After a Final Four appearance in 2017, the Gamecocks struggled last year to reach a 17-16 record. They finished 11th in the SEC and missed out on a postseason berth during an overall disappointing campaign. Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier aren’t walking through the door this year, but there is reason for optimism with this team if they can fix some of the issues that plagued last years team.
The Gamecocks return a few key players but will need contributions from freshman and transfers to be competitive. Senior Forward Chris Silva returns, coming off First Team All-SEC and CO-SEC Defensive player of the year honors. He will need to continue to play his usual defense and stay out of the foul trouble that has held him back for a lot of his career. Maik Kotsar, another big man who started last year, needs to have some sort of impact on the offensive end after averaging just 8.0 points per game on 42% shooting last year. Justin Minaya had a promising freshman season and will be counted on heavily to knock down three pointers after shooting 36% from beyond the arc. It’s crucial that the Gamecocks have an outside shooting threat to open up the post for Silva and Kotsar. Other returners who got minutes last year are: Felipe Haase and Hassani Gravett.
Even though South Carolina lost their only exhibition against Augusta, some of the newcomers impressed. Graduate transfer Tre Campbell, who is likely to take over point guard duties, which was the achilles heel of the team last year, had 13 points in 17 minutes before exiting with an ankle injury. He is expected to play Tuesday night in the Gamecocks opener against USC Upstate. Freshman AJ Lawson from Ontario led all freshman in scoring with 12 points against Augusta. Lawson was rated as a 4 star prospect according to Rivals and could see big playing time this year if he’s able to keep up on defense with his wiry frame (6’6″ 185). Another freshman who could get on the floor a lot is TJ Moss from Findlay Prep in Nevada. He will take on a lot of responsibility early as there is a strong chance he will lead the second unit as the backup point guard. Jermaine Couisnard was highly regarded coming out of high school, but he won’t play until his academic eligibility is sorted out. Other incoming freshman include Nathan Nelson, Alanzo Frink, and Keyshawn Bryant.
After the aforementioned opener on Tuesday, the Gamecocks won’t be really tested until Mid-December when they have a trio of out of conference games against Michigan, Virginia, and Clemson. After that tough stretch, they get into SEC play which will again be a very competitive conference. If the Gamecocks can get improved point guard play, consistently knock down outside shots, and better their free throw shooting they should be able to improve on last years mediocre record.