The Daily Gamecock

Meechie Johnson returns to Gamecocks for his junior season after withdrawing from NBA Draft

<p>FILE — Junior guard Meechie Johnson high-fives his teammates after being subbed out during their scrimmage against Mars Hill on Nov. 22, 2023. The Gamecocks defeated the Lions 80-41.&nbsp;</p>
FILE — Junior guard Meechie Johnson high-fives his teammates after being subbed out during their scrimmage against Mars Hill on Nov. 22, 2023. The Gamecocks defeated the Lions 80-41. 

Junior guard Meechie Johnson said he has more room to improve as he returns to the South Carolina men’s basketball program this year after withdrawing from the NBA Draft at the end of last season.

Johnson said he returned for a second year with the Gamecocks because he wanted to “be remembered for something,” and South Carolina is where he wants to do it after starting his college career at Ohio State.

Honestly, I wanted to give myself another chance to be a higher draft pick,” Johnson said. “I wanted to win more. That was one of the biggest things. I'm not a loser.” 

Johnson was the team's second leading scorer in his first season with the Gamecocks, trailing only former forward Gregory “GG” Jackson II, who was the 45th pick in May's NBDA Draft after one season at South Carolina. Jackson averaged 15.4 points per game, and Johnson averaged 12.7 points per game

However, the men’s basketball team went just 11-21 last season, winning only four games in the Southeastern Conference. Johnson played in 30 games and started 29, tallying 999 total minutes on the court. 

Redshirt senior forward Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk said he's selfishly glad Johnson opted to return so that the team could once again count on Johnson’s scoring ability.

Meechie’s my boy,” Bosmans-Verdonk said. “I just love being on the court with him. I love the improvement he’s made. Just to be able to share another year of great memories with him, I think is very exciting.”

Johnson said his personal goal this season is to be named to the All-SEC First Team, and he wants to help the team get to at least the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina's men's team has not appeared in March Madness since 2017, when it lost in the Final Four. 

“The chemistry, the love, the talk, the affection — it's all there with these guys,” Johnson said. “I feel like this team has a chance to be special and be remembered for something. It's not easy, don't get me wrong, at all. It’s a lot of good teams out there, but this team has a chance. If we can continue to piece it all together, we will be remembered for sure.” 


Senior forward Josh Gray said Johnson is great for “team camaraderie and boosts everyone's spirits when they’re low. Johnson is a “good glue guy,” who helps bridge the gap between the team's freshmen and upperclassmen, Gray said. 

Johnson is preparing for his fourth season of college basketball and his second season as a Gamecock. During his time as a Buckeye, Johnson played in 17 games during his first year and 26 games during his second year, starting five.

South Carolina head coach Lamont Paris said he's noticed Johnson's growth as a transfer player. Instead of focusing on proving Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann wrong, Paris said Johnson has matured past that mindset. 

“I think he’s just out of that mode, in terms of trying to prove something, particularly to me and our staff,” Paris said. “He’s just trying to flourish, and it’s happening. He’s growing as a player, and he’s growing as an individual.”

Paris said so far during the preseason, Johnson has played well and looks more comfortable with his personality as one of the team's leaders on the court

Johnson will get his chance “to be remembered for something” as the season progresses.