season games where it's hard to tell, to be honest with you," said Horn. "They lost their top two players, and have quite a few new guys, so it'll be a game where we're prepared, but we'll be more focused on wanting to do what we do well. (We want to) execute the things that we want to, that are important to us. I think it's going to be a great test for us to get under the lights and hopefully have everybody available. We'll see if we can do what we want to do for forty minutes."


Notes:

- Horn said he will have the same starting five for Friday's game as the Gamecocks featured in the exhibition win over Kentucky Wesleyan last week. The starting lineup consists of Devan Downey, Lakeem Jackson, Dominique Archie, Mike Holmes, and Sam Muldrow.

- Forward Evaldas Baniulis will be re-evaluated later this week as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.

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