The South Carolina men’s basketball team's look has changed drastically since last season. With a brand-new coaching staff and revamped roster, the Gamecocks will get a fresh start as the 2022-2023 season gets underway.
A new coach brings a new playbook and head coach Lamont Paris said he thinks the team has adapted to the new system well.
“Anytime you're implementing a whole new system and a change in philosophy, there are a lot of challenges that come with that,” Paris said. "So, I really like where this group is in terms of trying to get accomplished the things that we value ... they are really enjoying themselves and being around each other every day at practice.”
Paris has a few goals for his team this season, starting with growth.
“I think even in the best teams that I have ever coached, that's been a thing. Rarely have they come out of the gates really fast, and then didn’t really have to get much faster,” Paris said. “My calling card and trademark has been teams have gotten better. Some had no choice but to get better.”
Illinois transfer and redshirt junior forward Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk is someone who assistant coach Tim Buckley thinks can help kickstart that growth.
“He's got an explosiveness about him as far as running and getting to the ball,” Buckley said. “As a facilitator, I think he's a guy that he can get to places and then when he makes good decisions and make those kicks, he can get other guys easier shots.”
Graduate forward Hayden Brown is another experienced player the staff already sees carving out a role on the team. While he was at The Citadel, Brown became the seventh-leading scorer in program history and averaged nearly a double-double last season.
“He puts so much pressure on you physically, to either follow him or, if you try to contest a shot or whatever, he's gonna be aggressive,” Bronson said. “So, that's what we want from him. So, we're hoping as we get into this and we get into league play, that doesn't really change too much.”
Freshman forwards GG Jackson and Daniel Hankins-Sanford and freshman guard Zach Davis — nicknamed the "Three Stooges" or "Three Amigos" — are already receiving high praise from Paris.
“They’re talented,” Paris said. “We already know and have talked about GG, but Daniel is one of the strongest, most physically advanced freshmen I've ever been around ... And then Zach's probably shown the most improvement possibly of anyone on the team from the day that we got here.”
Paris said he loves the young group and is excited to see what they’ll look like come January.
The Gamecocks will have a good opportunity to mesh prior to conference play, likely avoiding ranked matchups and participating in the Charleston Classic tournament.
South Carolina will face Colorado State in the opening round of the tourney and could go on to play other teams such as Penn State, Furman, Davidson and Virginia Tech.
The two toughest non-conference games outside of the Charleston Classic will be road matchups at Georgetown and UAB. Despite neither of the two being ranked, Georgetown can be a tricky place for opponents to play and UAB has been one of the better mid-major programs in recent years.
The Blazers are coming off of a 27-8 season where they went 16-2 at home. The Hoyas are coming off a less impressive season, finishing 6-25, but return the Big East conference tournament's most outstanding player.
UAB received a vote in the top-25 AP preseason poll. Meanwhile, South Carolina received no votes and was picked to finish last in the SEC media poll.
Of course, a lot of attention this season will be placed on Jackson. The 17-year-old was the consensus top-ranked player in the 2023 recruiting class and sixth-best when he reclassified to 2022.
Jackson said he sometimes still feels like a high school senior. He knows he won’t get his way on the court as easily as he’s used to, but he’s getting the hang of things.
“My game has been starting to translate. My shot has definitely improved a lot, my ball handling,” Jackson said. “I guess I'm not a traditional big anymore ... I'm getting rebounds, pushing the ball up, inbounding the ball to me. I'm starting offense sometimes.”
Jackson said he doesn’t know how long he’ll play in college but does know he’s excited to play for his city.
“I just want to be able to lift the city, the way that all of y'all have uplifted me," Jackson said.