By the end of this season, it was clear Austin Steed had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff of the South Carolina men's basketball team.
So it was no surprise when coach Darrin Horn announced Friday that Steed will not return for his senior season.
"I've visited with Austin, and there's just not opportunity for him," Horn said. "We want him, if he wants to, to finish his education here at South Carolina. So that's a decision that he'll have to make, whether he wants to play or not, in terms of transferring somewhere else or staying here and staying on scholarship."
Steed, a 6-foot-7 forward, started 11 games this season and averaged 2.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. He was part of the main rotation until the final stretch. He started six consecutive games during nonconference play then five in a row in SEC play, and he had a key block near the end of the victory against No. 1-ranked Kentucky.
But after scoring one point in 18 minutes at Georgia, Steed was yanked from the lineup. He played a total of 19 minutes the rest of the season, none against Mississippi State. He played one minute in each of the final two games - at Vanderbilt and vs. Alabama in the first round of the SEC tournament.
Steed's departure leaves one player on the roster, center Sam Muldrow, whom Horn inherited from previous coach Dave Odom.
It's the second consecutive year Horn has parted ways with a player who had one year of eligibility remaining. Mitchell Carter, a seldom-used center, left after last season.
If Steed transfers, the Gamecocks will have a scholarship available for next year, and two if Dominique Archie isn't granted a sixth year of eligibility.
De Pierce, who ran the AAU team that Steed played for and who serves as a mentor to the player, said Steed might stay at USC. Attempts to reach Steed were unsuccessful.
"Austin loves being a Gamecock and wants a degree from the University of South Carolina," Pierce said. "We appreciate coach Horn keeping Austin on scholarship and letting him graduate, even though he doesn't want him to play basketball."
Steed grew up in the Augusta area and came to USC after spending a year at Fork Union Academy in Virginia. He played in six games as a freshman for the Gamecocks and saw action in every game as a sophomore, starting twice.