New men’s basketball head coach Lamont Paris is already getting his foot in the door when it comes to recruiting players for his team.
Paris said he is already having conversations with commits and potential prospects during his introductory press conference last Thursday.
“It’s been a busy couple of days and my phone doesn't stop ringing. I give priority to the recruits, so yes, I’ve already hit the ground running with that. I have plans to get on the road tomorrow to see a potential prospect,” Paris said.
During the press conference, Paris constantly emphasized the importance of recruiting. For Paris, recruiting is one of the most important parts of the game.
“Recruiting is a big part of what I do; that’s an objective of mine,” Paris said.
Paris said he was someone recruits can “relate to.” He said it’s easy for him to connect with his recruits and players because he builds their trust in him by remaining honest with each player throughout the process.
Paris said there aren't many ways for coaches to be competitive and said players are the ones that compete during games. Recruiting gives Paris the opportunity to let out his competitive side.
“That’s an area that I get to compete. That's me versus them, and I won't lose because of effort. It just won’t happen. I won’t lose because I didn’t turn over a stone, or lift up a leaf or get under a bush,” Paris said.
One thing Paris said he will attempt to do that his predecessors didn’t have as much success with is keeping prospects from South Carolina home. Ray Allen, Raymond Felton, Khris Middelton, Ja Morant and Zion Willamson are just some of a long list of talented high school players to leave the state and play elsewhere.
“The talent pool here is rich, it’s really good … I mean the depth of talent in this state is at a high level,” Paris said “I will recruit this state incredibly hard, I’ll be committed to that ... My staff and I will know every young man that has potential to play at this level, not just the guys that are in the top ten in the country.”
Tapping into the well of talent that comes from the state of South Carolina is one way to build program depth. Another way is the transfer portal.
“The landscape of recruiting has changed,” Paris said. “You have to adapt to what’s out there and use the tools that are out there, and so I think the transfer portal can be a great way to supplement what you have going, particularly as you take a job over.”
Paris is familiar with the transfer portal. He built a successful team at Chattanooga this season with help from the portal. Seven of the team’s 10 highest scorers started their collegiate careers at another school. His most impactful addition this season, senior forward Silvio De Sousa from Kansas, averaged 11 points and about seven rebounds per game.
Recruiting out of the transfer portal can take a coach’s time away from recruiting high school players. Paris made it a point to say this would not be the case for him.
“I’ll use the transfer portal as a tool, but I will not neglect high school recruiting. I won’t,” Paris said.
With the state of SEC basketball right now, which Paris said is “at the height” he’s seen in his life, it is becoming increasingly important to be a good recruiter.
Paris said he will try and build his roster into a consistent participant in the NCAA tournament. He said he is confident he can get the players he needs to build a winning program at South Carolina.
“The barriers that stand between winning, there aren’t a ton here,” Paris said. “I know we’ve been in nine NCAA tournaments in the school history — I’d like to add to that.”