South Carolina recruiting: Get to know 2020 DL Tonka Hemingway; more on 2019 kickers
Whenever Will Muschamp lands a commitment, the South Carolina coach drops a #SpursUp on Twitter. Come to SEC Country for the latest news, notes and observations in South Carolina recruiting. For previous editions of SpursUp Surveillance, check out the link.
The next Hemingway
Around the time Junior Hemingway began making a name for himself as a star wide receiver at Conway (S.C.) High School, his kid brother, Terrell, landed a nickname from their father that sticks to this day.
Terrell, who goes by Tonka, doesn’t remember anything about his older brother’s recruitment to Michigan. For Tonka, now a sophomore at Conway, 2007 was a little too long ago, but there are plenty of clips for him check out on YouTube.
“He was fun to watch, looked like he was fun to watch,” Tonka said. “He could jump and catch.”
Junior, a 3-star wide receiver recruit, spent three seasons in the NFL with the Chiefs and resides in Kansas City.
“He calls me sometimes and tells me to just stay humble and keep working hard in the classroom,” Tonka said.
The 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive lineman already has plenty of options for the next level, even though he’s not halfway through high school.
Alabama, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Georgia, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Rutgers and South Carolina have offered. If Michigan comes forward with a tender, there won’t be any pressure to follow in his brother’s footsteps.
“[Junior] just says it’s my decision and be sure you make it for the right choices, like the education,” Tonka said.
Carlton Terry was an assistant coach at Conway during Junior’s time there and was named interim head coach before Tonka’s sophomore season. He’s since received the job on a full-time basis.
“I’ve seen [Tonka] grow from a young pup into a tiger. Just looking at his work ethic and the way his body has transformed over the past few years — I’ve known him all his life, being from here and his brother playing for us and I know his dad,” Terry said. “Great young man, works hard in the classroom, does everything he’s supposed to, the right way, so I’ve seen him grow into a Power 5 ballplayer.”
The two brothers share “similar characteristics.”
“You can tell they were from the same home, worked hard on and off the field,” Terry said. “Both guys excelled in the classroom and on the field. Two different positions, but the same will to please coaches, please parents and excel.”
That work ethic was instilled, in part, by their father, who Terry’s heard say, “You work hard, good things happen.”
More family ties
Junior and Tonka aren’t the only Hemingway siblings with successful athletic careers at Conway. Their sister, Janecia, a Conway senior, had more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds for the Lady Tigers basketball team.
Tonka plays hoops, too. He was a center and came off the bench as the team’s sixth man. Now he’s on to baseball, where he pitches and plays first base.
Though he loves all three sports equally, his athletic future is on the gridiron. He’s equipped for the rugged nature of the game. After all, that’s how he got the nickname Tonka.
“My dad gave it to me at a young age,” Tonka said. “He said I used to fall down a lot and hit my head, but keep on playing.”
If you’ve kept a close eye on South Carolina’s plans for the 2019 class, you probably know by now that the Gamecocks coaches haven’t made a firm decision on whether a scholarship kicker or punter will be part of the haul.
Since Will Muschamp’s arrival, South Carolina hasn’t signed a scholarship kicker. That, of course, isn’t counting Shane Hynes, the graduate transfer from Kent State who’s enrolling later this year and eventually will be placed on scholarship.
Several 2019 kickers and punters visited last weekend, including Ryan Coe (McDonald, Pa.), Daniel Obarski (Chandler, Ariz.), Anthony Rodriguez (Kennesaw, Ga.), Aidan Swanson (IMG Academy), Ryan Fitzgerald (Colquitt, Ga.) and Patrick Nations (Walhalla, S.C.).
Swanson, who visited Clemson before his trip to South Carolina, was offered by the Tigers earlier this week and committed, so he’s probably off the board.
The remaining targets will have a chance to compete for a scholarship and/or preferred walk-on opportunities at the specialist camp on June 16.
Coe, who’s also drawing interest from UCF, Pitt, Temple and Akron, will be back in June.
Fitzgerald is from the same high school that produced South Carolina tight end Kiel Pollard. Fitzgerald picked up an offer from Georgia State earlier this week. Like Coe, he and Nations will be back for camp in the summer.
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