On Monday afternoon, more than 24 hours before Frank Martin had to face him, the South Carolina coach spoke to how much he enjoyed recruiting Devontae Shuler.
The courting didn’t result in a win — Shuler picked Ole Miss in October 2016 — but the relationship Martin gained is still cherished.
“I’m a big fan of Devontae,” Martin said of the Irmo native. “I always have, I always will be. He’s a great kid. I got to know his whole family. They’re good people. Donnella still comes to our games. His older sister, she still comes to our games.
“I’m really happy for him. He’s playing real well right now. He’s an unbelievable competitor.”
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Martin’s Gamecocks beat the Rebels, 79-64, on Tuesday at Colonial Life Arena. Shuler, a sophomore guard playing this close to home for the first time in his college career, started and scored six points, grabbed seven rebounds and had two assists.
“I hate it for him tonight,” said Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis. “I know he would have loved to play better. He’s got an unbelievable family, but he’s been such a huge part of our run and getting off to the start we have in the SEC.”
Shuler, a former four-star prospect who attended Irmo High School but graduated from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, took to Twitter after the game to express his admiration for Martin — but also why he chose to leave his home state.
“I’ll always have love for (South Carolina) and (Frank Martin),” Shuler posted. “I just felt like being home around bad influences would have me somewhere I would not want to be. (There’s) many of stories of why I did not stay home. And I’m here to tell you that I did for my fam to keep my career goin(g).”
Martin later quote-tweeted Shuler’s post and added: “U r an unbelievable young man with an awesome family. Keep growing and know that I will always b in your corner for anything u need.”
Shuler is averaging 9.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists for the Rebels (18-8, 8-5). He’s been playing through a foot injury since the middle of last month.
“He’s been unbelievable for us,” Davis said. “Devontae had a stress fracture and a stress reaction. He’s still not 100 percent. He’s been playing (like that) for the past six weeks. He hurt it against Mississippi State (on Jan. 12) and his toughness is unbelievable.”