Phenom Hoop Report has been a great avenue for high school and middle school players, but that doesn’t mean we stop once they head to college. It is great to see these players take the next step in their careers, playing at the college level.
That is why we are bringing a little college talk to our readers.
In this writing, we will head to the SEC to take a look at the upcoming season and breaking down the roster of the South Carolina Gamecocks. After a Final Four run in 2017, Frank Martin’s teams went 33-32 over the previous two seasons, which included a fourth-place finish in the SEC last year with an 11-7 record.
Let’s Dive into the Roster…
Wing AJ Lawson
Lawson will be the featured piece on this roster, and rightfully so. The 6’6” guard can play any of the 3 perimeter positions and is coming off a 2018-19 season which saw him make 1st Team All-SEC Freshman team after averaging 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists while shooting 36% from the field and accumulating 1.1 steals per game. Lawson has not taken much time off as he was a standout at the prestigious CP3 Elite Guard Camp and averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists while shooting 39.6% from 3 in the FIBA U19 Worlds this summer. NBADraft.net currently has AJ Lawson projected as a Top 25 pick in the upcoming draft, and with his size/length and ability to shoot the ball and initiate the offense, with a good season ahead, that projection could rise.
Center Maik Kotsar
Kotsar has been a staple on this roster, playing in 100 career games at USC and starting in 90 of them. Head Coach Frank Martin leans on Kotsar because of his ability to defend as well as clean up possessions on the boards, with both strength and some athleticism. Kotsar stands 6’11” and 265 pounds, if he is able to finish better around the basket as well as knockdown free throws at a better clip, he could keep himself on the floor for longer stretches. If not, well SC has a lot of talented young players who are chomping at the bit.
Returning Players Looking to Take the Next Step:
Forward Keyshawn Bryant
Bryant is in the conversation as one of the most explosive players in the entire SEC (which may be the most athletic conference in the country). He also may be the best dunker in the conference, the type of in-game stuff that will leave your jaw dropped each game. Last season, Bryant provided a ton of energy to the team as he saw his minutes increase as the season went on. Bryant averaged and admirable 9 points per game, but it is his upside as a lockdown defender that’ll be his calling card. If he is able to shore up his shooting and handle (still averaged 9 ppg last year as a raw player playing 9 million miles an hour), Bryant could make a push for a huge role as his defensive ceiling is high.
Back on the Floor
What will be overlooked this year will be the players South Carolina had sitting out last season. Sure they lose Chris Silva, Hasani Gravett, and Tre Campbell, but to get this type of talent and experience on the floor, while sitting out a year and practicing with the team, is invaluable. Many aren’t talking about the injuries South Carolina endured last season and will also not be talking about these players becoming eligible. However, the talent has been significantly upgraded in Columbia with these 3 difference makers sitting out.
Guard Jair Bolden
During his sophomore year at George Washington, Bolden averaged 32.6 minutes per game, while averaging 11.7 points, switching back and forth between the point and off guard positions with 3 boards and 3 assists per game. Bolden is a noted shooter, but more than that he is a steadying force. He can play on or off the ball, he can shoot it and he is an older player who has been there before. In prep school, Bolden played at Westtown with Mo Bamba. The stage will never be too big for Bolden and that will be invaluable to this team.
Forward Justin Minaya
As a freshman, for the 2017-18 season, Minaya started in 30 of his 32 games played. He is a strong and lengthy forward who can handle, pass and shoot. Defensively, Minaya is able to check multiple positions, using a high IQ, his length and his strong frame. He will add a steady, veteran presence to this team. More versatility and more depth for the team. He should step back into his starting role from day 1. His father is Omar Minaya (with the NY Mets).
SG Jermaine Cousinard
While he may not be a day 1 starter, and AJ Lawson may be the one who gets all the accolades this season, it is Cousinard who may be the most talented player on the roster. He is the team’s best shooter, he has the handle to initiate and he has great court vision. Seamlessly able to shift between the point or off guard position (the type who could go for 11 assists one night then drop 30 on the following night), depending on matchups. Look for him to be on draft boards before his career in Columbia is over.
Freshman Looking to Make Big Push
PG Trae Hannibal
Hannibal came in ranked outside of the nation’s top 200 prospects. Well, early returns are that was an epic mistake. Hannibal has walked onto campus showcasing immediate leadership and ridiculous work ethic, which is what you want from your point guard. Add that to his NBA frame, and his skill, and his ridiculous competitive streak and you have a player who will make waves sooner rather than later. He is the best pure PG on the roster and will only be a matter of time until he takes over the starting position (how quickly will he pick up the speed and scheme).
PF Jalyn McCreary
McCreary has already added weight in the limited time since he committed. Standing 6’7/6’8 and weighing in around 235 pounds, he is long and very quick twitch. Not only is he quick-twitch he is also vertically explosive, in a big way. A true athlete, in every sense of the word McCreary’s motor and anticipation always seems to find his way to the ball. He finishes well around the basket (also high above the rim) and he is able to get downhill off the bounce. His future is as a pure mismatch forward, but how early he gets on the floor will be dictated by how soon he can pick up the defense and the speed of the game. He has immense upside on the defensive end.
C Wildens Leveque
Leveque looks the part, broad shoulders, long arms, legit size. He has very passer friendly hands, a sticktoitiveness nature on the boards and he runs the floor very well. The quicker Leveque picks things up in Columbia, the deeper the staff will be able to breathe. Outside of Kotsar, Leveque is the lone true center on the roster. He has an extremely bright future, but how quickly can he get game ready?
Others: TJ Moss, Trey Anderson, Alanzo Frink
The length and the athleticism of this team are in the upper echelon of SEC teams. Frank Martin is one of the best Xs & Os coaches in the country and has a proven track record of taking less and making more. Well this year, on paper, Martin has more talent than he has had at South Carolina, yet it is young … there are only two players remaining from the 2017-18 roster (which was just two years ago) … Will this be the year the University of South Carolina breaks through, there should be a tempered excitement among fans. It has been said that in order to make a nice tournament run, you need a couple of NBA guys or a roster filled with overseas pros, this team has both. As such, the upside of this team is an NCAA tournament birth, with how far they go depending on matchups … However, all of that will depend on how quickly the youth meshes and learns.