Point guard Devan Downey, the Gamecock's leading scorer last season with 19.8 ppg, and Dominique Archie, the third-leading scorer (10.9 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (6.4), both have declared for the NBA draft. Neither was invited to the NBA-sponsored combine that takes place later this week in Chicago. Downey has had one workout with a team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Archie had two workouts, with the Thunder and Houston Rockets.
Clearly, these are good signs for South Carolina. If Downey and Archie are paying attention to the limited workouts and the lacks of calls from the NBA, then you would think they will withdraw from the draft before the June 15 deadline. But Horn doesn't have a final answer -- not yet.
This is always a sensitive topic for the head coach, especially if he didn't recruit the players declaring early. The coach doesn't want to appear as though he's politicking to get the players to return. The players and their families are almost always sensitive to the head coach and his actions. If he's helping set up workouts or working with NBA teams, the player will be more apt to see the compassionate side during his decision process.
This kind of dance is going on at Wake Forest, where Dino Gaudio is making sure he doesn't upset/offend Jeff Teague or his family as the sophomore weighs whether to stay in the draft. But Teague's situation is different. He likely would be in the first round if he stayed in. Archie and Downey probably won't get drafted. Staying in wouldn't make sense for that duo, but Horn -- understandbly so -- doesn't want to say that publicly.
"I'm just going through the process," said Horn, who didn't have to deal with this issue at Western Kentucky. "I just want to help them."
But it's hard for a coach not to be frustrated. If Downey and Archie return. the Gamecocks should be in the mix behind Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC's East Division, battling Florida and Vanderbilt for a possible NCAA berth. If they don't return, South Carolina would be headed for a rebuilding season earlier than expected.
• The SEC meetings start Tuesday in Destin, Fla., and run through the rest of the week. On the agenda is how to do a better job in nonconference scheduling after only three SEC teams (Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State) made the NCAA tournament last season, the latter only making it by winning the conference tournament. This has been an issue before in the SEC. A few years ago, Alabama didn't make the field once because of its weak nonconference schedule and then-coach Mark Gottfried promptly upgraded his schedule. The answer to the problem, though, is to simply to win the marquee nonconference games on the schedule, something that teams like Florida and Kentucky weren't able to do this past season.
• The one non-hoops meeting Horn said he would love to be in is the football gathering, as commissioner Mike Slive will likely tell the coaches to chill on cutting each other down. The basketball coaches don't have that issue, although getting Kentucky's John Calipari and Tennessee's Bruce Pearl in the same room Tuesday and Wednesday should be good entertainment. They had a testy rivalry when Calipari was at Memphis, and both have strong, extroverted personalities. There may not be time for any of the other 10 coaches to talk.
• Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon expects the school to make an announcement next week on the decisions of early entrants Donald Sloan, Bryan Davis and Chinemelu Elonu. But the odds are in Turgeon's favor that all three will return to College Station for next season and give the Aggies a chance to go to three straight NCAA tournaments under Turgeon (Billy Gillispie had the Aggies in the NCAA prior to Turgeon's arrival, too). The Aggies do lose top scorer Josh Carter, but would have no chance to get back to the NCAAs without Sloan, Davis and Elonu, the Nos. 2-4 scorers on last season's team. None of the three were invited to the Chicago pre-draft combine. At least one of the three has one more NBA team workout scheduled and that is apparently holding up the final announcement.
• USA Basketball is still working through the fluidity of the FIBA 19-and-under roster that will compete at the trials next month in Colorado Springs, Colo. Trying to get a handle on who doesn't need summer school is one of the issues. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is the team's head coach, with Purdue's Matt Painter and Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery as the top assistants.