Spurrier giving Ellington time to reconsider football

ashain@thestate.com ... jkendall@thestate.comMarch 19, 2012 

South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Bruce Ellington (23) stretches during practice at Celebration High School, Thursday, December 29, 2011.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

Bruce Ellington is considering rejoining South Carolina’s football team, but coach Steve Spurrier wants the wide receiver to think a little longer about his decision.

Spurrier, who addressed Ellington’s status on his Carolina Calls radio show, met with Ellington on Monday. Spurrier told Ellington to take the rest of the week to consider his future and join the team next week if he still wants to, Spurrier said.

“We want him to play football if he wants to, definitely,” Spurrier said on his radio show. “We don’t want him to play football if his heart is in basketball. Instead of him saying, ‘I want to play football,’ or ‘I want to play basketball,’ lets really think this thing out thoroughly.”

Spurrier believes Ellington can continue to play both sports and be successful, he said.

“I don’t think playing football hurt him in basketball, some people say it did,” Spurrier said. “We want to do what is best for Bruce, football and basketball. If he wants to play both, let’s go play both. If he wants to pick one and go out, he has that choice. It’ll be his call, and we want to give him the rest of this week.”

The Gamecocks practice three times this week - Tuesday, Friday and Saturday - and will have nine spring practice sessions left after those workouts.

Ellington announced last week that he intended to give up football and concentrate on his role as the basketball team’s starting point guard, but basketball coach Darrin Horn was fired the next day.

Ellington visited with Gamecocks receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. this weekend about coming to spring practice, which started last week, said Jerry Brown, Ellington’s football coach at Berkeley High and now coach at Batesburg-Leesville.

Ellington amassed 780 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns last year as a receiver, quarterback and kick returner for the 11-win Gamecocks. As the basketball team’s point guard, he led USC in scoring as a freshman and was second this past season as a sophomore.

Tony Cox, Ellington’s offensive coordinator at Berkeley High, said he has been advising Ellington to commit one sport because of the physical and mental demands of playing overlapping schedules.

“He wasn’t the same on the basketball court or the football field,” Cox said. “It’s too much on him to play both.”

Cox said he was not surprised that Ellington chose basketball, but he understands why Ellington would question his decision without the coach who recruited him to Columbia. He said Ellington did not know Horn would be fired when he committed to the basketball program last Monday.

“At 20, that’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid,” Cox said.

Ellington transferring from South Carolina has not come up in their discussions, Cox said.

“It's not on the table,” he said.

If Ellington chooses to play football only, the Gamecocks’ new basketball coach will be without the team’s leading returning scorer and on-court leader.

Ellington was a two-sport star at Berkeley High where he won a state football title in his senior season. He came to South Carolina on a basketball scholarship but decided after his freshman season to also play football.

The 5-foot-9 Moncks Corner native missed months of basketball practice and seven of the team’s 31 games while working out and playing for the football team. The basketball team struggled early in the season without him and never recovered even after he returned to the lineup as the Gamecocks went 10-21 and a school-worst 2-14 in the SEC.

He was named the SEC’s freshman of the week in basketball and football last year. Ellington is a rising junior in basketball and would be a redshirt sophomore in football if he plays next season.

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