A clean slate awaits the South Carolina men's basketball team this year as a mix of veterans athletes, new players and new coaches prepare to begin their first season in Columbia.
Experience is vital to balance out the roster and bond the team together with a total of five transfer student-athletes and three new freshmen joining the team. Among the group of returning veterans this season is sophomore guard Jacobi Wright who also played in Columbia last year.
Wright has a unique perspective as a player experienced within the program but with his transition to the college game still fresh in his mind.
“Last year, I didn’t know what I was getting into,” Wright said. "So this year, for me, I came into it just wanting to better myself ... this year I'm just trying to ... help the team.”
Last season was Wright's first playing on the South Carolina men's basketball team. He along with the other returning athletes played under Frank Martin to begin their Gamecock careers.
After the dismissal of Martin, South Carolina's head coach for the past ten years, in the spring, Gamecock fans will see Lamont Paris take over the program as the new head coach and lead the team.
Paris was previously the coach of the Mocs men’s basketball team at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He’s been working with the Gamecocks since the summer. Veterans of the Gamecocks are adjusting to playing under a different coaching staff.
"I think with every coach, every system is going to be different anyways, so I wouldn't say it's either hard or easy to adapt to a system,” junior center Tre-Vaughn Minott said. “There's gonna be some adjustments to be made, but I think that comes naturally with the game."
Minott is one of the longest tenured Gamecocks on the roster having been a part of this team since 2020. Last season, Minott played 14 games and averaged 2 points and 1.9 rebounds per game.
“I feel like all of us should be effective communicators to help carry our team and to push us to the top,” Minott said, giving insight to how he's approaching the season.
After meeting the incoming coaching staff, Minott said he had a good feeling and decided to stay with the South Carolina basketball program. He also said he's seen growth in this year's freshman class.
"It shows every day they come into practice. They're ready to work, ready to get down and dirty," Minott said. "They've just been getting better."
Guard Chico Carter Jr., a returning senior, decided to stay on the team instead of entering the transfer portal. Carter transferred in last offseason and played under Coach Martin for a year. After seeing Coach Paris’ interview, he decided to stay and continue playing with the Gamecocks.
“He really just broke down to me that he has a plan for us,” Carter said. “I believed it and I stayed."
New transfer graduate forward Hayden Brown will make his debut with the team this year. Brown is the oldest player on the roster but has already established himself among his new teammates and head coach.
“I’ve been very comfortable with (Paris) from the start,” Brown said. “I think we just have a trust that has come over time."
Junior forward Ja'Von Benson, junior forward Josh Gray and senior guard Ford Cooper Jr. round out the athletes who have remained with the South Carolina program through the coaching change and roster turnover. Each player will take on a new role under Paris and upperclassmen will have to help their new teammates find their footing.