Frank Martin admits he has made some mistakes in recruiting over the years.
The South Carolina men’s basketball coach said Thursday that one of those mistakes happened by not offering Chico Carter and James Reese scholarships while they were in high school.
Martin said the two were among his favorites to watch in the Midlands over the last few years. He got a chance to see the two Columbia natives a lot in high school — especially Carter, who was teammates with Martin’s son Brandon at Cardinal Newman.
For whatever reason, Martin never pulled the trigger on an offer to either of them. He wasn’t going to make that mistake again when the two entered the transfer portal this spring, and they both took Martin up on his offer to play for the hometown Gamecocks.
Carter, who played his first two years at Murray State, committed to the Gamecocks on April 3. Reese, a former A.C. Flora High School standout, announced his decision Wednesday to finish his career with USC.
Carter will have three years of eligibility, while Reese, who has played on NCAA tournament teams at Buffalo and North Texas, has one.
“Like I told both of them, my wife turned me down seven times and now she is stuck with me,” Martin said. “I said no (to them) the first time around. I wasn’t making that mistake this time. I was going to bring those two guys home and am happy they are both coming home.
“... Those kids that are from here, they get to surround their heart every time they play with the name on the back of the jersey, which is who they are, with the name of the front of the jersey with the state, city, the area they represent.”
In addition to being hometown guys, Carter and Reese fill needs on the Gamecocks’ roster. Carter will play point guard and is a strong three-point shooter. Reese plays the No. 2 guard spot and is a strong defender. Both are coming off career-best seasons, with Carter averaging 12.9 points for the Racers and Reese 10.9 for the Mean Green.
Carter and Reese are two of four South Carolina transfers this offseason. The others are Washington’s Erik Stevenson and George Mason’s A.J. Wilson.
USC confirmed all four Thursday as signing with the Gamecocks.
Martin said Stevenson caught his attention while playing at Wichita State and the Shockers played the Gamecocks in the 2019 Cancun Challenge. Stevenson had 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals in the 70-47 win over the Gamecocks.
USC tried recruiting Stevenson a year ago before he transferred to Washington, which was closer to home.
“Another ball hawk and a guy who can shoot,” Martin said of Stevenson. “All three guys are playmakers. They are willing to make plays on offense and defense. They aren’t one-trick ponies.”
Wilson will bring toughness for Martin and the Gamecocks after transferring from George Mason. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward could help mitigate the loss of sophomore forward Jalyn McCreary and leading rebounder Justin Minaya, who each entered the transfer portal.
Wilson earned Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team honors this season and is George Mason’s all-time leader in blocked shots.
“I loved him in high school because of the aggression he played with,” Martin said of Wilson. “Offensively, he was underdeveloped but went to George Mason and had a heck of a career there.
“... He chases that ball. He blocks shots, he rebounds offensively and defensively. He runs the court. Offensively, he has improved dramatically. I’m excited about all four guys.”
Projecting the 2021-22 Gamecocks
G Chico Carter Jr. (transfer)
G James Reese (transfer)
G Erik Stevenson (transfer)
G Devin Carter (signee)
G Jacobi Wright (signee)
F TaQuan Woodley (signee)
F Carlous Williams (commit)
F A.J. Wilson (transfer)
G Trae Hannibal (transfer)
G T.J. Moss (transfer)
F Jalyn McCreary (transfer)
F Justin Minaya (grad transfer and draft)
F Trey Anderson (transfer)
G Jermaine Couisnard (no agent)
F Keyshawn Bryant (no agent)
G A.J. Lawson
G Seventh Woods
G Mike Green
G Ford Cooper Jr.
F Wildens Leveque
F Alanzo Frink
F Ja’Von Benson
F Tre-Vaughn Minott