The 2022-2023 men’s basketball season is looking to be a fresh start for the Gamecocks with new head coach Lamont Paris bringing players to Columbia through the transfer portal and showcasing his unique style of coaching.
Paris was officially named the head coach on March 21, becoming the first African American to hold the position for the men's program. Before coming to South Carolina, Paris spent five years with the Chattanooga Mocs where he created a winning culture that emphasized a high-performance level and work ethic for all players, resulting in success on and off the court.
The high work ethic led the Mocs to post a 3.0 GPA in three consecutive semesters during the 2021 season. While on the hardwood, the Mocs won the SoCon Tournament championship and recorded their 12th NCAA Tournament appearance this past season.
“The most important changes that we made had to do with culture,” Paris said during the first-round press conference at the 2022 NCAA Tournament. "Culture was a huge thing in terms of our emphasis on academics, our emphasis on team play.”
Over the duration of Paris’ coaching career, he has prioritized efficiency. In an interview with Gamecock Insider, Paris said he thought it was important that every player on the court touch the ball.
“I like to have a basketball court on the offensive end where five guys are a threat in some way, shape or another,” Paris said. “I like everyone to get involved.”
During the 2021-2022 season, Paris' Chattanooga was ranked 67th out of the 358 teams that were listed by the Ken Pom advanced college basketball rankings in offensive efficiency. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks came in at No. 99.
However, according to Paris, this offensive mindset does not take away from the ball's defensive side as he said he wants his players to primarily focus on being “coordinated and connected,” turning the team into a singular unit.
Chattanooga also produced success with recruitment during Paris’ time there by focusing heavily on the transfer portal. In the past season with the Mocs, Paris grabbed graduate forward Silvio De Sousa from Kansas University and graduate forward Josh Ayeni, who attended St. Bonaventure.
“It’s just crazy, you know, looking back, it just felt like I didn’t have a chance. Coach Paris, he showed me love. My brother, my teammates, they showed me love," Silvia de Sousa said in a press conference last March.
The firing of Frank Martin resulted in eight Gamecock players entering the transfer portal, leaving a huge hole to fill for Paris. Through his long search in the portal, Paris picked up big names such as graduate forward Hayden Brown from the Citadel, redshirt senior guard Ebrima Dibba from Coastal Carolina, and junior guard Meechie Johnson from Ohio State.
Paris has also signed GG Jackson who reclassified to the 2022 class after flipping from UNC. Jackson was ranked no. 6 in the 2023 class and played at Ridge View High School Columbia where he was awarded the 2021-2022 South Carolina Boys Basketball Player Of The Year. In an interview with the Hoop Nerds podcast, Paris said it is important to form good relationships with the players he coaches.
“ I think the biggest thing is that I tell them the truth. I think in this day and age, I think it’s not happening at all," Paris said. “Unfortunately because of that, sometimes some of these young guys are gonna be told the truth the first time when they’re at work.”
Paris said the most important thing that he tries to do is "care" for his players to set a strong foundation not only individually with one player but as a benefit for the whole team.
"You can't pretend that, you can't just say that I care about you. They have to see that," Paris said.
Tim Buckley, who is joining South Carolina as an assistant coach, had high praise and excitement about Paris heading into the new season.
“ (I was) very impressed with him from afar and now that I’m with him every day, I’m even more impressed than I thought I would be," Buckley said.
The Gamecocks' upcoming season has them facing some of the top teams in the country. This includes Tennessee and Auburn who finished No. 5 and No. 8 respectively in the AP Top 25 poll, leaving Paris to prepare his team for many difficult battles on the court.