The Daily Gamecock

Transfer players bring veteran leadership, experience to South Carolina men’s basketball team

The South Carolina men’s basketball team experienced significant turnover during the offseason. Out of the 16 total players listed on the team’s roster for the 2023-24 campaign, only seven were part of the program last year.

While some of the holes left behind by last year's team were filled by freshmen, others were taken by incoming transfer players with multiple seasons of college basketball experience.

South Carolina’s four new transfer players said they each found their way to Columbia for their own reasons. Graduate student guard Ta’Lon Cooper, who transferred from Minnesota, said his belief in head coach Lamont Paris’ project played a factor in his decision.

Graduate student forward Stephen Clark, who played with former Gamecock basketball player Hayden Brown at The Citadel, said he wanted to see how he stacked up against elevated competition.

“It’s probably been one of the hardest years I’ve had just being challenged and step up. I wasn’t going up against people as good as me for four years, so it’s definitely been a challenge,” Clark said. “That’s what I wanted when I chose here is a challenge to push myself to be the best I could.”

Junior guard Myles Stute said that with nine new players on its roster, the team had to spend much of the offseason building chemistry, including with a preseason trip to the Bahamas that helped him become more familiar with the Gamecocks’ playbook and his teammates’ on-court tendencies.

“I think it really, really allowed us to gel a lot quicker, kind of understand each others’ play styles a lot better, see some different competitions, see some different faces than we saw each other every day on practice,” Stute, a Vanderbilt transfer, said. “I thought it just really, really helped out a lot for us to take that trip.”

Paris said he has already seen the benefits the transfers can provide the team in the short time they have been on campus. He said that graduate student forward B.J. Mack, who he previously coached at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is a player whose veteran traits are clear when he steps on the court.

“I had a good feel for what his basketball game was — offensively especially — so, just the ability to stretch the floor. He also can score back to the basket,” Paris said. “He’s just a very versatile guy offensively, so you’re going to have to make decisions in how you guard him and who you’re guarding him with.”

Paris said that redshirt senior guard Ebrima Dibba, who transferred from Coastal Carolina ahead of the 2022-23 season, found ways to showcase veteran leadership despite never appearing in a regular season game for South Carolina after suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in summer of 2022.

"He's just engaged constantly (and) communicates with his teammates. He’s a great buffer between the words that I say and then how they hear what I say because there’s a mile in between those two things sometimes,” Paris said. “Having an older guy that’s been around that can take those words, change them around a little bit and then decipher them for those guys has been great.”

Stute said he hopes to have a similar impact on South Carolina’s younger players, both as a role model and a source of support should they need it.

“(I’m) trying my hardest to be that leader, to be that vocal presence each and every day, every possession, kind of telling guys where they need to be or calling out screens that they might not see," Stute said. "Always just being somebody that they can lean on every day, a shoulder just to let them know we’re all good at all times."


Mack and Clark, who appeared in a combined 213 games before joining the Gamecocks, said that leadership is about looking beyond this season to set their teammates up for future success. 

”I think that me and B.J. both have played a ton of games, and we've got a lot of great young players,” Clark said. “This year, part of our role as leaders is being able to show them what we’ve seen in games in the past so that they can be even more ahead for next year.”

Cooper, who grew up in Roebuck, South Carolina, said representing his home state is something that holds sentimental meaning to him as the beginning of the season is less than a week away

“(At Minnesota), all my teammates were pretty much from Minnesota, so just having that pride (and) having South Carolina across my chest is going to mean a lot to me,” Cooper said. “Having my family and friends come and see me play — they haven’t seen me play in awhile — it’s going to be special.”

Stute said his motivation comes from seeing how Paris' vision translates to success this season.

“I trust and believe in it, and not only that, but the guys in this locker room — one through fifteen — I believe in the work that we all put in each and every day,” Stute said. “I can just tell that there’s something different about this team and that we got something special going on.”