Murphy Holloway started thinking about coming home to South Carolina last October, when his daughter Rihanna was born.
The basketball player’s sophomore year at Mississippi had not even begun, but he had a successful season, finishing fifth in the SEC in rebounding and steals.
All season, his mind and his heart remained focused on returning home.
After an eventful few weeks, when it first appeared he would end up at Clemson, Holloway announced his intention Wednesday to walk on at South Carolina for the 2011-12 season and start playing for the Gamecocks.
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“It’s crazy how things work out, but now fortunately I’m here, I’m glad I’m here,” Holloway said in the library at Dutch Fork High School, his alma mater. He spoke after a news conference, an unusual occurrence for a transfer and a walk-on.
Holloway said he has not spoken with USC coach Darrin Horn, and he cannot until he enrolls because Mississippi did not release him to the Gamecocks.
That was expected, since the two are both in the SEC. But Holloway was surprised when Mississippi denied him a release to Clemson. He did consider some smaller-school options, such as Winthrop, Coastal Carolina and College of Charleston, but ultimately decided to pay his own way at USC in order to stay at a higher level.
“Nothing beats the ACC or the SEC,” Holloway said. “So I just figured I’d go to South Carolina.”
The 6-foot-7 forward should provide a big lift to the Gamecocks when he becomes eligible.
Holloway said he might apply for a hardship with the NCAA, which would enable him to play right away. But the chances of approval are unlikely, given Mississippi’s stance on his release.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said through a team spokesman that he wasn’t interested in commenting, and was ready to move on. Mississippi athletics director Pete Boone, who denied Holloway’s request to transfer to USC or Clemson, has not responded to a request for comment.
Holloway was perhaps the best high school recruit in the Palmetto State two years ago, when he was named the S.C. Gatorade Player of the Year. But his grades, and the coaching transition at USC from Dave Odom to Horn, led him to Mississippi.
He was never offered a scholarship to USC, according to Dutch Fork coach Leon Hogan.
Holloway plans to enroll at USC in August. He said he is looking into grants and other financial aid in order to pay tuition, and will live at home with his mother, “just like high school,” in order to save on room and board.
Horn cannot comment until Holloway enrolls. But it seems a no-brainer that he and his staff would want a player of Holloway’s caliber. He averaged 10.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals last season for Mississippi, and had eight double-doubles.
Holloway projected himself as putting up similar numbers in Horn’s up-tempo system.
“I’ve of course been working on my mid-range jump shot, shooting a lot more jumpers,” Holloway said. “I’m also gonna be a beast on the glass. That’s just something that’s in me. That’s easy points: Offensive rebounds.”
Holloway has spoken with former AAU teammates Devan Downey and Zam Fredrick about what it was like to sit out a season. It wasn’t the ideal option, but one Holloway felt was necessary. He said he would have stayed at Ole Miss had it not been for Rihanna (named after the pop singer).
“I was happy at Ole Miss,” Holloway said. “But after thinking a long time, I thought this might be the best decision. I thought I’d also be happy at home.”
Video: Holloway chooses USC