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July 17, 2007

The NBA Summer League in Las Vegas has concluded and four former South Carolina basketball players Renaldo Balkman (New York Knicks), Tarence Kinsey (Memphis Grizzles), Brandon Wallace (Boston Celtics) and Carlos Powell (Golden State Warriors) all played measurable minutes. Here is a look at how each former Gamecock player did:

Renaldo Balkman continued his fine play from his rookie season after he selected by the Knicks in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft (No. 20). Renaldo averaged 13.2 ppg, 7.60 rpg, 2.2 apg, and 1.8 bpg in summer league play – doing all this while averaging just 25 minutes a game. He scored 19 in the win over Golden State. When the Knicks played Seattle, Renaldo went up against the No. 2 pick in the last month’s draft, Kevin Durant. Renaldo was superb holding Durant, the former Collegiate Player of The Year, to an amazing 4-19 shooting game. Renaldo’s play has been so well in fact that it has prompted head coach Isiah Thomas to say that he is `untouchable when it comes to trade deals’. Renaldo figures to see an increased role for Knicks next season and possibly starting if all continues to go well.

“(Renaldo) played three different positions, which means he had to learn at least twice as much as everybody else, because he’s learning three different spots in the offense,” said assistant coach Dave Hanners, who piloted the Knicks’ Summer League squad. “And you only have, say, five practices (so) you couldn’t put very much in. But actually we had about 25 plays that we got in over the course of the week, and he very rarely forgot where he was supposed to be.

“So aside from the fact that he ran and jumped and did all the things that we know he can do really well, he was really cerebral out there and helped everybody get in the right positions and helped Nate be a better point guard. So I was extremely pleased with the way he played.”

Tarence Kinsey was one of the surprise stories in the NBA last season. After going undrafted in last year, he went on to sign a free agent deal with the Memphis Grizzles. It did not take long for Tarence to impress the team, and was eventually elevated into the starting shooting guard role by season’s end. The last month of the season he was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Month. In summer league play Tarence averaged 11 ppg, 3.25 rpg and shot over .500 from the field. Tarence had a 20-point game against the China All-Star team on July 6th. Tarence enters next season as the starting shooting guard for the Grizzles.

Brandon Wallace, who just finished his senior here at South Carolina, was not selected on draft night and had to find a spot by free agency as well. Brandon played Summer League ball with the Boston Celtics and recently signed a two-year deal with the team (partially guaranteed). Brandon is being commended for his defensive abilities, and the Celtics brass compared him to current NBA players Tayshaun Prince and Andrei Kirilenko. In summer league play Brandon averaged 22.4 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 1.0 apg and 5 rbg, and just a shade under a block a game. His most memorable moment? Dunking on this year’s No. 1 pick in the draft, Greg Oden, for his first ever points against NBA competition.

In the win over the Bucks, Brandon was up to his old tricks again, stuffing the stat sheet and doing the dirty work to come up with six points, nine rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.

For the last few seasons, Carlos Powell has had to continue his dream of playing professional basketball overseas. This year he got a shot in summer league to play and made the best of it with the Golden State Warriors. Carlos averaged 4.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, and 0.4 bpg.

South Carolina’s former All-SEC point guard Tre’ Kelley is working out in Columbia after failing to receive an invitation to play in either of the NBA-sponsored summer leagues. Kelley went undrafted and has yet to latch on with a team. Kelley’s agent is trying to get the player a spot on a “higher-level” European team.

“It may be that he has to go to Europe for a year or more,” USC Head Coach Odom said. “But I’m confident that he’ll work his way back to the NBA.”