According to a source familiar with the situation, USC is prepared to move forward with tampering charges against N.C. State, should Damontre Harris and his camp continue to push them to release him to the Wolfpack.
Gamecock coach Frank Martin told Harris Monday he is free to transfer anywhere with the exception of N.C. State, a decision that has upset the people close to Harris along with the Wolfpack fanbase.
According to the source, USC believes it has sufficient evidence to prove Wolfpack assistant Orlando Early made frequent contact with Harris before the school released him to pursue a transfer. To this point USC has opted not press the issue, but instead to let the process play out. While they have remained silent, the source said USC believes Harris’ camp continues to reveal its agenda with N.C. State the more they talk.
One example the source cited are the conflicting comments Harris’ former high school coach Heath Vandevender made this week. On Monday afternoon Vandevender told SportsTalk that Harris had not talked to any coaches from any schools. Later he told reporters from the Fayetteville Observer that there had been conversations between Orlando Early had talked with Harris. Vandevender said Early, who spent one season at USC, wasn’t recruiting Harris to go to Raleigh, only checking in on the player he coached in Columbia.
Whenever people leave a college staff and go to other places, they have relationships with those kids, and it’s not uncommon for them to talk to them during the season. Coach Early from N.C. State talked to a lot of guys. He talked to Malik Cook, talked to Anthony Gill, Damontre, a lot of those kids because he was there Tre’s freshman year.
This is the first Vandevender publicly acknowledged the contact between Early and Harris. According to the source, USC is prepared to obtain phone records to reveal how much Early contacted Harris compared to any other player on the Gamecocks squad he had ties to from his time on staff there.
In the same Fayetteville Observer story Vandevender indicated there was a rift between Early and USC that preceded Martin’s arrival. He said he someone in the USC athletic department thinks Early was trying to recruit Harris to N.C. State last year when he was first hired there.
Vandevender may also have some resentment towards USC. According to our source, Vandevender has been contacting Martin repeatedly demanding Harris be released to any school he chooses. The source said Vandevender was often very aggressive in those conversations and made it clear he was frustrated with Martin for not releasing Harris immediately.
In his comments to the Fayetteville newspaper Vandevender maintained Harris has not put together a short list of potential transfer destinations, but revealed strong feelings about Martin’s decision to keep N.C. State out of the mix.
If N.C. State is on that list and he wants to go visit N.C. State, or he decides he wants to attend N.C. State, that’s what he’s going to do regardless of if South Carolina wants to release him or not because that’s just absolutely asinine that they would release him within conference and let him go play at Florida, for example, and have him play South Carolina twice every year and not release him to N.C. State, which is not within their conference nor do they have to play.
“That’s not going to be acceptable on our end. It’s about the kid. There was no tampering. If N.C. State is on the short list and he decides to go there, he’s going to go there.”
Martin’s decision to keep Harris from N.C. State also has a lot of Wolfpack fans crying foul. Despite some accusations of holding Harris’ career hostage, Martin is not blocking the transfer as last ditch effort to keep the talented center. The reality is things have become so contentious now that it would be very difficult for Harris to return at this point. Also, Martin’s recent track record indicates he does not have an issue allowing players to transfer to any school they choose, as illustrated when he allowed Anthony Gill to transfer without limitationsalmost immediately after the freshman expressed his desire to leave the program.
Martin didn’t do the same for Harris because he was skeptical of the now acknowledged contact by Early and wary of the aggressive approach of Vandevender. Now he is making it clear he would rather face Harris twice a year or more at another SEC school than to allow him to go to N.C. State, a school that is not on the schedule or in the same conference, but one he suspects tampered with one of his players.