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Basketball newcomers adjust to college

Johndre Jefferson
Johndre Jefferson

Johndre Jefferson can feel the expectations every time he walks around South Carolina's campus.

"It's been awhile since the fans around here have been excited about basketball," said the 6-foot-9 Jefferson, a Santee native. "But coach (Darrin) Horn coming in and doing as good a job as he did last year, they're very excited about it again, and people are talking."

Jefferson, a junior college transfer, and the three freshmen are one of the reasons the team is expected to do well.

None of them may be starting when the season opens in November. But they are a part of the equation for a team that won 21 games last season and is shooting for its first NCAA tournament berth since 2004.

Jefferson will provide frontcourt depth. Swingman Lakeem Jackson, the highest-rated freshman of the group, figures to get plenty of playing time. Ramon Galloway could back up point guard Devan Downey and play some shooting guard. Stephen Spinella, a 6-foot-4 shooting specialist, could provide a spark off the bench.

The four newcomers have worked into practices since the summer, but will not start full-scale workouts for a couple of weeks. USC was allowed two hours of full-team work last week, and also are doing workouts in smaller groups.

Galloway said he "gained a little freshman 15" but added it was good strength on his 6-foot-2 frame. Jefferson, listed at 205 pounds, also said he added 10 pounds.

Jackson, whose weakness is supposed to be shooting, said he had been working on that more than he did in high school.

"It's coming along," Jackson said.

Horn said a common thread runs through his first recruiting class at USC: Versatility, athleticism and length.

"I had an old coach tell me one time, 'You ought to sign better players every year.' In theory that's great, but it doesn't always happen," Horn said. "This class is without question a step in that direction. Especially when you look toward what we're trying to build."