Huge win carries over to recruiting for USC

Coach Mike Boynton wasn't sleepwalking when he walked into a standing ovation at Trinity Christian on Wednesday morning. So excited, the South Carolina assistant couldn't sleep the night before heading from Columbia, S.C. to Fayetteville, N.C. to see future Gamecock Damontre Harris.

But when Boynton arrived decked out in his South Carolina gear, the kids from the Tar Heel State showed their appreciation by clapping and cheering for the coach the morning after the Gamecocks notched their biggest win in school history by beating the No. 1 team in the nation and previously unbeaten Kentucky in front of a national television audience.

But when Harris signed on to be a part of the family down in Columbia, he already knew the business side of the coaching staff.

"Coach Boynton came up to see me," Harris said. "He told me to just keep working hard (in the classroom) and keep my grades up."

The 6-foot-9 big man exuded excitement about the game, but knew that Boynton was there to show him that South Carolina is dedicated to him, despite any win or loss. However, Harris' normally-calm demeanor was thrown out the window as he spoke about the win.

"It was a very big win!" he said before calming down and looking at the future. "I'm just ready to get down there and help. Coach Horn told me that there was going to be change, and this just backed it up. That's one of the reasons I chose South Carolina, so I could be a part of that."

Boynton's tour of North Carolina didn't stop there, as he then went and saw a couple of big men at Quality Education before stopping in on 2012 point guard Tyler Lewis.

"That's pretty impressive," Lewis' dad, Rick, said of Boynton's appearance at his son's school Forsyth Country Day. "More than anything, it was pretty smart on the part of South Carolina. The next day, to have that coach come to the school, it has to mean a lot to a kid."

But South Carolina knew they couldn't be complacent and got out to show recruits that they are serious about building the program.

Lewis coached his son in the AAU season, along with 2011 commit Anthony Gill. He's also coached a handful of others that received offers or interest from the Gamecocks, including 2010 signee Brian Richardson.

"South Carolina has been following our team — Brian Richardson played with me 2 years ago", he said. "The coaches at South Carolina had our team down, and they followed the progress of our team. They were at every game. I think that's what made the difference for A.G. — the loyalty."

Lewis speaks firsthand, considering the staff has recruited his players and his son, but he also is an avid and respected talent evaluator throughout the state of North Carolina and surrounding areas - and a father of a son playing for Charlotte, so he knows a thing or two about the recruiting process.

"I think it just makes (the South Carolina recruits) feel great about their decision and gives them confidence about their decision," he said. "They have an incredible 2010 class."

Another recruit that is confident in his decision is 2010 signee Eric Smith.

Smith sat right behind the South Carolina bench during the Kentucky game with his Christ School (N.C.) teammates on Tuesday night, soaking it all in.

"There were a lot of people there," he said. "So when you get that many people, it's intense."

So intense that Smith and a couple of his teammates got caught up in the moment that cost South Carolina a $25,000 fine — storming the court.

"I was out there jumping around," Smith said with a chuckle.

But then Smith got serious and defended his future school.

"People were doubting that they could do it," he said, "but they proved them all wrong."

Smith has been to some practices, but this was the first time he got the chance to take in Horn's coaching style that close during a game.

"In practice, coach Horn gets after his guys and corrects their mistakes so they can perform during the game," he said. "Games are kind of similar. He's really intense and all the coaches and players are supportive and clapping, even when you make a mistake. It's really encouraging.

"(The game) made me really happy to be a part of this, and I'm just ready to get out there and contribute."

The landmark win had several South Carolina prospects mirror the words of Devince Boykins — a 2011 wing who plays for East Rutheford (N.C.).

"That's a big win, it definitely made me take notice," said Boykin, who rushed to his TV to catch the final minutes of the game after scoring 16 points, grabbing 16 rebounds and dishing out seven assists in a win over Patton High.

Marquee wins like the one on Tuesday can be program changers, as they can change the way not only recruits look at a school, but also the casual fan.

"Watching a game like that on national TV, and to see something like that and know that you are going to be a part of something like that, is just really something special," the elder Lewis said.

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