South Carolina's 2013 baseball signing class will include two players from hometown Lexington High School, including one that's ranked among the top 20 prospects in the country.
Lexington catcher Nick Ciuffo and left-handed pitcher Cole McMillan held a signing ceremony Wednesday inside the school. The two are among the 16 athletes the Gamecocks have committed for this class.
Ciuffo (pronounced "SHOE-foe") is a five-star recruit and rated No. 16 nationally by ESPN. He is the No. 14 prospect by Perfect Game and the No. 3 ranked catcher. He committed to USC as a 14-year-old and moved to Lexington from Wando High after his sophomore season.
Ciuffo hit .360 with three home runs last year, while McMillan was 8-0.
More about Nick Ciuffo
Head coach Brian Hucks on Ciuffo
He's a special talent. Nick is a once-in-a-lifetime talent that you get to coach. He's a talented player but he's also a leader. He's one of the hardest working guys we've got. All the recognition he gets is deserved. He's got a chance to play the game for a very long time.
Hucks' scouting report on Ciuffo
He's as good a defensive catcher as there is in the country. He's got a big-time arm and his power potential at the plate is something he's starting to develop into. He can hit the ball a long way. He's a left-handed hitter and a right-handed thrower.
Q&A with Ciuffo
It's more more than 1,000 days since you committed, right?
Too many to count, I know that. About three years. It's been a long journey since then, but it's gone by fast.
Talk about being committed to a school for so long.
It's a weight off your shoulders. You don't have to worry about impressing anybody. You just go out there and play.
What's your personal scouting report?
I feel like defensively behind the plate, I'm pretty good blocking and throwing and calling a game. When I get into a couple baseballs I can hit them a long way.
What about South Carolina impressed you the most?
Everything about it, from the stadium, to the coaches, to the players, to the weekend atmospheres when you play Florida. I love the campus. I love the Horseshoe. I love everything about it. If I didn't love everything I wouldn't have committed as early as I did.
Tell me about Cole, since you get to catch him.
He gets up there in the mid-80s and can throw you a change-up and then the next pitch throws you the hammer. He's one of the best pitchers I've caught.
What's it like being one of the top recruits in the country?
It has perks but once you get on the field you don't think about that kind of stuff. Going to all the big events is fun, but what I like better is coming back home and playing with my high school team.
How is it to commit to a team that's had so much success?
It's awesome to come in and have those high expectations. When you have high expectations as a team, I feel like that makes you play better and work harder.
More about Cole McMillan
Head coach Brian Hucks on McMillan
Cole is one of those left-handed pitchers that nobody seems to be able to lock in on. He's not an overpowering guy by the radar gun but nobody ever hits Cole. He's one of those guys, once he learns how to command his pitches, he's got a chance to have a really bright future. He's already a really dominant pitcher as a high school player and he's just starting to come into his own as a pitcher. The future is very bright for him.
Hucks' scouting report on McMillan
His fastball is very good. It's got some deception to it. There aren't a lot of guys who get comfortable swings on him. He's got a plus breaking ball. It's one of those breaking balls that are so big, sometimes it's in the zone, sometime's its not. And he's developing a pretty good changeup right now.
Q&A with McMillan
What does it mean to finally sign with a school?
It means a lot. I've been looing forward to this day for a long time time. It's weird it's finally here. I feel old. It's a relief to sign. Going through the recruiting process was so stressful at times. I'm glad I'll be playing abseall another four years.
When did you land on the Gamecocks' radar?
This past season down at the IP Classic (in Georgetown) I threw a no-hitter. That caught their eye and they followed me this summer.
Talk about Nick as your catcher here at Lexington.
It puts a whole lot of pressure off of me as a pitcher. You know if you miss a spot on a curveball in the dirt, he's going to block it. Nothing is going to get by him.
What's your personal scouting report?
I'm a fastball/curveball kind of guy, and I'll mix in a change-up now and then.
You grew up here. What's it like to sign with the hometown school?
My dad went there and I grew up a Carolina fan and always going to the games. I felt a good chemistry with the team and the coaches. I like what they've been doing there. My family is really excited I'm going to be playing somewhere close to home. We live 20 minutes from the stadium, so it will be nice having them come to all our events, games and scrimmages.
What do you like about Chad Holbrook?
I like everything about him. He and Coach Hucks remind me of each other, the way they coach and lead. I'm looking forward to playing under him.
What did USC coaches tell you they like about you?
Getting people out, really. A lot of swings and misses on my balls. That's what they said they liked the most.