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Henry credits Martin, Thornwell for wooing him to South Carolina

Demetrius Henry, right, and Northeast coach Gerald Gillion pose for a picture after Henry committed to play basketball for the University of South Carolina on Wednesday. (Photo by Safid Deen)

Demetrius Henry, right, and Northeast coach Gerald Gillion pose for a picture after Henry committed to play basketball for the University of South Carolina on Wednesday. (Photo by Safid Deen)

(Note: The following story also appeared here on GamecockCentral.com.) 

 

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin has been on Demetrius Henry from the start.

On Wednesday, Martin got his guy.

Henry, a 6-foot-9 stretch power forward, who attended Brandon (Fla.) Faith Baptist Christian School, committed to play for the Gamecocks at Northeast High, his former school.

Henry said he picked South Carolina over nearby Miami because of his relationship with Martin, who is heading into his second season at the helm. Henry informed Martin of his decision on Monday, after already deciding on the Gamecocks the week before.

“I believed in Frank Martin, and he believed in me,” Henry said.

Henry said his relationship with Gamecocks assistant coach Lamont Evans – a former coach for Team Breakdown in the AAU circuit which Henry played for – “carried over” into his recruiting process.

Henry also singled out fellow incoming freshman Sindarius Thornwell as a close friend as they have been talking on a weekly basis since exchanging numbers in October.

“I saw how much (Thornwell) believed in Frank Martin and I was like ‘Wow,’” Henry said. “This is going to be something special.”

Despite coming to a conclusion on his decision last week, Henry said choosing South Carolina over Miami was one that kept him up at night.

“I can’t even lie – Until last week, I was definitely 50-50,” Henry said. “There were nights I would wake up and be like ‘I’m definitely going to Miami.’ And then there would be nights I wake up and ‘I’m definitely going to South Carolina.’ I just felt South Carolina would be a great choice.”

Henry, who is most effective on the lower block and inside the paint, will be a key addition to a Gamecocks squad going under a major overhaul heading into Martin’s second season with the team.

On Monday, CBSSports.com reported assistant coach Brad Underwood will take over the helm at Stephen F. Austin. Henry’s commitment adds to the mayhem as he joins a loaded 2013 class alongside Thornwell, Reggie Theus Jr., Desmond Ringer, Justin McKie, Jaylen Shaw, Duane Notice. Point guard transfer Tyrone Johnson from Vanderbilt will also be eligible to play in Spring 2014. With the seven additions and 10 incumbents from last year’s team, South Carolina will need four players to transfer to meet the maximum number for players allowed per NCAA rules.

For Henry, he is looking forward to competing for playing time with the talent he’s surrounded by.

“(Martin) definitely said I have a great chance to start,” Henry said. “It’s just one of those things where I’m making sure I work hard every day. He said it won’t be easy, and I don’t expect it to be. I’m definitely the type of guy to work and earn everything.”

Northeast and Team Breakdown teammate Malik Price-Martin, who holds offers from South Carolina, Miami, national champion Louisville, Florida, Florida St., Ohio St., Syracuse, Central Florida and Southern California, attended Henry’s announcement.

Price-Martin, who will follow Henry’s footsteps and attend Faith Baptist Christian next year, said he has not narrowed in on a school just yet.

“Everything is just wide open right now,” Price-Martin said. “I don’t have no favorites, no list. I haven’t committed anywhere. Everything is just pretty much open.”

On the idea of playing with Henry, Price-Martin said he would “love it” before taking a dig at his friend.

“I told him I wouldn’t go to college with him because he don’t pass the ball enough,” Price-Martin quipped.

That didn’t stop Henry – who told Price-Martin of his decision last week before the announcement – from firing back.

“That’s what he’s always saying,” Henry said. “He don’t pass the ball, man.”

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Skai Moore picks South Carolina, Jordan Cunningham to Vanderbilt

Skai Moore, left, and Jordan Cunningham pose for a photo after National Signing Day on Feb. 6, 2013 at Davie University School.

Skai Moore, left, and Jordan Cunningham pose for a photo after National Signing Day on Feb. 6, 2013 at Davie University School.

University School students Skai Moore and Jordan Cunningham took different paths to making their college decisions. In the end, they both wanted to play in the Southeastern Conference.

Moore, a four-star linebacker who finally picked up an offer from his dream school, Miami, on Tuesday night, picked South Carolina while Cunningham committed to Vanderbilt.

Moore found out about the Hurricanes’ offer from his defensive coordinator on Wednesday morning, but for him, it was too late.

“I feel like it was a little too late in the process,” Moore said. “Honestly, if they would’ve came in two or three weeks ago, this might of been a whole different day for me.”

