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Oct. 26, 2006

South Carolina’s leading scorer from last season, senior Tarence Kinsey of Tampa, Fla., was named to NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies opening day roster today after signing a free agent contract in July.

Kinsey joins former Gamecock Renaldo Balkman as the second player from the Gamecocks’ NIT Championship teams (2005, 2006) to be on a 2006 NBA opening day roster. Balkman was the No. 20 pick by the New York Knicks in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft.

Oddly enough – the Grizzlies’ first game of the season – Wed., Nov. 1 vs. none other than Renaldo Balkman’s New York Knicks in Memphis.

“I know for myself I came a long way. I know Renaldo came a long way. To be on the same court with two different teams, it’s gonna be unbelievable. I don’t know what we will talk about or what will be said, but I will be sure to let you know,” said Kinsey laughing.

“It wasn’t easy – making the team. There are a lot of tears behind this. A lot of `Why Me’s?’,” said Kisney. “Since I started playing basketball, I heard things: `you are too small to play Division I”, `you’ll never make the NBA’, all kind of things. It was always my dream to play in the NBA. I think a lot of the things I learned from Coach Odom impressed the coaches in Memphis: keeping things that might be bothering you off the court, paying attention in practice, always being right near the coaches in practice, listening and learning. All the little things I learned in college helped me so much.

“Right now my t-shirt is wet. My nose is running. My eyes are watering, but I am not crying,” said Kinsey. “I just feel all the weight off my shoulders, all the relief. Plus excitement. I can’t say what the future holds, but I know for a fact that I will appreciate it more and continue to do the things that impress the coaches. Come in early, stay late, pay attention in practice the entire time, do the right things off the court – all the little things. Just continue to play hard for real.”

“It’s America’s dream,” said USC Head Coach Dave Odom. “If you just believe and you work and things come together at the right time – anything is possible. This story – Tarence making the Memphis team and Renaldo making the New York team – will be a story that will be told tomorrow around the country. The coaches will say `look what’s happened to those guys — it can happen to you, too.’ It is one that will be shared with countless number of coaches and players. It’s a great thing for them and I am just so very proud. I can’t tell you how proud I am of both of them. I am not surprised that Tarence made it. I talked to the Memphis people (coaches, GM Jerry West) a lot and I knew all along this is what they wanted to happen. There was a setback when he got that injury a month ago, but good things happen when you keep the faith.

“I’m so proud of both Tarence and Renaldo. The two coming out of the same program in one year – just wonderful,” said Odom.

Kinsey’s 2006-07 Statistics in four pre-season games with the Grizzlies PPG: 8.0; RPG: 4.50; APG: 1.0: EFF: + 6.75

Kinsey only played in four pre-season games because he broke his nose canal bone and two other bones in his eye socket in Sept. – in a pick-up game in Memphis just days before training camp opened. “I have to have another surgery, but I wear a mask,” said Kinsey. “It gets hot and sticky and foggy, but I play through that in games and practice.”

At Carolina for four years, Kinsey scored 1204 career points, finishing No. 25 on the all-time points scored list. He scored 602 points last season – which is No. 7 all-time in a single season. He finished third all-time with 123 games played and he finished second all-time in a season with 1320 minutes played and second in games started with 37. He finished his career in the top 10 of four career lists including No. 5 all-time with 129 three pointers. In 2006 he led the team in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage and points per game (15.8). He was second in steals and assists and third in rebounds.

Kinsey said he spoke to two current Gamecocks tonight – Tre’ Kelley and Brandon Wallace.

“Tre’ was like my little agent,” said Kinsey. “He was really happy tonight. He told me tonight he had a dream I didn’t make it and he woke up crying. His support meant a lot to me. Every time I talk to Tre’, I talk to Brandon, too because they are together a lot.

“They both told me what a friend is supposed to tell you throughout all this: keep your spirits up man; you are better than most of the players drafted – so many things,” said Kinsey. “I could tell Tre’ really meant it – it’s straight from his heart. We talked a lot. I would give him advice on how to lead, how to get the younger players to step their game up, how to help the younger players.

“You always hear people say you can be whatever you want to be,” said Kinsey. “The hardest past is getting in the NBA and the next hardest part is staying in.

“You never know what you can happen. Never give up,” said Kinsey.