Redshirt junior guard Jermaine Couisnard and senior forward Keyshawn Bryant returned to South Carolina's basketball team after experimenting with the NBA draft in the offseason.
Couisnard and Bryant took advantage of a recent NCAA rule that lets players declare for the NBA draft and return to school, so long as they do not sign with an agent. They both undeclared after going through the process and returned to play for the Gamecocks in the 2022 season.
“What made me come back was because I felt like I wasn’t mentally ready,” Bryant said.
Couisnard said returning allows him to achieve more of the goals he did not accomplish his previous two seasons.
“I feel like I had unfinished business to take care of. It’s just something I feel like I left on the table,” Couisnard said. “I just feel like it was the right thing for me to come back and accomplish some more things.”
Last season was a breakout year for Bryant. He averaged 14.4 points (16 points in SEC play) and 5.4 rebounds in 18 games.
Couisnard struggled most of the season, averaging 10 points, three rebounds and three assists on 30% shooting as the team’s primary ball-handler.
Neither player stood out as a draft prospect, but head coach Frank Martin knew this was just a learning experience for his players and that they would be back.
“I have unbelievable relationships with Jermaine and Keyshawn and their families,” Martin said during the process in April. “Every indication is they are exploring to get information. The rules are there to allow it, why not do it?"
Even though neither player was drafted, both took in all the information they could and learned what it is like to commit to basketball full time.
“I learned a lot, just how to prepare for the next step in my career. How to change your work ethic and how to take care of your body,” Bryant said.
By returning to South Carolina, Bryant and Couisnard have more time to improve their game and prepare for next year's draft. Couisnard said he will work on his shooting and guard play, and Bryant said he will work on slowing himself down
“I had to learn how to be coachable, find ways to be coached,” Bryant said. “I’ve been trying to pop my head in the office with the coaches a few more this year than I ever have before, just trying to find out what I can do to help.”
Couisnard and Bryant are returning to a team that looks much different than the one they played for last year.
“It’s a lot of guys I feel like connected way more, and just being like closer to each other and just bonding with each other, I feel like that’s a big thing we really didn’t do last year, plus because of COVID,” Couisnard said.
Bryant and Couisnard have made it clear they are here to help the team achieve its goals of improving and making the NCAA tournament.
“Some of my goals are just be a better person,” Bryant said. “Do what I can to help this team out, be a leader and let’s get to March Madness.”
With their return, the Gamecocks will retain one of their primary scorers from last year and bring back a solid guard option who is familiar with the system. Also, having two veterans back could be beneficial in putting together a run at the tournament.
No matter how this season plays out, when it is all said and done their main goal is still to be drafted into the NBA. When asked if being drafted is still something he is working towards Bryant answered with a stern, “Yes, sir.”
If Bryant or Couisnard do end up getting drafted to the NBA, Martin said they will always be one of his kids.
"I keep calling them kids, because you meet them when they are 16-years-old and then you end up coaching them and they're always your kids," Martin said. "It's just part of the deal."