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Gamecock men’s basketball roster sees shakeup

This team could look a lot different next year.

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

In what may come as no surprise after a troubled and pandemic-altered season, the South Carolina men’s basketball roster is already undergoing changes ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

Junior forward Justin Minaya announced on Instagram that he’ll test the NBA Draft waters, and failing a move to the pros, will nonetheless transfer from South Carolina. While Minaya put up seven points and six rebounds per game this past year, he was one of the Gamecocks’ better defensive players and a stalwart in their lineup.

His declaration follows the announcement of fellow junior forward and star Keyshawn Bryant, who enjoyed his best year as a Gamecock (averaging 14 points and five rebounds with a 48.3 field goal percentage) and was one of the few bright sides in an otherwise brutal season defined most by COVID. Notably, Bryant didn’t sign an agent, so the door is open for a possible return.

While A.J. Lawson has surprisingly been mum about his plans to this point, the junior guard tested the NBA Draft last season and seems likely to do so again.

Aside from potentially pro Gamecocks, the transfer portal is busy as well. Reserve guards Trae Hannibal and T.J. Moss, along with backup forward Jalyn McCreary, have all put their names in the mix. Depending on whether senior Seventh Woods exercises his extra year of eligibility, he could be another departure from Columbia as well, leaving the Gamecock bench particularly thin at guard.

For Gamecock fans, this amount of offseason roster turbulence isn’t new, as it’s been somewhat of a hallmark during the Frank Martin era. Speaking of which, the school has been quiet about Martin’s future, which initially made sense but has become increasingly troublesome as more time has elapsed (and potential coaching candidates have been hired by other schools). For now, the assumption is that Martin will return — having been given a mulligan for coming down with COVID twice, and otherwise dealing with pandemic-shortened season — but the optics right now couldn’t be more puzzling, especially after a former state senator and Columbia’s current mayor voiced their support while the school continues to remain silent. Hopefully, for the sake of us all — and especially Frank Martin — there will be a formal resolution on that soon.

Oh, but on a positive note: The transfer portal has actually brought a player to the Gamecocks. South Carolina’s first offseason commitment comes from Chico Carter Jr., a guard out of Murray State who originally hails from Columbia and played his high school ball for Cardinal Newman. The 6-foot-2 Carter averaged 12.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists this past season, shooting 50.8 from the field.