Scout.com's Josh Capers goes inside the commitment of 4-star 2010 power forward R.J. Slawson to South Carolina, with the player, his coach, and Scout.com basketball guru Dave Telep. Read inside to see how and why Slawson was such an important piece of the recruiting class for USC, and how he will fit into the program.
Fort Dorchester (S.C.) forward R.J. Slawson called Darrin Horn around noon Thursday to inform the second-year South Carolina coach of his verbal commitment to the Gamecocks.
Slawson, rated the No. 21 power forward and ranked 90 overall in the 2010 class, is the second player in the class to verbal to the Gamecocks, the other being another in-state point guard Eric Smith from Mullins High.
“It feels good,” Slawson said of his commitment. “They had everything that I was looking for basically, so I just went ahead and committed. I just felt more comfortable at South Carolina.”
Though Slawson doesn’t know what he wants to major in yet, the Ladson, S.C. resident is in good standing academically and boasts a 3.1 GPA. Academics and the Gamecock style of play were among some of the key factors in his decision to commit to USC.
“They play my style. It didn’t hurt being close to home as well,” Slawson said. “I love the coaching staff - Coach Horn and Coach (Neill) Berry. They seem to know what they are talking about and they can help me get to the next level. The new academic center (the Dodie) impressed me. They focused a lot on academics.”
The schools that were in the 6-foot-8 forward’s final list were VCU, Clemson, Auburn, Alabama, Cincinnati, and College of Charleston.
“He had a bunch of schools to choose from,” said Antoine Saunders, coach of Slawson’s AAU team, TMP.
Saunders went on to focus on another topic, his home state of South Carolina.
“He was looking at South Carolina and Clemson, and he’ll represent our state well. He’s a superb kid,” Saunders said. “He had two great choices. He had two great coaches, two great schools, and South Carolina was the one he chose.
“He liked both schools, and I know he liked both coaching staffs. He couldn’t have gone wrong either way, but I know he really liked the South Carolina coaches.”
When Slawson spoke with Coach Horn, he was met with a warm welcome. “Congratulations,” Horn said. “He’s looking forward to seeing me come up there, and the coaching staff is waiting on me to come up there.”
Along with Saunders, Scout.com national recruiting analyst Dave Telep agreed that keeping Slawson in state was huge for the Gamecocks.
“He’s a perfect recruit because of where he is,” Telep said. “You have to start keeping those guys at home, and they did it.”
Keeping recruits in-state has been a focal point for Horn’s staff since he took over as the coach.
“He will represent our state well. He has a great work ethic and a lot of basketball skills,” Saunders said. “He can shoot, rebound and defend, and he’s a great kid. He’s fun to be around and fun to coach.”
Another in-state recruit that the Gamecocks are hard after is Slawson's AAU teammate Bruce Ellington. Ellington is a 2010 point guard, but there's another in with the situation, the two are cousins. Even though Ellington isn't sure if he'll play football or basketball in college yet, Slawson likes the idea of playing with Ellington.
"Yeah, he could help us," Slawson said of the idea of playing with the cat-quick Ellington, who's beginning to really take off basketball wise this summer.
Both Telep and Saunders believe Slawson will be a hybrid forward at South Carolina because of his versatile skill set, which would give the Gamecocks a bigger lineup and a matchup problem with Slawson’s length on the perimeter.
“I think he’ll play power forward and small forward,” Saunders said. “We play him at three a lot. He can shoot the ball. He can drive. He has a lot of skills. I think he’ll play multiple positions at South Carolina. He has the ability to play in and out.”
Slawson agrees, and knows what he’ll bring to the table as well. “I think I’ll do pretty well because of their style of play,” Slawson said. “(They’ll get) a versatile big man. I think they are going to play me at the three mostly. They’ll put me down in the post as well.
“I’m long, so if they try to throw it over me, it’ll force some steals.”
Though a good prospect, Telep notes that there is still some development for the rising senior.
“He gives you a guy that matches their style. I think he’s a guy physically that has to develop,” Telep said of the 185-pound Slawson. “I think when he develops physically, it’ll expand his game exponentially.”
“I appreciate the other Schools looking at me,” Slawson said, “but I feel like South Carolina fits me the best.”