The South Carolina men's basketball team will be looking to curb low expectations with a revamped yet experienced roster for the 2023-24 season.
Head coach Lamont Paris begins his second year at the helm with a roster that features just seven players who have stepped onto the court in a Gamecock jersey. Paris said he utilized the transfer portal to add seasoned veterans to the roster.
“You can do two things because of the portal. You can get older quicker, and you can also recruit to play your style of basketball quicker," Paris said. "You can change what the makeup of your team is pretty quickly.”
Paris looks to add experience through three graduate student transfers — forward B.J. Mack, forward Stephen Clark and guard Ta'Lon Cooper — as well as junior guard transfer Myles Stute.
The four transfers, paired with the returning players and newcomers, have a greater capacity to learn and grow than the group he coached in his first year, he said.
But expectations aren't high for the Gamecocks ahead of the season.
SEC media members voted for South Carolina to finish last in the conference for the regular season. This is the second season in a row that the Gamecocks are projected to finish last.
Stute, who transferred from fellow SEC East school Vanderbilt, said he knows what it will take for the group to defy the odds after playing in the conference for two years.
“I think (playing in the SEC) takes an attitude, a certain mentality, to not take any play off, not leave a stone unturned,” Stute said. “I think that's exactly what every single guy on this team brings.”
South Carolina’s returning players said they are optimistic that the new additions can help this group make its mark on the program.
After withdrawing his name from the NBA Draft at the end of last season to return to South Carolina, junior guard Meechie Johnson is confident that the group will be different than last year.
“The chemistry, the love, the talk, the affection is all there with these guys,” Johnson said. “I just feel like this team has a chance to be special and be remembered for something.”
Along with the rest of the team, redshirt senior forward Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk returned to Columbia eager to turn the program around.
“I am on a mission, just like coach Paris is and just like any of these guys (are),” Bosmans-Verdonk said. “I hope to see it to completion.”
The group will need to form a new identity between the veteran and freshman players to see success in the SEC, Paris said. But he said he hopes other coaches and teams will view South Carolina as a disciplined and competitive defensive unit.
While the team has made practical offensive adjustments, Paris said the new group has a lot to make up for on the defensive side of the ball.
But he will not put a ceiling on this group's potential, he said.
“I would never cap what I think these guys are capable of doing,” Paris said. “We've got a lot a work to do, especially on the defensive end, but we got a lot of guys that can put the ball in the basket.”
The Gamecocks have an opportunity to develop its team identity before opening up conference play, as it will not face an opponent ranked in the pre-season AP Top 25 men’s basketball poll.
South Carolina will participate in the Hall of Fame Series against Virginia Tech, the Arizona Tipoff tournament and the ACC/SEC Challenge against Notre Dame before facing an opponent in the SEC.
The Gamecocks will look to squash doubts and improve upon its 11-21 overall record from the previous season at home against Wofford College at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1.