Heavyweight Joe Frazier’s home state will be represented by the South Carolina Gamecocks against UNC to kick off the ESPN season September 3. But after football wraps up with the annual Clemson-USC rivalry watch out for a breakout basketball season in a lower-weight division with Detrek Browning of Francis Marion.
We ran the Value Add Sports calculations on all returning South Carolina athletes and emailed 63 sports writers and other experts in the state to help rank the 20 state players to watch, on a list we will update here.
The most important player in the state may be defensive end Shaq Lawson of Clemson, part of the best defensive unit in the country last year that loses nine starters this season. Lawson tied Refrigerator Perry’s Clemson mark for most sacks as a freshman, then played even better last year.
Obviously the South Carolina-Clemson rivalry is part of the SEC-ACC debate every year. This season ESPN projects Clemson to have the fourth best defense in America in large part due to Lawson.
According to www.valueaddsports.com, Clemson also has the best returning basketball player in the state in Jaron Blossomgame, who fought through injuries late last year.
However, if we had sufficient Division 2 stats to run the Value Add Basketball equations, Detrek Browning out of little known Francis Marion University would likely be one of the top D2 players in the country to watch. Value Add has consistently shown basketball players make their huge jump between the freshman and sophomore season, and despite having little support Browning managed to win freshman of the year in the very tough Peach Belt Conference.
I asked Francis Marion for a photo, and the one they provided of the 6-foot-2 freshman fighting to the hoop against bigger defenders seemed to embody a guy who was the second-leading freshmen scorer in NCAA Division II at 17.4 points per game. Add his assists (103), steals (71), free throw percentage (82.3), and a new school-record 71 steals and you have a guy you need to watch.
So while Clemson-South Carolina is the Ali-Frazier battle in the state in many sports, there are players to watch in 2015-16 on the campuses of Coastal Carolina, Francis Marion, Furman, Presbyterian, Winthrop and Wofford.
- Deshaun Watson, Clemson Tigers, Foot, QB
2. Shaq Lawson, Clemson Tigers, Foot, DE
3. Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson Tigers, Basketball, PF
4. Detrek Browning, Francis Marion University, Basketball, Guard (pictured)
5. Marquavious Lewis, South Carolina, Football, DE
6. Alaynie Page, South Carolina, Softball,
7. Connor Mitch, South Carolina Gamecocks, Foot, QB
8. Savannah McCaskill, South Carolina, Soccer, Midfielder
9. Salma Anastasio, Clemson, Soccer, Forward
10. Chalese Davis, South Carolina, Track/Field, Long JumpMen
11. Stephen Croone, Furman, Basket, PG
12. Ryan Bermudez, South Carolina, Track/Field, 400m DashMen
13. Chris Okey, Clemson, Baseball, C
14. DeSean Murray, Presbyterian, Basket, SF
15. Reed Rohlman, Clemson, Baseball, OF
16. Shannon Horgan, Clemson, Soccer, Defender
17. Chris Okey, Clemson, Baseball,
18. Duane Notice, South Carolina, Basket, PG
19. Eli White, Clemson, Baseball, SS
20. Xavier Cooks, Winthrop, Basket, C
Others Receiving Votes
Eric Garcia, Wofford, Basket, PG and Shivaughn Wiggins, Coastal Carolina, Basket, PG