South Carolina’s lone commitment in the 2018 class doesn’t play with the nation’s best, but he’s played against R.J. Barrett.
Barrett, a Duke signee and the consensus No. 1 recruit in the country, stars for Montverde Academy’s varsity team. Jermaine Couisnard, who made his South Carolina pledge two weeks ago, leads the Florida school’s post-graduate team.
The two squads scrimmaged each other several times during the preseason.
“There was, maybe, one day where they had, like, four guys hitting five 3s each that we probably lost by like 15,” said Montverde post-grad coach Kevin Boyle Jr. “Every other game, it was us winning by two or three or them winning by two or three.”
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Montverde’s varsity is undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country. It features three top 50 players, including Barrett, Andrew Nembhard (Florida-bound) and Michael Devoe (Georgia Tech). The post-grad team features Couisnard, Morris Udeze (Wichita State-bound), Darnell Brodie (Seton Hall) and Josh Roberts (St. John’s).
“You might see Jermaine as whatever ranking you want to say he is,” Boyle Jr. said of the three-star prospect, “but he’s not gonna let the team lose or not be competitive. He really loves to compete.”
Couisnard is a listed as a 6-foot-4, 185-pound shooting guard. Barrett comes in at 6-6, 180.
“R.J.’s a very tough player to guard with his size and ability to seamlessly transition from attacking the rim to quickly turning his back and making tough post shots,” Boyle Jr. said. “For the most part, I’d say it was definitely close (between Couisnard and Barrett). And that’s where we first started to see his ability to make tougher shots. You say, ‘Hey, now we’re playing against a team that’s No. 1 in the country and you’re not going to have gap to kick to easy stand-still shots. You’re gonna have to make shots over long arms.’”
“The first day, I didn’t remember feeling him as much as I thought he could be felt. And I said to him, ‘Every single day that we do this, you got to match up with R.J. He might be carrying them, but you gotta carry us. If the score’s going to be even or we’re gonna be up, you have to be outplaying him. You’re definitely capable of that.’”
Couisnard, who was an all-state player at Indiana’s East Chicago Central High School, saw a major rise in his recruitment after getting to Montverde. He went from barely any Division I offers to choosing the Gamecocks over the likes of Louisville, Illinois and Virginia Tech.
“Specifically with Barrett, we definitely had some matchups there where it was exciting to watch those two guys,” Boyle Jr. said. “It’s been very clear since the beginning of the year that (Couisnard’s) a guy that’s gonna surprise a lot of people. It’s kind of surprising that people didn’t know him going into the year, seeing his ability.”
Stone’s other options
Junior 6-11 forward Brandon Stone, from the Christ School in North Carolina, could be joining Couisnard should he reclassify and commit to the Gamecocks.
But South Carolina isn’t Stone’s only option. Pittsburgh assistant coach Kevin Sutton attended Christ School’s game against York Prep last Friday in Rock Hill.
Stone, a western Pennsylvania native, lists Pitt and Penn State as other possibilities.
On what he likes about the Panthers, Stone said: “Pittsburgh is my hometown school. I live about 50 minutes from there, so I grew up watching Pitt.
“Pitt wants me to come in and be the center of their offense – get the ball on the wing, post up, do all kinds of different things.
On the Nittany Lions, Stone said: “I have a good relationship with the coaching staff. One of the assistants, coach (Jim) Ferry, he was the head coach at Duquense when they first offered me. And coach (Pat) Chambers is a great coach, I think they’re gonna make some pushes to win the Big Ten.”
Names to watch
As was reported this week, USC is also interested in Memphis point guard T.J. Moss for its ’18 class.
Some other names to monitor as the recruiting stretch run nears: E.J. Montgomery and Anfernee Simons.
Montgomery is a 6-10 McDonald’s All-American forward from Georgia. Simons, the No. 7 player in the country, is a 6-3 guard playing at IMG Academy in Florida. The soon-to-be 19-year-old will likely test the NBA waters before deciding on his future.
“There’s going to be a lot of late shaking for Simons, I think, and South Carolina’s in a great spot because they don’t need anyone, but they can definitely take someone,” said Corey Evans, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.
D.J. checks in
Stone squared off with York Prep’s D.J. Burns last Friday. Burns is the No. 53 player in the 2019 class, according to ESPN.
The 6-9, 255-pound center visited Colonial Life Arena on Jan. 20 for USC’s 70-63 loss to Tennessee.
“That was a lot of fun,” Burns said. “That was a good game. For a second, I didn’t know who was going to win. It was a great game, a lot of fun to watch. It was a great atmosphere. South Carolina packed that thing out.”
Carolina announced a sellout crowd of 18,000, its first of the season.
Burns has been offered by several schools, including both the Gamecocks and Volunteers.
“It was a lot of fun to see how they matched up,” Burns said, “but I wouldn’t say that it affected my decision.”
What will impact that choice?
“Who plays the style that I’ll be able to play,” Burns said, “where will I be able to fit in? Who’s going to be there when I make my decision? Things of that nature.”