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Horn rewards walk-ons

USC’s men’s basketball coach Darrin Horn announced Wednesday that former walk-ons Branden Conrad and Robert Wilder have been awarded scholarships for the 2008-09 season. Both are guards and played sparingly last season, their first as Gamecocks.

The moves give USC 11 scholarship players for next season.

"Both Branden and Robert have been exemplary in everything that we have asked of them since we arrived on campus," Horn said in a statement. "Since we have some scholarships available, I felt that we should reward them while we can. They have earned it and they deserve it."

The move also should help the program’s Academic Progress Rate, assuming Conrad and Wilder continue to be good students. Walk-ons do not count toward a team’s APR, but as scholarship players, the pair can boost the team’s score.

It remains to be seen whether either player will receive more playing time.

The 6-foot-1 Conrad, who played his first two seasons at Navy, appeared in 10 games last season, scoring six points and grabbing six rebounds. Previous coach Dave Odom talked of using Conrad as the backup point guard to Devan Downey, but that never materialized.

The 6-foot Wilder, a graduate of Chapin High School, had three points and two rebounds in six games last season.

Conrad has one year of eligibility left, and Wilder has two. It was not clear whether Wilder also would be on scholarship for his final season.

Horn inherited a squad with 11 returning scholarship players and recruit Darius Morrow, but Morrow was released from his letter of intent, sophomore Chad Gray was dismissed from the team, and freshman Trevor Deloach left after being told he was not in the new staff's plans.

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.