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April 5, 2007

Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina forward Melanie Johnson has elected to forego her fifth year of eligibility with the Gamecock women’s basketball team to pursue a career in professional basketball.

A second-team all-Southeastern Conference performer in 2005-06, Johnson was recognized as the SEC Player of the Week during her senior year after a 23-point performance against East Tennessee State in the season opener. She ranked second on the team in 2006-07 with 8.7 points per game and led the team with 5.5 rebounds per game. Her 1.97 steals per game also led the team and ranked her 10th in the SEC.

“We wish Mel the best of luck as she turns pro and moves forward with her career,” Head Coach Susan Walvius said. “We’re proud of what she accomplished while she was here and that she is set to earn her degree in May. We had a conversation after the season ended weighing the positives and negatives of going pro and Mel felt like it was better to do that rather than going to grad school and playing another year of college ball.”

Johnson originally came to South Carolina in 2003 but did not suit up for the Gamecock basketball team until the 2004-05 season. On track to graduate in May with a degree in retail management, Johnson would have earned a fifth year of eligibility at the collegiate level. However, she has hired an agent and will conduct multiple tryouts with WNBA teams in the coming weeks.

“I had a great time playing at Carolina, met great people and played with great teammates,” Johnson said. “I had the opportunity to compete and play against the best players in the world. It was the experience of a lifetime, but it’s time for me to look ahead. I thank the coaching staff for the opportunity that they gave me to represent the University and the state of South Carolina.”

Carolina has placed four players in the WNBA, including four-time WNBA All-Star and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Shannon Johnson of the Detroit Shock and Shaunzinski Gortman of the Seattle Storm. Former Gamecocks Jocelyn Penn and Petra Ujhelyi also competed in the WNBA. A total of nine former Carolina players are currently competing in professional leagues overseas.

The Gamecocks finished the 2006-07 season with an 18-15 record and advanced to the third round of the Women’s NIT. Seven letterwinners depart from that team, with all seven set to graduate this year.