South Carolina Basketball: Ranking the top-12 centers in Gamecock history

South Carolina baskteball great Tom Riker. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina baskteball great Tom Riker. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /
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South Carolina basketball has had big men in the middle who have come in all shapes and sizes and who have played the game in all manners of different ways. Dominant rebounders, defensive shot blockers, stretch bigs, and low-post scorers have all come through the Gamecock program. But which of these centers had the best Gamecock careers?

Honorable Mention

Mike Brittain: Mike Brittain (1981-1985) was a long-armed shot blocker who played down low for coach Bill Foster. The 7-footer was a good fit next to Linwood Moye in ’84-’85 with his length and decent shooting touch. He was also one of the best-ever Gamecock bigs from the free throw line. His top performance came in a 22-point, 15-rebound explosion in a win over rival Clemson. He went on to a three-year NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs.

Laimonas Chatkevicius: An offensive force when engaged and in shape, Laimonas Chatkevicius (2012-2016) was one of two Lithuanian big men to come to South Carolina in the 2012 recruiting class along with Mindaugas Kacinas. “Big Chat” had some solid post moves and an excellent touch around the basket. That touch eventually allowed him to stretch out to the three-point line.

A very efficient offensive player (over 51% from the field for his career), Chatkevicius did not consistently score enough for the Gamecocks because he could not stay on the court. Conditioning and foul trouble were bugaboos for the 7-footer for most of his career. He showcased his potential with a 30-point barrage in the 2016 NIT, but emblematic of his inconsistent career, he delivered a 9-point, 0-rebound performance in his final game later that same week.

Jeff Roulston: Jeff Roulston (1988-1992) was a solid center for some up-and-down Gamecock basketball squads coached by George Felton and Steve Newton. He famously battled Shaquille O’Neal better than almost any other player in the 1991-1992 season as he logged a double-double and missed just three shots (all 3 misses were blocks by O’Neal).

Marius Petravicius: One of several Lithuanian big men to come through the Carolina basketball program, Marius Petravicius (1999-2003) was a solid player who was productive when he could stay on the court. Unfortunately, between injuries and conditioning, the European center was never able to play more than 20 minutes per game. He made the All-SEC team as a sophomore.

Tony Kitchings: Tony Kitchings (1998-2003) was Marius Petravicius’ running mate at center for the Gamecocks. Between foul trouble, injuries, and conditioning, neither player could stay on the court as much as Gamecock fans would have liked, but, like Petravicius, Kitchings was very productive when he was on the floor.

Kitchings had some of his best games in the biggest games, logging all of his career double-doubles in SEC play and postseason play and 3 of his 4 career 20-point games in rivalry matchups.

Jim Strickland: A two-year player at the end of the Frank McGuire era in Columbia, Jim Strickland (1978-1980) was an extremely dependable big man. Averaging almost 10 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, the 6’11” center was a good shot blocker and excelled at taking advantage of smaller players down low. The former Furman Paladin had a brief NBA career after his successful transfer to South Carolina.

Jimmy Graziano: Jimmy Graziano (1976-1980) was a hugely impactful young player for coach Frank McGuire as he averaged over 10 points and 7 rebounds per game as a freshman and sophomore. His production waned as injuries and the emergence of other big men like Cedric Hordges and Jim Strickland cut into Graziano’s playing time. Despite the fall-off, he was still drafted into the NBA where he had a brief career with the Denver Nuggets.