For less than 24 hours, Tonka Hemingway knew his college choice and had a weight lifted off his shoulders.
The four-star defensive lineman and fourth-rated recruit in the class of 2020 in the state according to 247Sports divulged his choice during a commitment ceremony at Conway High School on Thursday, pledging the next four years of his football career to the University of South Carolina.
“It was home; it felt like home each time I went up there,” Hemingway said of his choice. “It made it easier on my family to be able to come to games and support me. I had a long talk with my parents last night and (we made the decision). It’s a lot of pressure off me. I’m really excited.”
During the recruiting process, Hemingway flirted with the likes of the University of North Carolina, Duke, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest, but felt the home-state Gamecocks checked all of the boxes he sought in a school.
The decision allows him to clear his mind — and visit schedule — to gear up for a huge senior season for the Conway Tigers.
“It’s good. I can play now without having to worry about nothing,” he said of committing before the high school football season starts. “I’m ready to work and get after it.”
Conway head coach Carlton Terry called Hemingway a standout in the classroom and sports arena and a great example for the rest of his program.
“It means a lot to see him get this recognition. The hard work he’s put in both academically and athletically shows the other kids that if you work hard, your dreams will come true,” Terry said.
“He is one of our leaders and when you have a lineman who is a leader, that leads to success,” Terry added. “He does it the right way, he comes in and works hard. He really leads this team by example, but he’s gotten more vocal this summer. He’s a great kid and a great representative of this program.”
Hemingway doesn’t have any plans to recruit on the Grand Strand for the Gamecocks, but the biggest fish on the offensive side of the ball — Myrtle Beach senior quarterback Luke Doty — is all but packed for Columbia. The two future Gamecocks will meet on the field this year, where Hemingway said it will be no holds barred.
“Outside the field, we’re good. Inside the lines, we’re enemies this year,” he said with a bit of a grin.
With Hemingway’s commitment, the third major recruit on the Grand Strand has fallen, with Doty and Hemingway committed to USC and Carolina Forest’s Mason Garcia headed to East Carolina next season.
Hemingway and the Tigers will begin their regular season with a Week Zero matchup at North Myrtle Beach next Friday. Friday, they’ll face Loris in the 30th Conway National Bank Kickoff Classic at Coastal Carolina’s Brooks Stadium.
The Gamecocks already have Hammond four-star tackle Alex Huntley in the class, plus Georgia three-star Makius Scott. USC is also after several high-profile linemen, including five-star Jordan Burch from Hammond, four-star Reggie Grimes from Tennessee and five-star Desmond Evans from North Carolina.
SOUTH CAROLINA CLASS OF 2020 COMMITS
▪ Luke Doty, QB (Myrtle Beach HS, SC)
▪ MarShawn Lloyd, RB (DeMatha Catholic HS, MD)
▪ Da’Qon Stewart, ATH, (North Mecklenburg HS, NC)
▪ Eric Shaw, TE/ATH, (Reeltown HS, AL)
▪ Jazston Turnetine, OL (Hutchinson Community College, KS)
▪ Tyshawn Wannamaker OL (Calhoun County HS, SC)
▪ Trai Jones, OL (Abbeville HS, SC)
▪ Vershon Lee, OL (Woodbridge, VA)
▪ Mike Wyman, WR, (Greensboro Dudley HS, NC)
▪ Mohamed Kaba, LB (Clinton HS, NC)
▪ Alex Huntley, DL (Hammond HS, SC)
▪ Makius Scott, DL (Gainesville HS, GA)
▪ Tonka Hemingway, DL (Conway HS, SC)
▪ O’Donnell Fortune, DB (Sumter HS, SC)
▪ Dominick Hill, DB (Jones HS, FL)
▪ Joey Hunter, DB (Sandy Springs HS, GA)
▪ Kai Kroeger, P (Lake Forest HS, IL)