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Nov. 13, 2006

Somewhere over America – South Carolina travels to California this week for two games: first at UC-Irvine on Tues., Nov. 14 (10 pm EST) and then onto Los Angeles to help Southern California open its new $150 million Galen Center on Thur., Nov. 15 (10:30 pm EST).

On the trip across the USA, caught up with freshman guard Brandis Raley-Ross. Raley-Ross had seven points and seven rebounds in USC’s debut win over South Carolina State on Nov. 10, with Raley-Ross sinking two free throws with 21.6 seconds left to seal the deal.

USC: Have you ever been to Los Angeles? What’s the furthest west in the USA you’ve been?

BRR: No, I have never been to California. If you consider Texas as heading west, that’s it. I went to Dallas once.

USC: Do you like to fly? Get scared at all?

BRR: I prefer to drive. If I had the option to fly or drive to California, I would drive. The fact there is no way to survive a plane crash gets to me sometimes. I didn’t get any sleep last night because I had some jitters. I was thinking about going out west and hopefully seeing Kobe Bryant.

USC: What do you expect to see in LA? What has Bryce (Sheldon) told you to look for?

BRR: I hope to go Hollywood. I wanna see all the famous actresses I see on TV everyday. I don’t really think we will have time, but I am hoping. Bryce said there are a lot of celebrities around there and he said we might spot them out.

USC: Who would you want to see the most?

BRR: Kobe Bryant!

USC: How would you grade your performance on Friday night?

BRR: I would give myself a C +. I think I played hard and we won as a team, but there is a lot of room for improvement on my part and the team. I need to shoot better and not miss two free throws.

USC: What was going through your mind when you stepped to the line to shoot two free throws with 21.6 seconds left and the game on the line? Was it nerve-wracking?

BRR: I was saying to myself `I can’t miss, I can’t miss. I have to extend the lead’. When I felt it coming off my hand, I knew it was good. I was talking to myself on the free throw line and said `that’s good, that’s good. Count that’. I said that on both shots.

I was sweating so bad, my hands and my palms. I had to block out the crowd and just imagine myself outside in the back yard at home, shooting for fun.

USC: What are some of your goals this season?

BRR: I want to contribute in a major way to the team. I don’t want to sound selfish, but in high school I always said I wanted to be the SEC Freshman of the Year my first year. If I work hard enough – who knows.

USC: In order to be the SEC Freshman of the Year, what will you have to work on this season?

BRR: I will have to be consistent. Always play hard. Never take plays off. Playing smart, playing unselfish and playing as a team. You have to make open shots and make all your free throws.

USC: Who are your mentors on the team?

BRR: I look up to Tre’ Kelley and Brandon Wallace. I ask them questions all the time. They have taught me to just play on instincts and not to think too much. Just play.

USC: A couple fun questions. What is something your Gamecock teammates don’t know about you?

BRR: I have to use the bathroom before every game.

USC: If they made a movie about your life – who would play you? Who would play Coach Odom?

BRR: Keenau Reeves would play me. Laurence Fisbourne would play Coach Odom. I am a bit Matrix fan and I picture Coach Odom pulling me aside and telling me I am the one (laughing).

USC: Last one – which game are you looking forward to this year?

BRR: Kansas! They are a top five team. They have a player on their team that I wanted to play against in a big national tournament and we didn’t end up playing each other in high school. He was a top five player in the nation, Brandon Rush, there is a lot of hype around him. We both came from the same state. I wanted to see how my school, kind of building, would do against a power-house school like his. We know each other. We played on the same AAU team two summers ago. He’s the whole deal.

USC: Anything else you want to say to Gamecock fans?

BRR: Thanks for the support for the first game. It was great, considering the big football game the next day. We appreciate them coming out and hope they can continue that the whole season. Go Gamecocks!