Devan Downey didn’t have to wait long to earn a spot in the USC Association of Lettermen Athletic Hall of Fame. He, along with seven others, will be inducted this year after graduating in 2010, and the 26-year-old is appreciative of the opportunities opened to him through his experience at South Carolina.
“South Carolina prepared me to be a professional,” Downey said. “The university did a great job of making sure I did what I needed to do to get my grades where they needed to be so I could earn my degree. They held you accountable, so it definitely helped me.
“I was happy when I found out about the Hall of Fame. I gave everything I had on the court for the university, myself and my family. This is the ultimate reward. This is forever. This is one of the greatest compliments you can have.”
The Chester, S.C., native was a three-time First Team All-SEC and two time honorable mention All-America selection during his three-year career with the Gamecocks after spending his first year at Cincinnati, and ranks fourth on South Carolina’s all-time scoring list.
After earning his degree in 2010, Downey has played professionally in Turkey, Croatia, France, Belgium, Italy and Romania before spending the last two seasons in Qatar.
“Qatar is the best place I’ve been overseas,” Downey said. “It’s actually quite ‘Americanized’ with all of the restaurants and everybody speaks English. It’s the most comfortable I have ever been outside of America. Croatia was the toughest place I’ve had to play because you had to go so far when traveling for games, and the food wasn’t as good. I haven’t really had any bad experiences overseas where I was fearful for my life or didn’t feel safe. ”
I want to give back and work with kids. I’m coaching a summer league team back in my hometown in Chester. I love it. Interacting with the kids is a passion for me.
Downey admits getting home sick from time to time, and he misses his four-year-old daughter, Aubrey, the most. He flies home as often as possible to spend time with her in Charleston where she lives with her mother. He has discovered that transitioning from college athletics to the professional level requires other adjustments as well.
“As a professional, everything is on you to do it,” Downey said. “Once you get out of school, whether it’s training or eating right, that’s all on you. You have to have discipline because if you don’t take care of yourself, there are a lot of other players who want to take your spot.”
Downey would like to continue to play professionally at the highest level possible, but when his playing days are done, he’d like to make a difference in the lives of children back home in South Carolina.
“I want to give back and work with kids,” Downey said. “I’m coaching a summer league team back in my hometown in Chester. I love it. Interacting with the kids is a passion for me. If I could do anything in life, I know that would make me happy.”
Although he played for former head coach Darrin Horn at South Carolina, he maintains a great relationship with current head coach Frank Martin, who was an assistant during Downey’s time at Cincinnati.
“Frank is good,” Downey said. “He’s so kind-hearted. Off the court, he barely raises his voice. He’s intense in between those lines on the court, and he demands a lot out of his players. One thing I can say having played under him and knowing other players who have played for him, I’ve never heard a single player give a bad report about Coach Martin. He’s the kind of guy that if you needed to, you could call him at five o’clock in the morning, and he’d be there for you. The guys I’ve talked to who play in the NBA or overseas just rave about him. I know he’s going to bring great things to this university because he is doing it the right way.”
It’s not a surprise that Downey is often asked about the win over top-ranked Kentucky in which he scored 30 points at the Colonial Life Arena in 2010, but it’s a play he was not involved in that ranks among his favorite Gamecock memories.
“My best game memory was the year we played Florida here,” Downey recalled. “They were up by one and shooting free throws with two or three seconds to play. Mike Holmes gets the rebound, throws a baseball pass to Zam (Fredrick), and he lays it up for the win at the buzzer. That was crazy. That’s probably my favorite.
“What I remember most about the Kentucky game is the fans rushing the court, and I’m in the middle. I couldn’t breathe. Now I understand why that’s dangerous. I had to strong-arm some people just to get out, but it was an amazing feeling.”
Downey is still recognized when he comes back to South Carolina. He is proud to have earned his degree, and even though enshrinement in the Hall of Fame is “forever,” Downey wouldn’t mind being a student all over again.
“Getting my degree was very important to me,” Downey said. “I try to stress education to the team I coach. I tell them that you can’t do anything without their grades. I tell them that college is the best time of your life. Every time I get together with my old teammates, we talk about how it’s great to be making money and living dreams, but if someone told me I could have four more years of school again, I’d take it.”