But the Gamecocks are also returning four starters for the 2018-19 season, Chris Silva chief among them. The reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year and all-league first-teamer chose to come back for his senior season after testing the NBA waters.. He's considered an SEC Player of the Year candidate, but where does the powerful 6-foot-9 forward rank nationally?
Andy Katz, a longtime ESPN contributor who now covers college hoops for NCAA.com, recently revealed his list of top returning players for this upcoming season. Silva didn't land in the top 20, but was one of an additional 12 players to make honorable mention.
Silva averaged a team-high 14.3 points, 8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks for USC in 2017-18. He led the country in free-throw rate and finished second nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. He has a chance to lead the Gamecocks in scoring and rebounding two consecutive seasons. That hasn’t happened in Columbia since Carlos Powell from 2003-05.
Silva is one of seven SEC players among the 32 Katz listed. That's two more than any other conference, echoing what Frank Martin said last week during a teleconference with league media members.
"Our league right now is the hardest league in the country, plain and simple," said the Carolina coach, "because guys like (Arkansas' Daniel) Gafford are coming back, Chris Silva is coming back, (Kentucky) P.J. Washington coming back, (Jontay) Porter at Missouri."
The SEC sent a league-record eight teams to the NCAA tournament last season.
SEC players among Andy Katz's top 32 returnees for 2018-19 season
11. Grant Williams, Tennessee
17. Tremont Waters, LSU
19. Jontay Porter, Missouri
Honorable mention: P.J. Washington (Kentucky), Chris Silva (South Carolina), Daniel Gafford (Arkansas), Reid Travis (Kentucky, from Stanford)