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Justin Minaya

Justin Minaya is back front season-ending knee surgery.

With the Gamecocks' summer workouts in full swing, basketball season is coming sooner rather than later and it's never too early to start thinking about what next year's starting lineup could look like.

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The Gamecocks have a lot of versatile players and options as to how they can structure a lineup (big, small, athletic, etc.) but only one group starts the game.

Here's the group Frank Martin and Co. could use to start the season this year.

  • Point guard: Jair Bolden

With Tre Campbell leaving, Bolden seems like the natural fit to take over at the point guard spot. While he had to sit out last season after transferring in from George Washington, Bolden was able to practice with the team, which means he knows the system and how things are supposed to operate.

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A point guard that can really shoot, Bolden impressed his teammates last season with his scoring ability and will be a strong, physical guard built similar to Sindarius Thornwell or Duane Notice.

He'll be pushed, though, with Rivals150 guard Trae Hannibal competing for minutes along with TJ Moss, who's fully recovered from a season-ending foot injury.

Potential backups: Trae Hannibal or TJ Moss

  • Shooting guard: AJ Lawson
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It's a no-brainer to put the All-Freshman guard and potential first-round pick in the lineup, but the biggest debate is where to play him. Lawson is a natural fit for the two-guard spot — long and athletic — but did well in the minutes he logged running the point.

Heading into the season with Bolden expected to be the point guard, Lawson should slide pretty effortlessly over to the other guard spot and do well.

Coming off a season where he averaged over 13 points, Lawson is another guy who can get to the basket and score the ball and, now that he's another year into the program he knows better what Martin expects from him defensively.

Potential backups: Jermaine Couisnard

  • Small forward: Justin Minaya
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This is the spot where things get tricky. After Justin Minaya had a season-ending knee injury last season, Keyshawn Bryant stepped up and played well, finishing with an offensive rating near 89 and a solid block rate (he also averaged nine points and 3.8 rebounds).

But, Minaya is back in the fold now and, when on the court is the team's best defender and one of the team's best rebounders. With scoring options already in the backcourt, his defense and ability to haul in missed shots could give him the edge over Bryant to start.

That's not saying Bryant won't play; he'll still be just as important of a piece and should see his production go up next season, especially defensively and as a rebounder. The Gamecocks can always use some explosiveness off the bench, and Bryant gives them just that and is just another threat not in the starting lineup that can score the ball and rebound.

Potential backups: Keyshawn Bryant

  • Power forward: Micaiah Henry

Henry is probably the biggest unknown in the lineup right now and has the tallest task of anyone, coming in to replace one of the better bigs South Carolina's had in a while in Chris Silva.

He transfers in from Tennessee Tech with the reputation of a rim protector and a true post player on the offensive end. Frank Martin said last month Henry needs to get better at rebounding but that should straighten itself out.

The hope is for Henry to come in and take over one of the two frontcourt spots right away and give the Gamecocks a big boost defensively down low.

Listed at 6-foot-9, 235 pounds, he's the same height and one pound heavier than Silva was as a senior, and will have some competition with Jalyn McCreary, a highly touted signee coming into the fold, along with a fully healthy Alanzo Frink.

Potential backups: Jalyn McCreary and Alanzo Frink

  • Center: Maik Kotsar

Kotsar's offensive struggles have been documented, but Kotsar is one of the most versatile defenders the Gamecocks have and that will likely keep him on the court.

He has the ability to guard four of the five positions on the court at 6-foot-11, 270 pounds but needs to get better at scoring the basketball (had an eFG of 44.7 percent last year), shooting free throws (was 16-for-48 in SEC play) and being a little more aggressive rebounding.

The Gamecocks could also slide Henry to center and put McCreary or Frink at the four spot if they wanted to go smaller and more athletic as well. Kotsar will have some competition at this spot, too, with freshman Wildens Leveque coming in with high hopes from the staff.

Leveque is already listed at 6-foot-10, 230 pounds as a freshman and could push for minutes early.

Potential backups: Wildens Leveque

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