Moore, who was verbally committed to Rutgers, decommitted in January at the sound of SEC schools coming his way after his 16-tackle performance in the Class 3A title game against Madison County High. Now, he’ll be joining a Gamecocks defense that ranked in the top 20 in rushing, scoring and total defense in the country spearheaded by unanimous All-American Jadeveon Clowney.

“The [Outback Bowl] game really intrigued me,” Moore said. “Just watching how the defense got after it and how tenacious they were, and that’s something I want to be a part of — a defense with some dogs on it.”

Moore, who also fielded offers from 31 other schools — including Vanderbilt, FIU, Louisville, Ohio State, Texas A&M and Wisconsin — said being able to play on the big stage and being on a high-profile team were opportunities he could not pass up.

“My opportunity to go in there pretty early and play is a great one so if I do what I gotta do, I could be starting from day one,” Moore said. “I’m really excited to get up there.

Cunningham, a four-star wide receiver, passed up offers from Miami, Florida State and Stanford to commit to Vanderbilt.

While announcing on ESPNU, Cunningham said playing for the Commodores was a part of his 50-year career plan which includes an engineering degree after his NFL career.

“The SEC is a big-time conference,” Cunningham said. “In my opinion, it’s one of the best conferences in college football so I definitely want to go in there and make an impact early.”

Cunningham will join an already solid SEC wide receiver tandem of Jordan Matthews and Clark Boyd, whom he’s built relationships with since his visit to in Nashville, Tenn.

Despite not being able to play with Aaron Rodgers’ younger brother, also named Jordan, Cunningham is looking forward to winning a SEC championship with coach James Franklin, who has caught some heat after reffering to Alabama coach Nick Saban as Nicky Satan.

“It was a little joke,” Cunningham said. “But at the same time, it was a challenge. He still wants to be on top and he’s gonna work hard for that.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/06/v-fullstory/3219769/broward-county-signing-day-commitments.html#storylink=cpy

Covering Florida softball: What a rewarding experience

Covering the Florida Gators softball team during the summer of 2011 was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Not only was this my first beat ever, it took me back to another rewarding time.

During my first two years of high school, my parents enrolled my younger sister, Sheriza, into playing optimist softball in our hometown of Pembroke Pines, Fla. Sheri started when she was six years old and played up until her second season of travel ball with the Pembroke Pines Thunder when our family called it quits.

It’s unfortunate, but travel ball isn’t for everyone. There’s plenty of time, money and, well, even more time involved in the process. Without a doubt, the experience was very rewarding for our family and me in particular.

I felt connected to my sister in a way I never thought I could be with her through sports, even as a teenager and her at 8 years young.

When I rarely got the time off on the weekends from working at Champs Sports, I was elated to get the chance to see my sister in action, see her demeanor out on that field, and bask in the fact that she took whatever advice I may have given her after a rough at-bat or error to heart.

My sister loved being on that field and was damn passionate about it, too. The same passion every athlete shares with one another. I was fortunate enough to share it with my own blood.

Covering my first Gators softball at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium took me back to it all.

The orange clay on the field. The barrel of the aluminum bat.  But most of all, the fans in the stands and all the cheers. Like every sport, family is the most important aspect of it all. Your family members are your first fans. They’re always there for you no matter what and as time progresses, your family grows. New members join like your teammates, their families and friends, and eventually the fans that come and show support.

Looking back on the experience, it’s kinda funny and ironic. The most rewarding aspect of it was getting to go to Oklahoma City to cover the team during its fourth consecutive trip to the Women’s College World Series. When I first started to cover the team, it was at the beginning of its six-game losing streak, the longest under head coach Tim Walton – a time where reaching the World Series seemed very far from happening.

But Walton and the Gators did it. And they almost won it all.

This post, I guess, is a thank you of sorts to the entire team, especially those I’ve gotten a chance to speak with, and those who have helped me along the way.

Thanks Tim for all the interviews, putting me in my place in some occasions, and for appreciating my work with the team. I’m not sure if you’ve ever read a word I wrote, but your wave to me in the stands when I sat in at a NPF game in Orlando was much appreciated.

Thanks to Kelsey Bruder, Megan Bush and Aja Paculba. You guys were really great to be around and even better people. I was really happy I got to run into you at one of our favorite places in Gainesville to say this in person.

To my South Florida comrades, Tiffany DeFelice and Stephanie Brombacher, thank you as well. TD, you’re mom’s cookies are the best. I see where you get your humility from. To Steph, I’ll always feel horrible for asking you that question at the end of the season that made you cry. Sorry.

To former Gators Stacey Nelson and Francesca Enea, it was an honor meeting you both. Fran, thanks for opening up about Ian Lockwood and your appreciation of that story I wrote. It was an honor to do that story. Stacey, you are an incredible person and I’m glad I got to see why. Thanks again for grabbing my beer and helping yourself to a gulp.

