South Aiken star center Tony Kitchings made it official on the first day of the early signing period for basketball players.
He's a Gamecock.
The 6-foot-10 center along with Richland Northeast guard Aaron Lucas and North Charleston forward Damien Kinloch gives the Gamecocks one of the country's best recruiting classes. Recruiting guru Bob Gibbons ranks it as a top 10 class.
"I'm glad it's over with," Kitchings said. "It was a lot of fun the first two weeks but then I got tired of all the letters and phone calls. Now, I can just concentrate on the basketball season."
South Carolina finally landed one of the state's best big men after recent misses with former Lower Richland star Stanley Richards, who went to LSU before going on to the NBA; former Mauldin star Kevin Garnett, who jumped to the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995 and former Eau Claire star Jermaine O'Neal, who went to the NBA in 1996.
The Gamecocks are loaded with in-state players including former North Augusta star Antonio Grant. Eight of the 12 players on this year's team are in-state recruits.
"I think it's great that he (South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler) has built South Carolina into a top 10 team with South Carolina kids," South Aiken coach Donnie Holland said.
Kitchings' mother, Deborah, and grandmother, Bessie Mae, are glad to see him stay close to home. The Thoroughbred center has lived with his grandmother all of his life.
She didn't want to persuade his decision either way but she's happy he decided on South Carolina.
"I knew he was going to be a prospect in the 10th grade," Kitchings' grandmother said. "He's a big boy and he loves basketball that's one thing. I'm glad he's real close to home because I'm not an airplane rider. I'm afraid of heights. This way, we can drive up and see him play. I'm real proud of him."
Deborah Kitchings joked that her first choice would have been the New York Knicks or the Los Angeles Lakers.
"It's up to him really," Deborah Kitchings said. "It was very stressful with the phone calls coming in all the time but it was exciting, too."
Kitchings, the player, said he was looking forward to playing with Grant and the other recruits as well. Grant and Kitchings played against each other during the 1994-95 season when Grant was a North Augusta senior and Kitchings was a South Aiken freshman.
The two became close during the recruiting process.
"Me and Antonio Grant are real good friends and he's a good shooter and a good jumper," Kitchings said. "Having played against each other, we know each other's games pretty good and I think we'll work well together."
It was South Aiken's first Division boys basketball recruit since former Georgia Tech player James Munlyn, who signed with the ACC team during the 1984-85 season.
Holland said it's up to Kitchings to fight the complacency that could develop during his senior season now that he's signed. Kitchings, with 1,261 points, needs 244 points to become the school's all-time scoring leader, and 28 rebounds to amass 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.
"That's something (complacency) only he can answer," Holland said.
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