David Beatty was down, dejected and trying to find a way to move forward.
“I’m hurt, man,” he said.
It was Dec. 14 and the media room at Colonial Life Arena was home to South Carolina’s freshman basketball players. Beatty was greeting reporters for the first time in his college career. He hadn’t scored in three games. He had just finished a full round of semester exams.
But forget hoops and school for a second and realize what Beatty, a Philadelphia native, witnessed four days earlier.
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“Carson Wentz is out, man,” he said. “I’m hurt about that.”
Before Beatty became a four-star recruit and member of Frank Martin’s USC rotation, he was an Eagles fan.
“I bleed green,” he said.
So, naturally, Beatty felt Carson Wentz’s pain Dec. 10. The Eagles quarterback tore his ACL that afternoon against the Rams, temporarily shattering the hopes and dreams of a city and fan base in a five-decades-long championship drought.
The Promise Land leader was out, man.
“That’s a tough loss right there,” Beatty said.
On Friday outside the team offices at Carolina Coliseum, Beatty was in better spirits. The 6-foot-2 guard had just come off his best game in a month – and his Eagles are still alive.
The Gamecocks (13-9, 4-5 SEC) travel to Texas A&M (14-8, 3-6) on Saturday. The 2 p.m. tip-off will be televised by ESPN2. Some 28 hours later, the Nick Foles-led Eagles will face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
Beatty’s Big Game prediction – 13-7, Philly – was delivered with the same confidence he showed Wednesday in stroking a 3-pointer with 4:59 to go in the first half of the Mississippi State loss.
The swish was Beatty’s first made field goal in six games. He had missed his previous 21 attempts.
“It felt real good,” Beatty said, “but I’m a pretty confident person so it just felt regular to me. I just got to keep going down the same path.”
Beatty finished with six points and a team-high six rebounds against the Bulldogs. He logged 23 minutes, his most action since Jan. 6 against Vanderbilt.
The most decorated recruit in USC’s 2017 class – he chose the Gamecocks over the likes of Georgetown, Maryland and Indiana – Beatty’s potential has flashed in spurts this season. There was a 13-point performance against Temple at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 30, a 16-point outburst against Limestone on Dec. 27 and a nine-point, six-rebound game in the SEC opener at Ole Miss on Dec. 31.
But there’s also been six scoreless games and two other contests when Martin never took Beatty, who battles Frank Booker, Justin Minaya and Evan Hinson for minutes, off the bench.
“David’s awesome,” Martin said Thursday during his “Carolina Calls” radio show. “He’s got a great demeanor to him, teammates like him a lot.
“He’s part of today’s high school culture. He went to three different high schools his last three years of high school, so whenever you keep changing, you don’t really grow because you don’t understand how to embrace what’s being taught because you’re always learning something new.
“He’s at that place now where he’s really embracing the daily lessons of practice and it’s starting to connect for him.”
Beatty started his prep career at Archbishop Carroll (Radnor, Pennsylvania), went to St. Benedict’s (New Jersey) and then finished at Philly’s Imhotep Institute Charter High School.
He’s six months into his South Carolina stop.
“It’s real tough,” Beatty said of his college adjustment, “but as you go along you just learn that you got to love the game. Loving the game comes with loving the process and loving what you have to do in order to play the game – treatment, study hall, class and practice every day.
“You just have to fall in love with the whole process unless you won’t be here.”
Martin, following the Mississippi State performance, noted Beatty’s recent commitment to spending hours in the gym beyond practice.
It’s defensive reps he needs most.
“That’s his challenge,” Martin said. “He’s got to get better at that. He’s trying. I got no problem with David, he’s trying.”
That’s the Eagle way.
“We’re shutting Tom Brady down, easy,” Beatty said. “Tell Tom Brady the Eagles are coming for him.”
Note: Martin said Thursday that Minaya (sprained ankle) will travel with the Gamecocks to Texas A&M. His status remains TBA.
Who: South Carolina (13-9, 4-5 SEC) at Texas A&M (14-8, 3-6)
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Reed Arena (College Station, Texas)
Radio: 107.5 The Game in Columbia area