South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Lamont Paris has been a part of successful teams in the past and knows what it takes to be a good college basketball team.
Paris, who comes to Columbia after a successful stint as the head coach at Chattanooga, will soon tip off his first season as the Gamecocks’ head man as the first game is just under a month away.
On Wednesday, Paris detailed what about the team has caught his eye so far and the first thing he mentioned was guard Meechie Johnson.
“One is Meechie Johnson in terms of some of the passes that he makes on a consistent basis,” Paris said. “He didn’t play the point and that was part of the reason why he came here because he wanted to play the point guard position. Sometimes, guys just want to play the point because they bring the ball up. There is a whole set of responsibilities that goes along with that that has been kind of lost in translation over the last 15 years I would say.
“Some of the passes that he has been able to make on a consistent basis. It is not like he tripped and fell his way into this pass. He has done it enough times that he has seen that pass and is willing to make that pass. That was, in your terms, a surprise that he consistently would see that and make that play.”
In addition to Johnson, Paris has been happy to see his group doing whatever it takes to improve every day before the start of the 2022-23 season.
“It is not a surprise, but I am glad that what I do see out there is a group of young men that do enjoy the whole process of working, improving, being criticized, elating, having frustrations, running hills, lifting weights, we have a group that seems to really enjoy doing that with each other,” Paris said. “That is always a good sign when you have that, so I am happy that is where we are with that.”
Paris takes over for former head coach Frank Martin so he is bringing in a new system that the players will have to learn.
Paris said he is thankful for how he has seen his players work on adapting to the new system and being willing to learn it.
“Our willingness to dedicate themselves to doing something that is completely uncomfortable and foreign to them,” Paris said. “That I believe will help win games even though they don’t necessarily see that it will help us win games. You think about being in that situation, ‘You are asking me to do something. It is uncomfortable for me. I am not even good at it. I don’t want to do it. And I probably don’t even think it is going to help us win. But you are asking me to do and I am willingly do that and I am criticized when I don’t have successes doing that.’
“It is hard situation for any of us to be in. It used to be 18-22 (years old), it is 17-24 I think for us this year. In that window, it is hard to be in those circumstances and still come every day and want to work. I have really, really been happy with and I feel fortunate. I have thanked these guys for doing that. They don’t have to be like that. They didn’t pick me, some of these guys. Some of them did. It is not always the invoke thing to be like that and to be willing to try something that’s outside of your comfort zone.”