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NCAA approves freshman forward's appeal

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Highly touted recruit Renaldo Balkman has
been accepted to South Carolina and the school said he is expected
to begin practicing with the team Thursday.

The status of the 6-foot-7 freshman forward had been in limbo
since last spring, but the school said it was informed Wednesday
the NCAA approved his appeal.

It is welcome news for South Carolina, which finished 12-16 last
season after reaching the NIT finals in 2002. The Gamecocks begin
the season Nov. 17 against Gardner Webb in the Guardians Classic.

"South Carolina was the only place I wanted to be. I was
determined to see this through and it has been worth the effort,"
said Balkman, who began half-semester classes Wednesday.

With Balkman's acceptance, South Carolina's roster becomes a
little clearer. Last week, South Carolina coach Dave Odom was
uncertain when Balkman and senior Rolando Howell, who pleaded no
contest to domestic violence Oct. 9, would be joining the team.
Howell was allowed to practice with the team during Midnight
Madness late last week, but was suspended for the first 10 regular
season games.

"I am so happy and relieved that Renaldo Balkman has earned his
eligibility," Odom said. "He has overcome so much and now he has
an opportunity to truly make something of himself as well as making
a significant contribution to the team."