The University of South Carolina’s storied men’s basketball teams, the Gamecocks, are known for having two of the greatest collegiate basketball players ever. Jermaine O’Neal, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are three of the most dominant players at any position who have ever played the game.
If you’re a fan of college basketball, you’ve probably heard of the NCAA’s “One and Done” rule that states any player who receives a scholarship from a Division 1 school must remain on the team for a minimum of three years before being allowed to declare for the NBA Draft. This rule has led to a lot of teams losing talented players to the NBA, and a lot of fans not being able to watch their favorite players play.
It seems that the Golden State Warriors are the only team that can quash NBA superteams, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, before the Warriors dominated the NBA, there were some other superteams that were formed. One of the best ones was formed by former University of South Carolina stars Jermaine O’Neal, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
South Carolina has produced a plethora of great high school basketball players. Big stars like Jermaine O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen ruled the state’s basketball landscape long before Zion Williamson.
The three standouts were offered a deal by the University of South Carolina, which would see them play together for the Gamecocks.
Jermaine O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen were all top basketball prospects in high school.
Kevin Garnett was born in Greenville, South Carolina, and attended Mauldin High School until his senior year, when he transferred to Farragut Academy in Chicago.
As a junior, he was awarded Gatorade Player of the Year in South Carolina. The Big Ticket was awarded a McDonald’s All-American as a senior. He was also rated No. 1 in the nation for high school basketball.
Garnett was a year behind Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal attended Eau Claire High School and was a basketball player. As a senior, the Columbia, SC native was named Gatorade Player of the Year and a McDonald’s All-American.
Allen was born in California but attended Hillcrest High School in Dalzell, South Carolina, where he played football. In 1993, he was awarded Gatorade Player of the Year at the university.
South Carolina has arranged for all three athletes to visit their campus.
During a game, Celtics teammates Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, and Ray Allen enjoy fun with their teammates | Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Jermaine O’Neal was a guest on the Ryen Russillo Podcast, where he spoke about his college recruitment experiences.
He stated how the University of South Carolina wanted Garnett, Allen, and O’Neal to play collegiate basketball for the Gamecocks during the conversation. It seemed to be a very simple sell to make, given that all three prospects played high school basketball in the state.
O’Neal said, “They had this proposal to create this new Fab Five.” B.J. McKie, an Irmo High School standout, was a member of the South Carolina football team from 1995 to 1999. O’Neal alluded to another unidentified player listed in the school’s pitch.
The pitch didn’t work out in the end. Garnett chose to forgo college and enter the NBA right away. In the 1995 NBA Draft, he was the fifth overall selection. Allen turned down the Gamecocks in favor of three years at the University of Connecticut.
For Jermaine O’Neal, the Gamecocks prepared a special pitch.
O’Neal claims South Carolina was “all in” on him after Garnett and Allen declined. He grew raised in Columbia and was well-versed in the University of South Carolina, which he claims is just 10 minutes away from his boyhood home. On the show, he described an unusual recruiting strategy employed by the institution.
He paid the squad a formal visit and attended one of their games. According to O’Neal, the sports program featured a scarecrow dressed up like the figure from The Wizard of Oz. “He went about with a banner that read, ‘Jermaine, there’s no place like home,’ and it turned into a slogan,” O’Neal recalled.
To persuade the large guy to pick South Carolina, the school used the phrase on bumper stickers and billboards. Maryland and Kentucky made serious bids for him as well.
O’Neal, like O’Neal, did not select South Carolina and instead decided to pursue a professional career. The school tried all out to court three in-state high school basketball players, but it was unsuccessful. If it’s any consolation, they lost against more prestigious college schools and the NBA.
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
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