On New Year’s Day, Bruce Ellington hauled in a touchdown catch in the waning moments to give the South Carolina Gamecocks a 33-28 win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl. The score allowed the football team in Columbia to put together back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in the history of the program. That touchdown and the subsequent ending of the game also signaled the transition of South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington into South Carolina point guard Bruce Ellington. At that point the much-needed leader for the basketball team was back and now Frank Martin’s squad is ascending upward after an eye-opening 75-54 rout of Arkansas in Columbia on Saturday.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin has welcomed the competitive leadership of Bruce Ellington back from football. Saturday, Ellington controlled the court in the Gamecocks’ 75-54 win over Arkansas.
“He’s got that personality; that demeanor,” explained Martin, “If you are an athlete and guys have been practicing for three months, you can’t go in and open your mouth. I don’t care how much of a leader you are.”
Ellington’s mantra is he is ultra-competitive. He hates to call a fair catch on USC’s punt return unit and when is on the kickoff return unit, he is not happy just taking a touchback. He is what we call in sports a “gamer,” but at the end of the day, he will do what he needs to for which ever team he is on to be successful.
“He’s been with us a little while,” said Martin, “He s starting to feel comfortable and it’s allowing him to inject his personality a little better. He’s understanding and he is better understanding of what we are trying to do.”
Ellington’s drive was shown during the period between the end of the football season and the Outback Bowl when he played in four games and logged an average of 22 mpg. He came back for the conference schedule and scored 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting in South Carolina’s three-point loss to Auburn. He had his struggles in going 8-of-37 in the last three games. Saturday, he was back, scoring 14 points and dishing four assists in 33 minutes. Ellington was 6-of-8 from the field in repeatedly breaking down Arkansas’ defenders off the dribble.
“He has tremendous work ethic and whether you are a good shooter or not, if you work at it, then you will shoot it and make it,” said Martin, “Bruce has made hard shots here. He has been taking open shots and hadn’t made them. He came in the day after the Vanderbilt game on a Sunday and we went in to watch film. I went back out to leave and he was in the gym in a chair shooting balls.”
Martin sees so many intangibles in Ellington that allow him to stay cautiously optimistic that, now, with him back in the starting lineup, some of those close earlier SEC losses will fall into the win column because he is so clutch.
“You gotta have pride,” reminded Martin, “He is putting in the time. He has been at practice for three weeks. Think about it, he practiced 10-12 times and we are asking him to do what guys have done since October? That’s unfair to him. He works at it so it is going to come.”
- Ken Cross
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