Howell due back on the court in December

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina center Rolando Howell will remain suspended for the first 12 games of the season but has started practicing with the team, school officials said Friday.

Howell was suspended after he was arrested Aug. 9 at an apartment he shared with his girlfriend and charged with criminal domestic violence. The woman told Richland County deputies that Howell grabbed her neck, pulled her hair and hit her in the face.

He pleaded no contest to the charge last week and was ordered to pay a $50 fine and complete a 26-week domestic abuse counseling program.

Howell will be eligible to play on Dec. 20 against North Carolina State, two weeks before South Carolina opens Southeastern Conference play. Howell averaged 10 points and 6.3 rebounds last season.

"I am disappointed, but at the same time I know what I did was wrong," Howell said.

The Gamecocks were to begin practice with Midnight Madness late Friday night and they open the season against Gardner-Webb in the Guardians Classic on Nov. 17.