Signing period draws closer

Posted by David Cloninger on November 7, 2013 

Marcus Stroman

KIM KIM FOSTER-TOBIN — kkfoster@thestate.com

An update from the recruiting trail …

For those of you who don’t follow Twitter, South Carolina expectedly lost a recruit on Thursday when Dante Buford committed to Oklahoma over the Gamecocks. Buford was a player that USC spent a lot of time recruiting, but during his official visit last week, the Gamecocks didn’t get the feeling that he was going to pick them. It’s part of the game – while it’s harsh to accept the loss of manpower and work hours recruiting the kid, at the end of the day, it’s his decision.

The positive side of it is that had Buford committed, USC would have been one over the scholarship limit going into next year. Now, the Gamecocks may still try to go get somebody (“the numbers always work out”) but right now, they are expected to sign Marcus Stroman and TeMarcus Blanton next week and that will be the class.

The early signing period lasts from Nov. 13-20, but there should be no hiccups with Stroman and Blanton turning their verbal commitments into binding commitments.

That early period is also going to get very interesting for USC’s women’s team. As you heard here first, Bianca Cuevas and Doniyah Cliney have already pledged to Dawn Staley, joining Kaydra Duckett, who verbaled in the spring. They’re all going to sign at some point next week. What remains to be seen is who will sign with them, if anybody will sign with them.

Jatarie White, the No. 7 national prospect, and Shakayla Thomas (No. 12) each took their officials to USC last week and things went swimmingly. Now, that doesn’t mean they’ll end up picking the Gamecocks, but USC is squarely in the mix for each of them. They are each going to make their decisions and sign during the early period.

Thomas is taking an official to her home-state school, Alabama, this weekend. She announced yesterday via Twitter that she will sign at her high school on Nov. 14 (and she made it clear that she hasn’t made a decision yet). White has completed her five official visits and will sign on Nov. 15.

Where does USC stand with each?

Good question. Both are playing it very close to the vest, and while USC is in the mix, who knows what will happen over these last crazy days?

Thomas has another official visit to go, and it’s to a home-state school. While Alabama is not expected to be good this year, Thomas knows that she can go somewhere close and be a star from Day 1. At USC, she would certainly play and play a lot, but there will also be a lot of talent around her. Then again, the Gamecocks will be winning a lot more games than the Crimson Tide will over the next couple of years.

White’s very close relationship with top national recruit A’ja Wilson may play into her decision. While on her official last week, Wilson hung out with White at the football game, according to Wilson’s father. And here’s a little something I picked up – White is coming back to USC this weekend and will be at the women’s game on Sunday.

Speaking of Wilson, how’s she doing? Just fine, her dad Roscoe Wilson says. She took her official to North Carolina two weekends ago and had a great time, but the recruiting process for her is over until the spring.

There are more important things on the horizon, most notably her senior season at Heathwood Hall. The Lady Highlanders started practice this week.

Wilson is also working on a senior project about women’s sports, working in Title IX and the like, and is using her recruitment to aid her research. Her dad spoke about that.

“She has gained so much information, knowledge and perspective about the women’s game, everywhere she’s been,” Wilson said. “She’s gathering information and knowledge from all coaches, Geno Auriemma, Sylvia Hatchell, Dawn Staley. She’s learning something new every day.”

Got to say, for a 17-year-old, she has quite a strong head on her shoulders. Wilson isn’t being wooed by the recruiting process despite her status, and is still concentrating on her school and team, her family, her community service and on using her celebrity to further advancement for women’s sports. She’s got a lot more to offer than a hook shot.

Alright? Everybody got it? Cool. I’ll update you next week when it gets closer to the dates, and throw you any bones I get in the meantime.

P.S. USC starts its seasons this week, and as a pre-emptive strike, it’s “Gamecocks” for each team. There is no “Lady Gamecocks.” Just FYI.

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