USC football coach Steve Spurrier told GoGamcocks.com on Thursday that he plans to speak to starting Gamecock point guard Bruce Ellington Thursday or Friday about his desire to play for the reigning SEC East champions.
But the freshman cannot practice with Spurrier’s squad this spring because NCAA rules prohibit early signees in other sports from attending football practice or playing in games during their first academic year. Ellington signed with the Gamecocks basketball team during the early signing period in November 2009.
Ellington watched practice on Thursday in street clothes along with his high school coach Jerry Brown.
Spurrier said Ellington, who led the basketball team in scoring this past season, is eligible to practice and play next fall.
“I have heard he wants to play football,” Spurrier said, “and I am looking forward to talking to him today or tomorrow and get a little plan or schedule on how we are going to go about doing it. That’s all I know right now. I think he has talked to maybe one of our coaches.”
USC basketball coach Darrin Horn issues a statement Thursday night about Ellington's decision.
“To me the most rewarding thing in this job is the players and my relationship with them," Horn said. "From the first time I met Bruce I knew playing both sports in college was a possibility and we support him in every way we can. We hope he has a lot of success in football and look forward to having him back next year for basketball.”
Ellington's mother, Gwen, said her son spoke with USC football recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. earlier this week. Spurrier Jr. recruited Ellington for the football team at Berkeley High School where he played quarterback, running back, wide receiver and safety.
“Of course, we were trying to get him to play football and basketball,” Spurrier, the head coach, said. “He decided to go play basketball, and from what I have heard, he wants to play football so we will see.”
The 5-foot-9, 197-pound Moncks Corner native is seen as a slot receiver and kick returner. Spurrier said he would be happy to add the SEC All-Freshman team hoops player to the roster.
“He is a tremendous talent. I think everybody knows that,” the coach said. “Of course, he is a tremendous talent in basketball, too. Personally I think he can play both.”
But it won’t be easy, Spurrier said: “My experience with the players I have had in the past that wanted to play two sports, I have always allowed them to go do it. Football and basketball is hard to play because they overlap."
Spurrier said he spoke with Horn but declined to disclose what they discussed: “There is a lot to be worked out for (Ellington to join the team).”
Spurrier said he would allow Ellington to join the basketball team between the end of the regular football season and a bowl game. “If he wanted to play the bowl game, I mean, you only need three or four practices to play in a game, we all know that.”
Gwen Ellington said she is unsure what is happening except that her son told her this week he wants to play both sports – something he did at Berkeley High School. They spoke Thursday morning but Gwen Ellington said they talked about school work and college life.
“As much people ask me about (playing football), I can’t imagine what he’s going through,” she said.
School officials have not said whether Horn or athletics director Eric Hyman will be available for comment Thursday.
Horn has said that if Bruce Ellington wanted to play football he could. If the he joins the football team, Ellington’s scholarship would follow.
The possibility that Ellington would have less time devoted to basketball comes at an awkward time for Horn's team, which has had two straight losing seasons. On Tuesday, a pair of sophomore shooting guards, Ramon Galloway and Stephen Spinella, announced plans to transfer.
If Ellington joins the football team, Horn would have 10 scholarship players and lost the full-time services of his top three scorers from this past season. Ellington, Galloway and Sam Muldrow, who was a senior, accounted for 53 percent of USC’s 67.6 per game average.
Video: Ellington leads Berkeley to 2009 4A state championship