NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 08: Bruce Ellington #23 of the South Carolina Gamecocks drives the ball up the court around Trevor Releford #12 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first round of the SEC Basketball Tournament at the New Orleans Arena on March 8, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
As was somewhat expected, Bruce Ellington has chosen to devote himself to basketball for his final two years at South Carolina. Many Carolina fans are football-first in all things, and they will understandably be disappointed that Ellington is not going to play football next year. After all, Ellington, although in only limited reps, showed flashes of brilliance last year. His performance against Clemson will be long remembered by Carolina football fans.
That said, this is the right decision, both for Bruce and Carolina. First of all, Bruce has better long-term prospects on the hardwood. Yes, it's going to be tough for him to carve out an NBA career due to his size. However, marginal NBA prospects oftentimes make good money playing overseas. That kind of opportunity isn't available to marginal NFL prospects. The financial situation is undoubtedly in the back of Bruce's mind.
It's also good for Carolina. Sure, Bruce will be missed from the football team. However, we'll live. Ace Sanders is an excellent slot receiver, and Damiere Byrd has the potential to be just as good. Bruce would have undoubtedly been in the mix for the starting position, but, really, these three guys are all similarly capable. I expect Sanders to start and put up marginal All-SEC numbers at the position, while Byrd will also get a lot of plays as a deep threat and jet-sweep monster. We'll be fine at slot receiver without Bruce. It's nothing against him; it's just that we're currently stacked at his position. I also think Shamier Jeffery will be a good wildcat QB.
On the other hand, the basketball team needs Bruce. I'm not sure who the coach will be next year, but Bruce is going to have to be a leader over the next two years if we're going to climb out of the cellar. It's been an up-and-down two years for him, but I have a feeling that he's going to get much better, particularly now that he's focused on basketball. Don't forget that Devan Downey was also a guy who shot for a low percentage in his early years. He might not be quite as good in the end, but Bruce, too, can be a guy who matures into a 15-20 ppg-type player in his final years at Carolina.