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The best way for South Carolina to get off a good start under new coach Lamont Paris might be to bulk up on defense.

The opener comes Tuesday night at home against South Carolina State in Columbia, S.C.

“Just competitive nature all the way around,” Paris said of what he wants his program’s identity to be. “I think that normally shows itself defensively more than anything. Our competitive spirit, particularly on the defensive end.”

Such talk might sound rather mundane considering that South Carolina has the nation’s top recruit on its roster. GG Jackson will make his collegiate debut in this game.

“The biggest adjustment is the speed of the game,” Jackson said. “It’s so much faster here.”

Jackson, a 6-foot-9 forward, is a hometown product and created considerable buzz when he reclassified to enter college a year earlier than expected. He had been committed to play for North Carolina.

Paris spent the past five seasons as Chattanooga’s coach, going 87-72 with the Mocs. He brought the team to the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

South Carolina went 18-13 in 2021-22, the final season under coach Frank Martin.

S.C. State is also under a new coach, with Erik Martin taking over.

“It has always been my dream to lead a Division I program as well as guide young men on and off the court as they prepare to graduate and move on to the next phase of their lives,” Martin said.

Martin spent the 16 seasons as an assistant coach under Bob Huggins, including the last 15 years at West Virginia.

S.C. State tied for last out of eight teams in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference preseason poll. Guard Rahsaan Edwards of the Bulldogs was named to the conference preseason third team after averaging 8.4 points per game last year.

The Bulldogs will play 11 games before their home opener on Dec. 13 against UNC Asheville. S.C. State had a 15-16 record last season.

The Gamecocks had a preseason setback with guard Ebrima Dibba, a transfer from Coastal Carolina who suffered an Achilles injury that will keep him out for the entire season.

For the Gamecocks, this will be the first of six games played without leaving the state to begin the season, including three at the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic.

–Field Level Media