USC Upstate head coach Eddie Payne announced Friday that Deion Holmes, Philip Whittington and Tanner Castora have all signed national letters of intent during the early signing period and will be joining the Spartans for the 2015-16 season.
“We’re really pleased with all three of our new signees and we think they will all be really good players,” Payne said. “The two young men in the backcourt, Tanner and Deion, will have an opportunity to see minutes right away, and we think Philip has got a big upside to him. I think the real significant thing is that we were able to get quality players in the early signing period, which is something we’ve never been able to do in the past. That’s going to help us down the road because we can begin to recruit kids out of the junior and sophomore class. I think it’s indicative of our program continuing to make progress.”
A 6-3 guard from nearby Chesnee, S.C., Holmes has already cemented himself as one of the top scorers in state history, having scored over 2,000 career points in just over three years and stands as the Eagles’ all-time leading scorer. Holmes, who was selected as an AA preseason top five senior by the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association, started his senior season in style by breaking his own school record with 51 points Dec. 2 in a victory over Broome High School.
Holmes averaged 31.1 points per game last season and finished the year with 808 to amass the seventh-most in South Carolina history. He also averaged 12.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.0 blocks en route to being named the SCBCA AA Player of the Year and the Spartanburg Sports Report Area Player of the Year. Holmes was also tabbed the Region I-AA Player of the Year and All-Area first team by the Spartanburg Herald-Journal for the third consecutive year.
“Deion embodies everything we stand for at Chesnee in our basketball program,” Chesnee head coach Andy Pitt said. “He takes pride in his actions on and off the floor, and he always puts in extra time in his school work and in the gym. USC Upstate is getting a great basketball player and extraordinary young man.”
Whittington, a 6-7 forward from Columbus, Ga., has led Northside High School to an early 3-1 record and is averaging 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game for head coach Kenny Lawrence. Last season as a junior, Whittington averaged 14.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game in leading the Patriots to a 23-4 record, a region championship and a berth in the Final Four of the state playoffs.
Whittington was honored at the end of his junior season with GHCA All-State first team and All-Bi-City second team accolades. He was also given the Northside High School Top Offensive Award.
“Philip has meant a lot to the Northside High School basketball program,” Lawrence said. “He has demonstrated great effort athletically and academically, and he will be a great addition to the USC Upstate athletic department, the university and the community.”
Castora is a 6-2 guard from Strongsville, Ohio, who is in the midst of his second senior at Strongsville High School under head coach Darren Collins. Castora averaged 14 points and four assists last season for the Mustangs.
“Tanner has worked extremely hard to get where he is today and he is only going to get better as he gets more playing experience,” Collins said. “He is a great kid that will continue his great work ethic at USC Upstate.”