Bruce Ellington walked off the football field knowing where he would play college basketball. After…
USC gets a side of Ellington with its Slawson
Ellington scored five touchdowns and rushed for 209 yards for Berkeley High (S.C.) against his unbeaten rival Stratford on Friday night, and after he was done getting his redemption from a 30-8 loss last year, the 5-foot-10 point guard verbaled to the Gamecock basketball team.
"I like playing basketball and football, but over the past few years, I just developed a passion between AAU basketball and high school basketball," Ellington said. "I just wanted to continue the passion and the dream.
"I told (the South Carolina coaches) when they came to the (in-home) visit Wednesday that I was going to commit. (My high school coaches) wanted me to wait until after the game because they knew how big the Stratford game was."
After blowing up this summer, Ellington went from a one-star recruit to a four-star recruit in a matter of months after being known as a football star.
"The point guards going to Duke, Georgetown, Wake Forest, Boston College and Ohio State are ranked behind him, so that says a lot. That says something about Bruce," said Ellington's AAU coach Antoine Saunders with TMP. "That doesn't take away from football, he's just one of the best in basketball."
Ellington's decision boiled down to South Carolina, Clemson, Auburn, Southern Cal, Georgia Tech and Kansas.
Kansas made a late push for the South Carolina native, but it was too little, too late for the 2008 champions.
"When they called, I was deciding I was wanting to go to South Carolina, so it was real late," he said about the Jayhawks' attempt that happened about a month ago. "I decided I wanted to stay in state."
The reoccurring theme for South Carolina of being the first major division 1 team to offer a recruit played key again.
"This process of him deciding of him being a Gamecock was not an overnight process, it started sixth months ago," Saunders said. "(His family) really took the time and were very thorough and comfortable with the decision. This week was about Berkeley football because they had a big game. He wanted to put his teammates in a position to win.
"Bruce is a team guy and loves his teammates. He didn't want to take the focus off that game. He was focused, they were focused and he had a big game. So it worked out perfectly, and it worked out perfectly for him."
It also worked out perfectly for the people behind him.
"He got with his family, and it was a family decision. He's happy and they're happy," Saunders said.
"Bruce talks to me and his brother Ashley constantly, and I just kept telling him whatever he does, we'll support him," Ellington's mom, Gwen, said. "Bruce is a real humble kid, and I'm so excited he chose USC. I've always been a big Gamecocks fan."
But she didn't let her allegiance push her son to one school or another.
"I stayed away from (choosing sides) and told him I'd support him in whatever he does," she said. "I told him, ‘you'll be the one there for the next four-five years, so it's up to you. I can't be there, so you'll have to make the decision where you'll be comfortable.'"
Another family tie is his cousin and AAU teammate, Slawson, who committed to the Gamecocks over the summer.
"I just thought it'd be great to go to school with a family member to play together," said Ellington of his cousin, who is ranked No. 69 overall by Scout. "It was great playing AAU with him this summer, and it was great throwing alleys to him."
Ellington plans to throw many more "alleys" to Slawson over the course of their collegiate careers.
"They're close, they're teammates, they're cousins, they made a lot of great music playing this summer," Saunders said of the duo. "They had to make their own, separate decisions, but it doesn't hurt when you're cousins, you're teammates and someone who loves the school that they love.
"We're lucky and we feel honored to have coached those kids. We're fortunate, blessed. Good kids, hard-working, great families, it was very easy to do. They work hard and are very coachable. We show them things to work on and they fix it. I think South Carolina got themselves two outstanding basketball players and two great kids. Coaching is very easy if all the kids are like that. They're total team-first guys."
To go along with the class, South Carolina also has point guard Eric Smith, who recently transferred to a prep school in North Carolina from Mullins, SC, strongly committed — giving the Gamecocks arguably the three best talents in the state for 2010.
As far as having two point guards in the class, Ellington believes that the two can coexist.
"The coaches told me that they'd play us on the court at the same time," Ellington said. "I played with him at the South Carolina camp (at the same time), he's a good player. He's a little stronger than me, and he's probably got a better, more consistent jump shot. But other than that, we're alike."
According to Ellington's high school coach Charlie Harrison, Scout's 52nd player overall is the first division 1 basketball player from his school.
"I've been told several times he's the first one," Harrison said.
"I knew I wanted to go to South Carolina because of how they treated my family and because I wanted to play my freshman year," Ellington said. "They told me I'd get a lot of playing time my freshman year.
"It was one of the first teams that offered me. I feel so comfortable around them."
A lot of people don't realize that Ellington didn't blow up until the summer because he not only comes from a football town, but he also cut ligaments in his left hand three games into his junior year — in a non-basketball related accident. He was able to return for the last three games of the season, and according to Harrison, Ellington averaged 32 points a game for the season.
The interval part of Ellington's recruiting was South Carolina assistant coach Neill Berry. So what did Berry get in terms of a player for the Gamecock family?
"He has pretty much incredible speed and strength," Harrison said. "He has the ability to blow right by you. He demands double teams. I haven't seen many people that can guard him one-on-one. His ability to breakdown defenses makes his teammates look good because they have to help because he can finish. He's a 5-10 kid, but he can dunk it on you."
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