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Feb. 22, 2007

Columbia, SC – USC returns home to host Senior Night, honoring Tre’ Kelley, Brandon Wallace and Bryce Sheldon, prior to its 7 pm televised game with Ole Miss on Sat, Feb. 24 at the Colonial Center. Good seats remain and fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 6:30 pm for a special salute to the seniors.

The three seniors and then Coach Odom spoke to the media on Thursday. They reflected on Senior Night, their careers and more.

Tre’ Kelley
“There are a lot of things I needed to learn as a basketball player when I came to USC. Playing for Coach Odom, from Coach Duckett, my teammates – I did learn a lot. I wanted to finish as a great point guard.

“I adjusted to the slower pace of Carolina rather than the quick pace of DC when I got here four years ago. I think I still have a DC way and I will have to adjust a little when I go back. I adjust wherever I go. They have Southern hospitality down here. Brandon helped me adjust my freshman year by letting me do it on my own and take the experience on myself – rather than telling me all the time what to do or what to expect.”

What players do you reach out to this year as a senior?
“I try to reach out to every last player. Even the seniors. I try to help them as much as I can. Maybe the freshmen like Brandis Raley-Ross, Mitchell Carter or Evka. I talk to them the most because when I was young I needed a senior to grab me and help me. I am talking to them about situations, on or off the court. You have to reach out to them.”

Talk about your friendship with Brandon Wallace.
“This is a great friendship. This is a classic friendship. 10-20-30 years from now we will still be in touch. What we have done four years is remarkable. It’s a great friendship we started off the court. We meshed right away. I remember the first time we met. He was 6’10 and he looked about 175. I knew who he was right away. We’ve been around each other off the court too – the same classes, roommates, we go out to eat together – we really meshed together.

“When you look at it and you get to know us as people, me being from DC and him from South Carolina – you might think we have different personalities. We are quiet guys who can be outgoing when we want to be. We are quiet, behind the scenes guys. We let other people do the talking about how as players.”

How does Bryce fit in?
“He fits in well even though he’s a white guy from California. The three of us all try to lead as much as possible. We just lead and compete. We are all great competitors. The first time I saw Bryce I thought he was a great shooter and a great person. He doesn’t lose control and is a great person to lead. He knew Brandon Wallace and I played here for three years and knew the system. He let us lead him and with that experience he an lead now.”

What is your favorite memory?
“The first NIT Championship when Tarence Kinsey hit the three-pointer to win the basketball game. Individually when I had 36 points at Kentucky this season. I got a couple calls later from friends and they told me the others who had hit 36 plus in Rupp Arena and it was really wonderful. Wow – great-named players.”

What’s left for this season?
“At the end of the season we hope to go on a great ride. We have the SEC Tournament left and we are a great tournament team in a tournament atmosphere. The four years here have been great. They have given me a lot of knowledge. I will take my four years here and say that were very successful.

What do you think about the future? What are your plans?
“I don’t think about either one right now. I am trying to play it out. I think the sadness and the relief will happen after the last game is played. You can’t go out and play so sensitive and worry the end is coming. I need to play it out and try to win as many games as possible.”

Should you be a candidate for the SEC Player of the Year?
“I don’t think about that. I let other people judge that. If it was my decision, I would want my whole team to the SEC Player of the Year. I have teammates that really need me and me thinking about the NBA and going further isn’t fair to them. They really need me to lead them right now. I will have time to adjust my thinking later. I will think about the future later.”

Brandon Wallace had this to say:
“It seems like yesterday that I just started. Rolando Howell, Ivan Howell, Sheldon Everett – they were the seniors when I first came in. Now it’s my turn. It has gone by unbelievably fast. The state championship game in the Colonial Center my senior year of high school to now – it went by so fast.”

What have you done for the program?
“I wanted to leave my mark on the program in blocks and rebounds. I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to, but we did go to the NCAA and win two NIT Championships. I don’t know what the fans think. I don’t concern myself with that. We have given it our all every single night.”

Do you remember meeting Tre’? What makes you such special friends?
“It was in the hallway in summer school. He asked me if I was Brandon and we’ve been best friends since then. We are a lot like. He is big city guy and I am from a small town, but we are a lot of like. He is a fun guy. I am a fun guy.

“He’s like a brother. It’s hard to describe. He’s like a brother. Probably leaving Tre’ will be harder than leaving USC, but he’s a phone call away.”

What did Tre’ learn the last four years?
“He didn’t play much defense his freshman year. He was ready to score and Coach Duckett was really on him about it. He had to guard Mike Boynton his whole freshman year and that helped him learn how to play defense.

“He’s gained so much maturity in four years. He’s gone from someone that was real quiet his freshman year and now he is the leader and one of the best players in the SEC – he’s really grown up.”

What about Bryce? How did he adapt?
“He was totally different than everyone at first. He was a different character. He had to conform to our ways. He was very outgoing and a lot of us weren’t.

Best memory?
“The first NIT – Tarence Kinsey hitting the game winning shot. Personally, my freshman year when we got selected to the NCAA Tournament on my birthday.”

What do you want to do in the future?
“I am going to keep playing as long as I can and then hopefully coach. I will try to jump on one of these guys staff. I will defiantly have a staff before Tre’ (smiles).”

Bryce Sheldon on Senior Night
“It’s been life changing – meeting the guys I’ve met. Brandon and Tre’ have become two of my best friends. Senior night will be an exciting night. We just gotta come out and try to get a win.”

Best memories?
“Winning the NIT Title, it was a dream to get a ring and finish this year strong.”

Biggest adjustment?
“The food. Sweet tea. The culture. The different lifestyle. I live a little slower no. I don’t drive fast. Move along slow and take my time now (smiling). Favorite food? I’m a big chicken guy now – bar-b-que chicken and wings – lemon pepper wings. Brandon turned me onto wings.

What makes Tre’ and Brandon’s friendship so special?
“They love to joke around. They are like brothers from another mother. They are great guys and best of friends.”

COACH ODOM ON Brandon Wallace
“He takes in everything you say as long as he feels like what you have to say is meaningful and worthwhile. He won’t tune you out. His career as a Gamecock has been remarkable. He goes up night after night against guys that are 50 or 60 pounds heavier than him. He’s in the top 2 or 3 in the league in rebounds, steals, block shots – it’s truly amazing. We really became comfortable a little over a year ago when we told him to play with his quickness and his length. I think he has some basketball left in him. I am proud of him as a young man. Hopefully he’ll graduate in May or June and I am really proud of him as a Gamecock. He truly measures up.”

“What is left to be said about Tre’ – that hasn’t been written, said or spoken. I think about the very best I have had to coach – he is in that class. The thing that makes him so very good as a basketball player is the type person he is. What his background is. What he has learned. He is very talented. He can shoot, he can pass. He can dribble. He can defend. But the thing that makes him very special is his sense of commitment and his passion for the game. He is sick over the game and I mean that in a good way. He has great passion for playing the game and playing it well. He does it without a sense of fearlessness. Most people fail because they can’t go further because they are afraid they might fail. Tre’ is afraid of neither. He plays it well because he’s not afraid. It’s been a real pleasure to have him and watch him grow.”

COACH ODOM ON Bryce Sheldon
“Bryce and the other seniors — they care more deeply about their team than they do about themselves. I know that to be true. I can point out examples on each of the three seniors. But if we can play really well in the next three games and win at least 2 of them, hopefully 3, this class will be the first class to graduate in four years and have a winning record each of the four years – since 1981-82. I am going to try very hard, our staff, our team is going to try very hard to make that dream a reality.”