S.C. preps star dismissed by USC

Mike Jones has been dismissed from the USC men's basketball team for academic reasons, just one semester after the former Lower Richland High School star transferred into the program.

USC coach Dave Odom said the university set “benchmarks” for Jones when he was admitted last December. Jones did not meet those, the coach said, declining to be more specific for privacy reasons.

Jones met with Odom Thursday morning. Odom said Jones, who could not be reached for comment, was "surprised that it ended so quickly."

“It’s particularly disappointing for me, because in going through the admissions process with our administration, I think we all, everyone who was involved in that decision, we all wanted to believe that it was the right thing to do," Odom said. "I know from our office’s standpoint and from the academic standpoint, everyone did everything they could possibly do to make it work. And when you do that, and things still don’t turn out the way you want, it scars you. And this does. It hurts badly, because I do believe deep down inside Mike is a good person."

Jones, a 6-foot-7 forward, spent the spring semester at South Carolina after transferring from Syracuse, where he played in 11 games as a reserve freshman. Jones cited homesickness as his reason for joining the Gamecocks.

Jones was a consensus top 50 recruit coming out of Lower Richland, where he was named South Carolina's Mr. Basketball for the 2005-06 season.

His next move remains unclear. He could go to a junior college, where he would have one year of eligibility before possibly going to a Div. I school for his junior year. He could also go to a non-Div. I school, or NAIA, or to a pro league.

“He’s tried two different college atmosphere, here at Syracuse and here at Carolina, and neither one of them has been right for him,” Odom said. “That doesn’t necessarily imply that there’s something wrong with him. Nor does that imply there’s something wrong with those situations. It just means the two haven’t meshed."

When he transferred in last December, Jones was the third highly touted player to do so in a six-month span. Sophomore guard Devan Downey (who left Cincinnati) and junior guard Zam Fredrick (Georgia Tech) are both expected to start next season for the Gamecocks.