While the South Carolina men’s basketball team has lost a handful of players to the transfer portal this offseason, head coach Frank Martin said Thursday he expects several key veterans to remain with the program next year.
Perhaps most notably, Martin said he expects junior big man Alanzo Frink to return to action next season after he played just three games in 2020-21. Doctors ruled Frink out for the season due to unspecified “medical reasons” following the team’s extensive COVID-19 shutdown in the winter. His absence left the Gamecocks thin and inexperienced in the frontcourt during conference play.
Martin said sophomore forward Wildens Leveque grew as a player when he was thrust into Frink’s role, and Leveque is expected back next season after starting 15 games for the Gamecocks.
Though team leaders Jermaine Couisnard and Keyshawn Bryant both declared for the NBA Draft process without signing agents, Martin expressed confidence on Thursday that both players will be back with the Gamecocks next year.
“I have unbelievable relationships with Jermaine and Keyshawn, just so you guys know,” Martin said. “They’re exploring (the draft) to get information. The rules are there to allow it. Why not do it? ... It’s just part of the deal, but they’re at workouts every day, Keyshawn and Jermaine, and every indication is that they will play for us next year.”
Bryant blossomed as a more complete player in his junior season, polishing his mid-range shooting game and finishing second behind leading scorer A.J. Lawson with 14.4 points per game. An athletic 6-foot-6 forward, Bryant shot 48.3% from the field and provided a steady supply of highlight-reel dunks.
Couisnard went in another direction after his standout freshman year, struggling with shooting and injury woes during an inconsistent sophomore campaign. He shot just 30.2% from the field and 28.9% beyond the arc but finished third on the team with 10.1 points per game. Martin pointed to former Gamecock Sindarius Thornwell’s sophomore struggles as a reason for optimism that Couisnard can get back on track.
Martin said senior guard Seventh Woods has yet to make a decision about whether or not he’ll use his extra year of eligibility to play for USC one more year. Martin said Woods is still recovering from a severe late-season groin injury.
Lawson has also not yet announced a decision about entering the NBA Draft. Unlike the previous two seasons, if Lawson declares for the draft, he won’t have the option to return to USC, Martin said. All indications point to Lawson, 20, pursuing a professional career.
While the Gamecocks are losing five players to the transfer portal, they also signed a quartet of transfers in guards Erik Stevenson, Chico Carter Jr. and James Reese and forward A.J. Wilson. Along with the expected return of Frink, Leveque, Bryant, Cousinard and freshman center Tre-Vaughn Minott, Martin said he believes the Gamecocks have the talent necessary to improve on their 6-15 (4-11 SEC) record from this season.
“Well, No. 1, we get Alanzo Frink back, who was our starting front-line guy,” Martin said. “No. 2, Wildens Leveque. If you saw Wildens this past year, in a difficult year he played his best basketball at the end of the year. Why? Because he was starting to get comfortable.
“You return Jermaine, who had a bad year. Jermaine was just — I couldn’t help him, and he didn’t play well, Jermaine is a proven leader on this basketball team. Keyshawn’s electric in the things that he does. He grew tremendously as a person and a player this past year. I think you saw Tre-Vaughn, he’s still got a ways to go, but there’s some things he brought to the table that we didn’t have anyone on our team that can do.
“And when you start adding those along with the transfers, you’ve heard me say this in the past, it takes time to build your team.”
TJ Moss finds new home
Former South Carolina guard TJ Moss will transfer to McNeese State, according to multiple reports Thursday. He played 55 career games for the Gamecocks, including eight starts, and he averaged 3.3 points per game while shooting 32% from the field.