The Gamecock men’s basketball team is set to begin its 2021-2022 campaign on Nov. 9 when the team takes on USC upstate. Thanks to an off-season full of transfers and signees, South Carolina will enter the season looking much different than it did a year before.
The Gamecocks added nine new players to their squad this season, six of which join as transfers.
Graduate student guard James Reece V, graduate student forward Aj Wilson and senior guard Eric Stevenson are three of the transfers head coach Frank Martin believes can make a huge impact on the court.
“Those three guys have brought a competitive spirit to everything we do,'' Martin said. “Those guys understand the simplicities of what we do offensively and defensively better than some guys I’ve coached for four years or five years, that’s the sense of urgency they’ve brought.”
South Carolina added three recruits to the squad, including freshman guard Devin Carter, the No. 92 ranked player in the ESPN 100 for the class of 2021.
Martin believes Carter will contribute to the team early on. He described him as a knockdown shooter and said he will be an “elite scorer."
This year's team will focus on playing smart and physical, a play-style Martin feels like the team stepped away from last year.
“You tell me there is something my team’s got to have, physicality is so important, we had lost our physicality, and because of how we play, that’s so important,” Martin said.
Martin said he appreciates physicality and a competitive mindset.
Some aspects still have to be worked out. Point guard play was inconsistent last year and the team knows it needs to fix this issue. On defense, the team is still getting things figured out after having to abandon its principals last year.
“One of the hardest things I’ve ever done professionally … was basically step away from everything I believe in defensively last year,” Martin said. “I’ve talked defense with this team earlier than I usually do ... I’ve tried to re-center them and then communicate our verbiage to the new guys so they comprehend where to start."
The team seems to be meshing well despite only being together for a couple of months. Establishing chemistry before the start of the season is an important part of generating wins early on and ignoring the distractions.
“On the court right now without how many minutes, how many points, social media saying who’s good, who's bad, all the voices we try to keep out of our players’ heads, it seems to me like they enjoy to be around each other,” Martin said.
A team full of new players will not be perfect. Martin knows this, but it is clear to see his attitude heading into this season is much more hopeful than it was near the end of last season.
“They’ve rejuvenated me with their enthusiasm,” Martin said. “Having these guys just as enthusiastic as me has kind of got me excited for what’s in front of us."