THE THREAD [06.05.08] :: Playing Favorites

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The MLB Draft is today. The NBA has the lottery, the NFL has Mel Kiper, and baseball has the near-certainty that whomever your team selects today will not appear in a major-league game until you've forgotten his name.

But the day is important for a few Gamecocks, including Reese Havens, who could go to Boston, sez Haney.

The Sox have shown more than a passing interest in Havens since his senior year at Bishop England.

Havens and Boston general manager Theo Epstein spoke several times leading up to the 2005 draft, including the eve of the event. While Havens was on a fishing trip in Louisiana, Epstein had to check just one more time to make sure Havens was set on South Carolina. ...

This past summer and season vaulted Havens back where he was coming out of high school — a projected first-rounder. He could go in the supplemental, or sandwich, picks or early in the second round.

Note that Boston has the 30th overall pick, the last selection of the first round.

Haney also pegs Smoak as a potential Oriole, Giant or National. The Os and the Nats are in the middle of long and painful rebuilding periods; the Giants just started rebuilding.

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The last time something in San Francisco needed as much rebuilding as the Giants.

Smoak is a top 10 caliber pick, and had a chance to be in Orlando for the draft.

Smoak thought it over but passed.

“I’m hanging out in Goose Creek,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been through the draft process before, and I just wanted to spend it with my family.”

So when Smoak hears his name called, he will be able to hug his father — his first coach. At some point, he will field congratulatory calls from the other men who have helped mold him: Ray Tanner, Mike Roberts, Freddie Jordan, John Chalus and John Rhodes.

Good luck to all the Gamecocks in the draft. Unless you're a junior and might return if you're not drafted high enough. In that case ...

Probation is over! Hooray! What does this mean for fans as a practical matter? Not much. But it's nice to have a clean name.

A letter from USC president Andrew Sorensen to the NCAA's Indianapolis office, certifying the university is in compliance with NCAA rules, will end an unpleasant chapter in the Gamecocks' history book that cost one athletics department official his job and increased to three the number of schools former USC coach Lou Holtz left on NCAA probation. ...

USC senior associate athletics director Val Sheley, who runs the compliance office, said the probation ends when the NCAA ratifies Sorensen's letter. After that, USC will have to steer clear of major infractions for two years to avoid being hit with harsher penalties as a repeat offender.

But Sheley does not expect that to be a problem, pointing out that USC has more than doubled its compliance staff in the three years since landing on probation.

Oh, and there's no Lou Holtz, who needed four or five compliance officers just to keep him from committing a recruiting violation on the way to the restroom.

The Mayor takes up the question of pro-SEC bias. This time in baseball. (Has anyone ever considered the fact that the SEC is the beneficiary of "bias" in every sport because it's a good league? Occam's Razor, anyone?)

In any case, the Mayor uses the usual 8,000 words to make his point, highlighting the difference between lawyers and journalists: Lawyers write to show how smart they are, journalists write to show how dumb they can be.

That's an "assault"? The charges against Devan Downey, which should probably not have been filed in the first place, have been dropped.

The report says Downey then walked up to Lowery and allegedly "mushed" him by pushing the palm of his hand into his face. Downey then left the scene, it says.

Officers were summoned, but the report says, "Lowery stated that he does not wish to pursue any legal action."

After consideration, Lowery changed his mind. ...

Downey's attorney, Columbia-based Neal Lourie, issued a statement Wednesday on Downey's behalf.

"Devan would like to apologize for any negative attention that he has brought upon Mr. Curtis Lowery and the University of South Carolina community," the statement said. "Devan is committed to continuing his achievements in education and on the court."

Lourie added: "I would sincerely like to thank Downey, Stephen Garcia and all the other USC student-athletes whose retainer fees paid for my new Learjet."

Odom to the NBA. Why not? Jokes too easy, and kind of petty now that Odom has moved on. Best of luck to him.

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