Latest News

Pros call early for USC trio

Justin Smoak and Reese Havens planned to go fishing together today at Havens’ home on Sullivan’s Island. The pair have a lot to talk about.

They can talk about each being picked in Thursday’s first round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Or they can reminisce about how long they’ve known each other, and how neat it is that the pair of USC teammates get to go pro together.

Smoak, a first baseman was picked by the Texas Rangers with the 11th pick. Havens, a shortstop, was picked 22nd by the New York Mets.

“Being able to play with Reese for I don’t know how long, I guess it’s been eight years, for both of us to go in the first round, it’s awesome,” Smoak said.

The pair were joined later by USC junior James Darnell, who went in the second round, 69th, to San Diego.

When Smoak and Havens were asked on a conference call Thursday whether they would turn pro, both said yes.

“It’s gonna be a quick process for me, too,” Havens said later during a Mets teleconference. “I’m ready to get out there and play,”

Like Smoak and Havens, Darnell expects to sign.

“I’m just glad I had an opportunity to play here at South Carolina, and I’m excited about being a Padre,” Darnell said.

The 11th pick in last year’s draft received a bonus of $1.9 million, and the 22nd pick received $1.29 million. The 69th pick did not sign, but based on the nearby draft positions last year, Darnell is likely to receive slightly less than $475,000.

The Gamecocks lost recruit Jordan Lyles, a pitcher from Hartsville High who was picked 36th by Houston. Lyles signed Thursday evening with the Astros.

Junior college recruit Justin Dalles, projected to start at catcher for USC next season, was not picked in the first four rounds. But he is still a candidate to go pro. The Gamecocks also were waiting on pitchers Adam Westmoreland (Brookland-Cayce High) and Matt Price (Sumter) and outfielder Adam Matthews (White Knoll).

“We’re gonna probably get hit a little bit, and we’re just gonna have to see what happens and see late (today) see where we are,” USC coach Ray Tanner said.

In addition to Smoak and Havens, a former Gamecock was also picked in the first round. Lonnie Chisenhall, who was dismissed from the team last year after being charged with burglary and grand larceny, went to Cleveland with the 29th pick.

Chisenhall, drafted as a third baseman, started 19 games as a freshman in 2007 before he and fellow freshman Nick Fuller were arrested. Both players eventually accepted probation, and Chisenhall transferred to Pitt Community College in North Carolina.

Tanner said he gave a positive recommendation to pro scouts who spoke to him about Chisenhall. Tanner said Chisenhall had written him a remorseful letter, and he thought the player had atoned for his “mistake.”

“I’m happy for him,” Tanner said. “I’m happy for him that he did the things he needed to do on the field and off the field, and he enhanced his drafting possibilities.”

Columbia lawyer Dick Harpootlian, who represented Chisenhall, said he received a thank-you call from Chisenhall on Thursday evening.

“He’s got a great career ahead of him,” Harpootlian said. “And he’s a great kid. And I was a prosecutor for 12 years, I don’t say that kind of thing lightly.”

Thursday ended up being a validation for the decisions Smoak and Havens made three years ago to play in college.

Smoak turned out to be one of the best hitters in SEC history, breaking multiple USC records, including the career home-run mark. Havens had a slower start, but produced an outstanding junior season.

“Some people may say, ‘Well you lost two players today,’” Tanner said. “But that’s expected, that’s part of it and part of the process. We’re glad that these guys came into our program and enhanced their opportunities for professional baseball.”

Now he might face a position change. The Mets have one of the best young shortstops in baseball, Jose Reyes, and Havens has heard talk he could move to catcher, which he has never played.

“I don’t really know where I’m going to play,” Havens said. “I guess shortstop’s the idea right now starting out with. But as long as I’m in the lineup I don’t really care.”

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.

  Comments