High School Sports

Chick-fil-A Classic: USC's future draws near + video

Anthony Gill, left, and Damontre Harris sit down for an interview Saturday during the Chik-fil-A Basketball Classic at Richland Northeast High School. This is a frame from a video.
Anthony Gill, left, and Damontre Harris sit down for an interview Saturday during the Chik-fil-A Basketball Classic at Richland Northeast High School. This is a frame from a video. thestate.com

Damontre Harris went one-by-one to his opponents, clapping hands politely, until he got to Anthony Gill. They are not particularly close, but there was a sense that they will be soon, so it warranted a hug.

Then the two future members of the South Carolina men's basketball program tipped off, appropriately enough in the city they will soon reside in.

"I like it," Gill said. "It feels like home."

Harris is set to get there sooner. The 6-foot-9 center at Trinity Christian in North Carolina is a senior who signed a letter-of-intent last month. Gill, a junior at Charlotte Christian, is the only current verbal commitment to USC for the 2011 class.

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The pair are joined at the Chik-fil-A Classic this weekend by yet another future Gamecock, guard Eric Smith from Christ School. The heavy presence is a big reason USC coach Darrin Horn and his staff are expected to spend a lot of time at the event, at Richland Northeast High School, today and Tuesday.

On Saturday, there was one assistant, Cypheus Bunton, on hand to watch Gill's team beat Harris'. But that was impressive, considering the Gamecocks were playing an hour-and-a-half away at Wofford that night.

Neither Gill or Harris played particularly great in Saturday's game. But in all fairness to the Chik-fil-A Classic, their performances in the tournament aren't likely to sway why USC's coaches are so excited to have them.

Harris is the highest-rated member of the Gamecocks' five-man 2010 signing class. His game is reminiscent of current USC starting center Sam Muldrow: The pair are similar in height, build and skill set.

"Coach has been telling me about that all the time," Harris said of the Muldrow comparison. "Just how long I am. How I like to play defense, block shots, rebound and run the floor."

Harris admitted that his offensive game needs work, especially his moves facing the basket. But he showed on Saturday that he values defense, putting his lanky arms in front of every shot he could. And he could also run the floor, making him a good fit for Horn's up-tempo style.

Longtime national recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons, who watched Saturday's game from courtside, called Harris "still a work in process."

"He obviously needs to get stronger. But you can see the talent level is there," Gibbons said. "He's got the athleticism. I don't know he's quite as (good) yet as some of the Internet people have him rated. But he's a top 100 prospect and a key component in the best recruiting class in the SEC."

Gibbons has the Gamecock class ranked ninth in the country, a figure bolstered by the sheer quantity of players signed. He pointed out that with two guards (Smith and Bruce Ellington), a wing (Brian Richardson) and two big men (Harris and Slawson) it's almost a team in itself.

As for the 6-7 Gill, his performance in the Chik-fil-A will probably be a poor preview of his Gamecock career. He plays in the post for Charlotte Christian, but is more suited in college for small forward, the position he plays for his AAU team.

Gibbons thinks Gill will come into his own more next season on Charlotte Christian, which has a senior bound for Virginia, and with one more season under his "outstanding" coach.

But playing for his future coaches is part of the reason Gill made his Gamecock commitment.

"I just really like the coaching staff, and they can make me better," Gill said.

South Carolina nabbed Harris despite a late push from more successful programs, like Florida and Wake Forest. When he arrives, he figures to be the post man in waiting, with Muldrow due to be a senior.

But Harris thinks he can help right away, and perhaps even start.

"I feel like I can make a big impact, especially on the defensive side," he said. "Because of how long I am, how I like to play defense and get after the ball. So I feel like I can make a real big impact."

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