The Daily Gamecock

Gamecock basketball adds local talents looking to put Columbia on map

Coming off a lackluster 6-15 season, the South Carolina men's basketball team will turn to a group of local players to get back into SEC contention. 

For the first time since the 2015-2016 season, the Gamecocks will have six players from the state of South Carolina on the roster and four from the Columbia area. 

In the offseason, head coach Frank Martin added three transfers to the team who all played high school in Columbia. North Texas guard James Reese V, Murray State guard Chico Carter Jr and USC Upstate forward Brandon Martin (Martin's son) joined sophomore forward Ja'Von Benson as the 'Columbia guys' on the roster.

Reese has a reputation for leading his teams to the postseason at every level of play. He advanced to the second round with both Buffalo and North Texas, as well as the NJCAA national tournament with Odessa. 

Benson, who is starting his sophomore season this year, said the tournament experience Reese brings will help out the team in the coming season.

"They weren't here my freshman year," Benson said. "It's very exciting, Reese went to the tournament every year, Chico came from almost making it to the tournament, so you know, we got a lot of winners transferring to the team."

While he has certainly made the rounds on his college basketball journey, with another year of eligibility left, Reese said he is looking forward to coming home to Columbia. 

"This is something I’ve just always talked about, you know in high school, with my friends," Reese said. "I mean it’s home, I was born and raised here, this is where all my family is. I was on my fourth year of college, so at that point it was really like a no brainer for me, this is where I wanted to be at.” 

Like Reese, one reason Carter joined the squad was to be closer to home and help build a name for himself on a bigger stage.

"It feels good just knowing that my parents doesn’t have to drive far away to come see me play, my close friends can come see me play," Carter said. "Being from Columbia I can have a name for myself, just build my brand and stuff like that.”

Carter also decided to return to Columbia because of his connection with the Martin family. Carter and Martin played high school with each other at Cardinal Newman. Carter, Martin and Reese clashed in high school multiple times — something they still talk about to this day. 

"I beat him one time, he beat me one time," Carter said. "So I’m glad to now to be on the same team in Columbia." 

Reese joked the one loss to Carter and Martin didn't matter because Martin hit a buzzer beater that "didn't count" in his eyes. Despite it, he echoed Carter's sentiment about being glad to have everyone on the same team. 

"Playing with Chico and those guys man, growing up with them and playing, it's amazing," Reese said. "It’s just like a childhood friend, I just know what Chico wanna do, he knows what I wanna do, so it’s fun. 

With up-and-coming household names like Ja Morant and Zion Williamson coming out of South Carolina, people are starting to pay more attention to the talent being produced in Columbia. 

Carter and Reese hope the product they put on the floor for the Gamecocks this year will not only propel their names into the spotlight, but also set up the future generation of Columbia natives for success. 

"We got a lot of talent here in Columbia, especially guys coming up in high school, but I feel like we’re going to be more on the map, more global," Carter said. "With me, James, names like that playing for South Carolina, we got people in high school coming up being nationally ranked and stuff like that, so I feel like we’re going to put Columbia on the map for sure."

While Benson, Carter, Martin and Reese all know that winning games is the main objective of the season, putting Columbia on the map is something they'll keep in mind.

"It feels good. This is something that USC usually doesn’t have. We got three or four Columbia kids on the team, we never have that," Reese said. "It feels good to be one of the first waves of that, you know, and I take pride in it."