The following excerpt comes from Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, the “bible” of college basketball now in its 32nd printing. Edited by SEC Digital Network contributor Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon is a 400-page preview that features full stories on 345 Division I teams. To order a copy, go to www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 877-807-4857.
Key returning player: Bruce Ellington (5-9, JR, PG)
Ellington, who announced last spring he was giving up football but eventually decided to return to the gridiron, is going to miss the first two months of the season as he catches passes and returns kicks for coach Steve Spurrier’s nationally ranked team.
As much as he would love to have Ellington from November to March, South Carolina coach Frank Martin, always the positive thinker, knew he couldn’t influence the player’s decision.
“He’s got to do what makes him happy,” Martin said. “By telling him he’s got to make a choice, he could pick football and I don’t have him at all. If he chooses basketball and in his heart he really wanted to play both, I put him in a place where he’s not going to be happy with me.”
A year ago, Ellington’s first as a dual sport athlete, he played in only 24 games—joining the team for some December games while the football Gamecocks were preparing for the Capital One Bowl—and started 15. Despite that late start, Ellington (11.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.1 apg) still led the Gamecocks in assists (74).
“He’s a helluva basketball player,” Martin said. “And I understand that he also loves football. But I told him I hope you understand that I also have a business to run. I can’t sit here without another point guard on the roster. I’ve got to go sign one. As long as you understand there are going to be other guys on the roster you’re going to compete with. And he said, ‘coach, that’s the way it needs to be.’ ”
Key newcomer: Laimonas Chatkevicius (7-0, FR, C)
Chatkevicius originally signed with Kansas State, but when Martin took the South Carolina job, Chatkevicius asked out of his scholarship. A year ago at Kent Prep in Connecticut, he averaged 14 points, eight boards and shot 60 percent from the field.
“For starters, he’s a big ole kid,” Martin said. “He’s a typical European guy, which means he can shoot the ball and is a real good passer. We run a lot of set offense through our bigs, so those are important skills we can use.
“He’s got to get stronger and run better. As he gets in better shape, he’ll improve. He knows how to play and has a good understanding of the game. He needs to rebound it better, but then again, I’m never happy with anybody on the rebounding side of things. I always think guys can get more rebounds.”