Late teammate’s memory drives Gamecocks’ newest hometown baseball commit

Playing baseball at South Carolina has been a dream for Kameron Dunlap.

The White Knoll High senior moved a step closer to that when he committed to the Gamecocks’ program last week.

But days after his commitment, Dunlap was thinking about more than his future playing at Founders Park. He also was remembering his former White Knoll teammate Brett Williams, who would have been a freshman this season for the Gamecocks.

Williams, who was a year older than Dunlap, committed to USC as a sophomore Jan. 5, 2017. Less than two weeks after that, the 16-year-old died as the result of complications related to an illness.

“To have committed to USC, it means a lot to me because it has always been my dream school since I was a little kid,” Dunlap said. “A couple years ago my friend Brett Williams passed away and he was supposed to go to USC to be a Gamecock. Every time I go out on the field, I do it all for him and that means a lot to me.”

According to Lexington County Coroner, Williams tested positive for Influenza B a few days before his death. Following this initial diagnosis, his symptoms worsened significantly until his passing.

Williams’ death stunned the White Knoll community but his memory lives in the program. In the opener of the 2017 season, Williams was honored in an emotional ceremony with his parents throwing out the first pitch. Former USC coach Chad Holbrook sent the Williams’ No. 22 jerseys (Williams’ number) for the funeral and honored him during a game.

Last April, the White Knoll team dedicated its hitting facility in Williams’ honor on Senior Night.

“Brett would help me out me with a lot of things like telling me that everything is going to be all right and to not worry, that he’s got my back,” Dunlap said. “He even helped me with my homework sometimes because I needed it. He was like my older brother and he was always there for me.”

Before the first at-bat of every game, Dunlap writes Williams’ No. 22 in the dirt. He hopes to honor Williams with his play on the field in his senior season at White Knoll and going forward at USC.

Dunlap played his first two years at White Knoll before spending last season at P27 Academy in Lexington. He returned to White Knoll for his senior year.

White Knoll coach Blake Roland said one of his first memories of Dunlap was during his sophomore season in 2018. The Timberwolves played TL Hanna and Dunlap went 2-for-3 in the game with a double.

After the game, Roland texted Stuart Lake, Roland’s old college coach at Charleston Southern who is now on USC coaching staff, that USC should keep an eye on Dunlap.

“Fast forward two years and things are coming to fruition,” Roland said. “ All the credit goes to Kam. He is an exceptional kid and player. It’s nice to see him get this opportunity; he definitely deserves it.”

The 5-foot-11, 165-pound left-hander turned heads last month when he hit 92 mph at last month’s Diamond Prospect showcase at Founders Park. He won the Golden Arm Award for his team during the event and is ranked as No. 6 left-handed pitcher in state by Diamond Prospects.

“We believe he’s going to be a mid-90s guy come the time season starts in March,” Roland said. “USC loved his arm talent from the left side and feel like he projects as a potential big-time arm in the future.

“Kam is a strong, quick, extremely athletic kid. He has great arm strength and great speed and he can hit for power. He’s been refining some areas of his game as a pitcher and working on strengthening his secondary stuff.”

Dunlap is eager to get his senior season started and ready to be part of the Gamecock program. He is seventh in-state commit for Gamecocks’ 2020 class and third from the Midlands. The other two are Lexington’s David Cromer and Chapin’s Cade Austin.

“The coaching staff at Carolina has been great at keeping in touch and has proven to have all the tools necessary to develop me into a better athlete on and off of the field,” Dunlap said. “I plan on working hard and proving myself not only to the fans but more importantly the coaches.”