The 2022-2023 version of the South Carolina basketball team was not a consistently good squad. The Gamecocks’ tied the program record for losses in a season with 21 defeats and had their season come to an end when they were unceremoniously bounced from the SEC Tournament by an equally-underperforming Ole Miss group.
However, despite the struggles the team underwent on the court, Lamont Paris’ squad was not void of talent. Freshman GG Jackson is expected to be a first-round pick in June’s NBA Draft, and combo guard Meechie Johnson also submitted his name into consideration for the draft, as well. In recent years, the NCAA and NBA have come to an agreement that allows college players to maintain their NCAA eligibility while receiving feedback from the NBA about their draft stocks.
On Tuesday, after hearing how he was viewed by professional scouts, Johnson officially removed his name from draft consideration. While this decision was expected, it comes as good news for a South Carolina basketball team that needs all the help it can get to return to competitiveness. Last season was Johnson’s first in Columbia, and he averaged just under 13 points per game while shooting 32% from deep (sometimes very deep) 3-point range and playing a big role in the facilitation of the offense.
Johnson will return to a Carolina roster that looks vastly different from the one he played with a season ago in Columbia. Josh Gray and Jacobi Wright are the only fellow returns who consistently got big minutes for the Gamecocks, and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk and Zachary Davis had stretches of significant play. Graduation, the transfer portal, and the NBA claimed the rest.
The Gamecocks have added significant reinforcements through the transfer portal and high school recruiting.
Bigs BJ Mack (grad transfer from Wofford) and Stephen Clark (grad transfer from The Citadel) committed to Lamont Paris and his staff along with point guard Ta’Lon Cooper (grad transfer from Minnesota) and combo forward Myles Stute (rising 4th-year player from Vanderbilt with two years of eligibility remaining).
From the high school ranks, Carolina added two long forwards in Collin Murray-Boyles and Arden Conyers. The athletic Murray-Boyles can play both the three and the four, while Conyers is a small forward prospect who can grow into a very good shooter.
Along with all of these reinforcements, the return of Meechie Johnson is a big deal for the Gamecocks. If things go well with the new-look roster’s chemistry, the 2023-2024 season should be much better in Columbia.