-- Coming Saturday afternoon: Video from Dawn Staley's USC introduction
Becky Burke will not be in attendance today when South Carolina introduces Dawn Staley as its new basketball coach.
But the Pennsylvania Class 3A player of the year will meet Staley soon enough, perhaps as early as Sunday, when the former Temple coach is expected to return to her home state of Pennsylvania to visit Burke. The shooting guard from Clarks Summit, Pa., is one of five incoming freshmen signed by former Gamecocks coach Susan Walvius.
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Burke, who averaged 25.7 points as a high school senior, said it was a “small world” moment when she learned this week USC had hired Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time WNBA all-star.
“It’s just kind of funny that I’d be coming all the way down to Columbia and so would she,” Burke said. “She’s a pretty big name up here, so I think if you’d ask anybody, they’d know who she was.”
Staley is a pretty big name outside of Pennsylvania as well.
Lower Richland girls coach Deb Stroman was pleased to see USC hire its first black female head coach. But Stroman said USC made an equally impressive statement with the financial package it offered Staley — a proposed five-year deal worth $650,000 annually.
“I think it’s really exciting for USC to go out there and get all their resources together and get a big-time coach like that,” Stroman said. “She’s been an Olympian, national player of the year at Virginia, played in the WNBA.
“She has a wealth of knowledge. So I think it’s going to be exciting to see some of the things she can accomplish at USC.”
Stroman’s daughter, Lower Richland junior Morgan Stroman, is one of the state’s top prospects. The 6-foot-2 forward said she likely would give the Gamecocks a longer look with Staley on board.
“I think that she’ll probably be a big impact to the team, and it’ll be a better program, probably,” Morgan Stroman said. “Now that I know their coach has accomplished a lot of things, I’ll probably look at them more.”
Stroman has taken unofficial visits to USC, Florida, Clemson and Charlotte and wants to check out Miami and Virginia Tech.
ESPN college basketball analyst Nancy Lieberman said Staley’s visibility — she carried the American flag at the opening ceremonies of the Athens Olympics in 2004 and is an assistant with the U.S. team that will compete in the Beijing Games this summer — will get the Gamecocks in the door with recruits who might not have considered USC previously.
“She will take that program to heights it’s never seen on every level — competitively in the conference (and) the recruits that will come play for her,” Lieberman said.
Burke, who considered Penn State before signing with the Gamecocks prior to her junior season, wants to talk with Staley before confirming her commitment to USC. Burke said she received a couple of recruiting letters from Temple when Staley coached there but never visited the Owls’ campus in north Philadelphia.
“I’m really wide open at this point. I really need to meet with her,” Burke said. “I don’t think I can make any decision just based on hearing her name. I need to get a feel for her as a coach and a person.”
Whether her daughter ends up at USC or elsewhere, Deb Stroman believes Staley will be a good role model for girls in the Columbia area. Staley founded a charitable foundation in 1996 that provides after-school care for middle school girls in her native Philadelphia.
“This woman has done so much for the game of basketball and done positive things for the community,” Stroman said. “For our kids to see that is going to be a genuine experience.”
Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.