South Carolina's Ellington returns to football
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina's Bruce Ellington is back to being a two-sport athlete after returning to football practice on Tuesday, the day the Gamecocks hired Frank Martin as their new basketball coach.
Football coach Steve Spurrier welcomed the return of the speedy, 5-foot-9 receiver to the practice field, two weeks after Ellington declared that he was giving up the sport to concentrate solely on basketball.
"He realizes he's pretty good at football and wants to play both,'' Spurrier said.
That was the case this past season when Ellington, a former state championship quarterback for Berkeley High in Moncks Corner, joined the football team after his freshman season playing basketball. Ellington said then he missed football and thought he could handle the load of both sports at the college level the way he did in high school.
Ellington did not disappoint on the field and court. He finished with 707 all-purpose yards and made the Southeastern Conference all-freshman team in South Carolina's 11-2 season. Ellington thrilled the crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium last November with his 49-yard touchdown reception in the Gamecocks' 34-13 victory over rival Clemson.
A few days later, Ellington was back on the basketball court where after a slow start he was South Carolina's second-leading scorer with 11 points per game.
Ellington announced just before the start of spring ball that he was done with football because he thought his future was in basketball. The next day, South Carolina let go of Ellington's basketball coach in Darrin Horn. By the weekend, Ellington had met with Spurrier about coming back to football.
Spurrier counseled his player to take a few more days and make sure he knew what he wanted to do.
"He thought it over and thought he made a little too quick a decision,'' Spurrier said.
Ellington was not made available to talk to the media.
Ellington looked sharp during his first workouts. He caught one pass over the middle from Connor Shaw and quickly stepped through two defenders to move it up the field.
"He was quick out there,'' Spurrier said. "His legs were fresh and he was one of the fastest guys out there, certainly.''
Spurrier thinks Ellington will stick by this latest decision and does not expect a tug-of-war with Martin, introduced on campus earlier Tuesday.
Martin was asked about Ellington's yearn to play both sports and if that would work with a new staff trying to rebuild last-place South Carolina. "I don't think that's fair for me to answer that right now because I don't know Bruce as a young man yet,'' Martin said. "I know him as a player, unbelievable basketball player, but I don't know him as a person.''
Ellington would be the Gamecocks top returning scorer next season. However, Ellington missed seven games because of his football commitment, including the first six in which South Carolina started 2-4 and fell to mid-majors Elon and Tennessee Tech.
Martin said he would talk with Ellington over the next few days.
"I can't force him'' to choose, Martin said. "He's got to do what gives him peace in his heart. Because if he's got peace in his heart, then he's got a sane mind and with that combination, then he'll be the best at whatever he chooses to do.''
Spurrier had met Martin a few moments before he was introduced to the crowd at Colonial Life Arena and then sat a few rows from the lectern at Martin's welcoming press conference.
Spurrier thinks Martin will revitalize the basketball team, which was 2-14 in the SEC this season.
"Frank Martin in my opinion knows how to coach ball,'' Spurrier said. "He would be a heck of a football coach, too.''