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Jan. 23, 2007

USC Head Coach Dave Odom announced Tuesday that Hopkins, S.C. native and Syracuse University transfer Mike Jones was admitted to the university last Friday and started class on Monday. Per NCAA rules, Jones will have to sit out a year and will be eligible for play with the Gamecocks after the Fall 2007 semester.

Jones is a 6′ 8, 210 forward who graduated from Lower Richland High School last spring. Jones played in 11 games with Syracuse this season, averaging 6.2 mpg and 1.9 ppg.

“We are delighted he is here. I think he is going to make a real impact on our team. It will be a slow impact this year because we are so far along, but I know that up and down our roster everyone is excited about having him here,” said Odom. “They welcomed him yesterday. He is at home here in Columbia and here at the university with the Gamecocks. He is one of those guys where the game comes naturally to him. He will be working out with our coaches, but not practicing with the team. It’s so late in the season and we want him to get fully involved in his classwork. He has done well so far. I always admired his game in high school. He has an all-court game. He has really good skills for someone inside, shoots the ball really well and scores.”

“It is a great program and a great coaching staff at Syracuse,” said Jones. “I don’t regret my decision (going to Syracuse). In a lot of ways it helped me. I adapted quick and they were great. I just wanted to play in front of my family and be closer to home. When I decided to transfer, I knew I was coming back home because South Carolina was my second choice. It feels great. I am off to a great start. I still will be working out, but I want to get off to a good academic start so that is ok. Near the break, I knew my family wasn’t going to be there and I wanted them to be. I would think my mom didn’t see the game or my brother, etc.

“Next year I think I bring depth to the team,” said Jones. “I will try to help them win. When I first got released I called Coach Odom and told him I wanted to come home. Me, Zam, Devon, Mike Holmes (signee) all played with the Ravens (AAU team) and we are excited to play together again. I know the fans expect a lot of me and I will keep working on my game. I think naturally I am more of a `3′. I think we will be a sleeper next year. I feel like I am back home.”

Senior Brandon Wallace (2003 Mr. Basketball) is joined by a host of Mr. Basketball’s as transfers this season, with all playing next year. Zam Fredrick was Mr. Basketball in 2004, Devan Downey was Mr. Basketball in 2005 and Jones was Mr. Basketball in 2006. And with five of USC’s 2007 signees coming from South Carolina, it’s a pretty good guess the 2007 South Carolina Mr. Basketball might be a Gamecock in the making as well.

Jones was a prep standout at Lower Richland High School. He capped his sophomore campaign with all-region and all-state, and state player of the year honors. Jones averaged 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocks per game as a junior, while leading Lower Richland to the third round of the Class 4A playoff. He was the Class 4A State Player of the Year. As a senior, Jones was named the state’s Class 4A Player of the Year for the third straight time and was selected as South Carolina’s Mr. Basketball. Jones averaged 21 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 steals. Over his three seasons on the varsity, Jones led Lower Richland to a 74-10 overall record. He tallied 16 points in 16 minutes for the Black Jerseys in the 2006 Jordan All-America Classic at Madison Square Garden. He was named MVP of the 2006 Carolinas All-Star Basketball Classic after tallying 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocked shots in the 121-98 victor. The triumph snapped North Carolina’s four-game winning streak in the event. Jones has played AAU basketball for the South Carolina Ravens. Coming out of high school, Jones was rated 41st and 12th among small forwards. rated him 40th overall and 12th at his position.