Gamecock Athletics stayed busy throughout December and the first week of January, as the football team revamped its roster, both basketball teams continued their winning streaks and spring sports teams revealed the opponents for their upcoming seasons. Here's what different teams where up to while students were away.
The South Carolina football team’s offseason began earlier than usual this year, as the Gamecocks failed to reach bowl game eligibility for the first time in Shane Beamer’s head coaching tenure.
In the aftermath of missing out on postseason football, South Carolina lost 21 players to the transfer portal, including redshirt senior running back Mario Anderson, sophomore linebacker Stone Blanton and senior kicker Mitch Jeter. Senior wide receiver Antwane “Juice” Wells Jr., who missed most of last year due to injury, was another significant portal loss.
The Gamecocks focused on replenishing talent through recruitment and the transfer portal, which made for a busy month of December.
The Gamecocks have added 14 players via the transfer portal since it opened on Dec. 4, the most notable being junior running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, who ran for 1,443 yards and scored 10 touchdowns at Arkansas in 2022.
South Carolina also welcomed 16 incoming freshmen on Dec. 20 who signed national letters of intent with the program. The 2024 recruiting class features two five-star prospects — edge rusher Dylan Stewart and offensive lineman Josiah Thompson — according to On3.
“(We’re) really excited about the people that are coming into our program, and then we’re not done, either,” Beamer said. “We’re on a non-stop quest to make this team better and make this program better.”
South Carolina’s offseason personnel changes haven’t been limited to its roster, though. TheBigSpur reported on Jan. 3 that the Gamecock players would be departing with running backs coach Montario Hardesty after three seasons with the program.
Both basketball teams continued on hot starts to the season, going a combined 10-0 over winter break to wrap up their non-conference schedules. The women’s team remains undefeated as the No. 1 team in the country, and the men’s team is garnering national attention with a 13-1 record.
The women’s team earned victories over Presbyterian, Bowling Green and East Carolina, heading into SEC play among the nation’s leaders in a number of statistical categories. The Gamecocks lead the country in blocks per game (9.6) as well as average margin of victory (+41.1 points) and possess both a top-5 offense and defense.
South Carolina did not lose a step during its first two games against conference opponents. The team earned an 89-66 win over Florida in Gainesville on Jan. 4 before returning home and defeating Mississippi State 85-66 on Jan. 7.
The men’s team picked up home wins over Charleston Southern, Winthrop, Elon and Florida A&M to extend its win streak to five games after losing to Clemson in early December. The team’s offense is led by junior guard Meechie Johnson, who ranks third in the conference in points per game (18.2).
As the men’s team looks to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017, head coach Lamont Paris said the team’s preparations for games have not changed, despite facing higher-quality opponents.
“We talked a little bit about the challenges of some of the things that we’ve done successfully in these first 13 games. They’ll be made more difficult in these next 18 games just due to length, overall size, athleticism,” Paris said. “As a general rule, the things that have allowed us to win these games are the things that we’re going to have to continue to do in these games.”
South Carolina cleared its first SEC hurdle on Jan. 6 by earning a 68-62 victory over Mississippi State, a team that was ranked in the top 25 earlier this season. Johnson led the Gamecocks in scoring with 24 points, shooting 6-12 from the field and 9-11 from the free-throw line.
Swimming and Diving
The South Carolina diving team competed in the Tennessee Diving Invitational from Jan. 3 to Jan. 5, where six Gamecocks made finals appearances in nine different events.
Sophomore Charley Bayer and freshman Mak Blake led the way on the first day of the competition, reaching the finals in the men’s 1-meter springboard and the women’s 3-meter springboard, respectively. Bayer finished 10th, while Blake finished 12th.
Freshman Max Spencer reached the finals in the men’s 3-meter springboard on day two, finishing ninth. Blake, junior Blair Isenhour and graduate student Josie Matalone also finished in the top 30 for the women’s platform finals.
The South Carolina swim team competed in a dual meet against Florida on Jan. 5. The Gators’ men’s and women’s swim teams — both of which are ranked in the top 3 nationally — defeated the Gamecocks, but junior Michael Laitarovsky continued his unbeaten start to the season in the 100-meter backstroke.
A number of teams competing in the spring announced the schedules for their respective 2024 seasons.
The South Carolina baseball team, which is ranked No. 13 in Perfect Game's Preseason rankings, released its non-conference slate of games after revealing its SEC opponents in September. The team’s season will begin with a three-game home series against the Miami RedHawks from Feb. 16 to Feb. 18. The Gamecocks will also go up against rival Clemson in early March.
The softball team finalized its non-conference schedule, which is set to begin when South Carolina hosts Jacksonville State, Virginia and UNC Greensboro at the Carolina Classic in early February. The Gamecocks will then head to Mexico from Feb. 15 to Feb. 17 to compete in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge for the second time in program history.
The men’s tennis team will have its first competitive match at Virginia on Jan. 21 before hosting Clemson, LSU and Louisville at the ITA Kickoff Weekend on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28. The Gamecocks will begin the season ranked No. 5 in the country, its highest preseason ranking in program history.
“We’re really looking forward to the challenging schedule that we put together for the 2024 season,” head coach Josh Goffi said. “The goal of the schedule is to be prepared for May, and this slate provides every opportunity to accomplish that.”