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June 4, 2009
D-Day approaches: Downey, Archie mulling options
D-Day for the U.S. is in two days.
D-Day for South Carolina basketball is in 11 days.
By June 15, Gamecocks basketball coach Darrin Horn is hoping he'll have an answer from his top two players, point guard Devan Downey and forward Dominique Archie. The two have spent the past month and change getting feedback from the NBA about their draft chances.
The deadline to withdraw with no penalty is June 15. That's 11 more days of waiting with held breath. The duo returns, and the Gamecocks should continue to improve on a 21-10 season that claimed the program's first division title since 1996-97.
The duo leaves, and if Horn and his guys aren't back to square one, they're pretty close to it.
"My job is to support him and the priority in our program is taking care of our young people," Horn said after the season and repeated often during Gamecock Club stops this summer, speaking about Downey but amended later for Archie as well. "My goal is to gather accurate information. Help him understand what the real facts are as he moves forward trying to make that decision and obviously, we'll support him in any way we can."
By all accounts, Horn and his staff have diligently worked to get Downey and Archie the best feedback. Each of the pair has had at least one workout (Oklahoma City) and Archie had another with Houston.
Despite that, neither was invited to the pre-draft combine. Neither appears on any of a number of online mock drafts. It doesn't appear there will be any surprises (like Cleveland taking Ryan Stack rather out-of-the-blue in 1998, sending the draft analysts scrambling for their notes) and besides, the draft is 10 days after the withdrawal deadline.
Horn still doesn't have his answer.
"I don't know what he's going to do," a family member of Downey's said recently. "We talked just the other day but he hasn't made a final decision. He's 22 years old and we're trying to let him decide."
What may be holding the pair up from committing to their senior seasons is what's happened recently to a couple of their opponents. Florida's Nick Calathes and Clemson's Terrence Oglesby recently voided their college careers to go pro in Europe, Calathes withdrawing from the NBA Draft to do so and Oglesby leaving after two years of college.
With the foreign influence heavy in the NBA, a growing trend has college stars (and some high school stars) going overseas to play. There's only so many U.S. college kids that are going to be drafted but there's an abundance of teams across the world where players can go, make a good living and perhaps catch the NBA's eye in a few years.
Downey and Archie have to weigh every decision. They've got 11 days to do so.
Horn welcomed two of his four-man signing class, shooting guard Steve Spinella and forward Lakeem Jackson to summer class this week and the other two, point guard Ramon Galloway and forward Johndre Jefferson, should be on campus for the second summer session in July. They can begin learning the grueling conditioning system Horn has installed because they're going to have to play some next year.
How much depends on the decision of the team's two best players. And to put it bluntly, even with the two back, the improvement of the SEC East may have a good USC team finishing fourth.
But no one's kidding themselves, thinking the loss of one or both of them would be a mere speedbump in the Gamecocks' progressive road.
"I think we're going to continue to recruit the same way and potentially add someone whether he's going to be back or not, looking at our roster and our depth on the perimeter in the next year, whether we're going to basically lose every single guy we have on the perimeter," Horn said after the season. "How we utilize the strengths, with our personnel, sure, if he's here, maybe we lean it more towards one way or we utilize him differently than if he wasn't, but I don't think it's going to affect major decisions with our program as we move forward."