Thanks to my amazing grandmother and Gator Country’s Ray Hines for funding my trip.

And lastly, thanks to my good friends Kelly Reynolds, Tim Casey and Bryan Holt. Kelly, you were the first SID I’ve ever worked with and the best. Thanks for making my first beat easy. Tim, you’ve done so much for me during our time together at Gator Country. I wouldn’t be where I am without you and thank you for that. Bryan, OKC didn’t know what it had coming. I’m really glad we got to share that experience together and I’d do it again in the heartbeat, except I’m driving.

Thanks everyone. I wish you all the best.

Gator grads face new challenge with growing business

Kaitlin Watson (left) and Shannon McGee pose in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. The duo created The Gameday Girls, a jewelry company designed to give women classy accessories to wear while rooting for their favorite teams. Photo by MichaelJohn Carnevale.

The following is a piece I did for a class blog named Successful Gators.

For many businesses, the time between Black Friday and New Year’s Day serves as the most profitable time of year.

But for the majority of Gainesville businesses, this time is secondary to UF’s football season, and The Gameday Girls have taken full advantage.

UF graduates Kaitlin Watson and Shannon McGee became The Gameday Girls in September 2009 when the idea of selling custom-made jewelry appeared like a pearl in an oyster.

The duo creates jewelry and accessories for women looking to support their team, Watson said. The girls began selling their items on game days during the 2009 football season on University Avenue.

McGee said the hardest part about making the jewelry is getting a pair to look alike because every item is custom made. It takes about 10 to 20 minutes to sand, paint and seal the pearls we use, she said.

“It’s hard dealing with the finger cramps and getting burned with hot glue,” McGee said, “but it gets quicker when you’re doing the same items.”

Some of the items include post earrings, dangle earrings, necklaces, bracelets, headbands and scarves, all ranging in price from $8 to $25. They are made with generic logos surrounded by polka dots in generic colors to represent your favorite teams, Watson said.

Using generic materials allows The Gameday Girls to remain unaffiliated with the NCAA and the respective teams their jewelry represents.

Currently, The Gameday Girls make jewelry catered to fans at the University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Miami, University of South Florida, Clemson University and Georgia Tech.

They also accept customer requests for special orders on items they produce in any color.

“We make a strong emphasis on our website that we can make anything for our customers, just as long as they can give us the time to gather supplies if we need them,” Watson said. There are no increases in price for placing a custom order, she said.

This year, The Gameday Girls made about $180 every weekend for the three weekends they worked during the season.

“We both are seniors, so we wanted to still be able to enjoy the football season ourselves,” Watson said.

Now, with the new year approaching and their peak season coming to a close, Watson and McGee are looking forward to accomplishing a new task: working with the Atlantic Ocean between them.

Watson is spending the spring semester in Austria, and, while this could be a burden for some businesses, she said that because most of their business is done over the Internet, it will still allow them to run their business smoothly.

Watson said the pair plans to make some of their more popular items before she leaves, and she will take full responsibility of the website and social-networking efforts. McGee will take care of all the other special orders.

“Being online allows us to work from anywhere,” Watson said. Besides being able to reach a wider audience, social networking has also become the driving force in The Gameday Girls business.

Watson said the company uses Facebook and Twitter to showcase new items and promote sales exclusively for fans and followers, respectively. The group also has given away free items to bloggers in an effort to get more exposure.

In July, the company was featured on College Prep, where the blog post generated 200 visits on the first day, Watson said.

McGee said she came up with the idea to sell jewelry and accessories, which she and Watson were already making in their spare time.

William Rossi, associate director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said he has seen The Gameday Girls’ work and thinks it’s a great idea.

Students throw ideas at him several times a day, he said. “They’re literally all over the place.”

Rossi said he has helped former students like Kristen Hadeed and Sam Tarantino grow with their respective companies, Student Maids Inc. and Grooveshark.

He said the students who truly have the desire to succeed do so by actually making strides toward what they want to do and not wasting time just thinking about it.

He said when students approach him with an idea, he asks them questions about things that may go wrong in their ventures.

“They never know the answers, but I tell them to go figure it out and then come back,” he said. “Most of them don’t come back, but the ones who do are the ones who see success.”

Rossi said those who find solutions to problems already existing in the marketplace also become successful.

Watson found the problem to be the lack of classy jewelry available for women who wanted to support their favorite sports teams.

By using items like ribbon and pearls, McGee said the company has received great exposure so far in its first two years.

With all that exposure, she said getting the word out about the company still comes down to word-of-mouth, using social networking websites and wearing the jewelry for potential buyers to see.

Watson said the key to reaching their goals comes down to putting in the effort to work together and keeping things fun.

“We like to have our business meetings with a glass of champagne,” she said.