South Carolina women’s basketball has submitted a waiver to let transfer guard Te’a Cooper become immediately eligible, coach Dawn Staley said Tuesday.
Cooper, who came to USC from Tennessee, this offseason, would normally be required to sit out a season as a transfer, as fellow Gamecock Alexis Jennings did when she left Kentucky. But Staley and South Carolina are arguing that because Cooper was sidelined with a knee injury last year, forcing her to sit out a season will cost her an extra year of eligibility.
“She’ll only have one year to play,” Staley said Tuesday. “And hopefully they’ll see that, and hopefully we’ll see that we got a player down and another one’s kind of limping her way back, and I hope (the NCAA) will just consider all of it, because I think they’ve probably considered all that in some other cases.”
Staley did not specify what other cases she was talking about, but it seems likely she is referencing forward Jessica Shepard, who transfered from Nebraska to Notre Dame this past offseason and was granted a waiver to play just before the season began. On the day Shepard’s waiver was approved, Staley sent out a cryptic tweet asking the NCAA “what goes into approving and disapproving” waivers.
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Staley had previously announced at SEC media day that the program would seek a waiver to allow Cooper to play, before saying a few weeks later that the Gamecocks were delaying the submission of the waiver until after the first semester in hopes of letting the guard get “acclimated” and improving their chances of having the waiver approved.
On Tuesday, Staley said she believed the waiver was submitted “yesterday or today.” USC’s fall semester officially ended Monday. At SEC media day, Staley had said she thought the approval process would take a week. On Tuesday, she said the team was planning on not having Cooper available for Thursday’s matchup against Temple.
“They said it’s a pretty quick process, so it could be a day or two. She’s not going, so she won’t be playing,” Staley said, before adding a caveat. “If she gets cleared today, then we’ll probably get her a flight out. But if the NCAA works that fast during this time of the season, we’ll be quick to pull the trigger and get her to Philly.”
With senior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore out for the entire season with an ACL injury, redshirt senior guard Lindsey Spann sidelined with a knee injury and junior guard Doniyah Cliney missing some time Sunday with an ankle injury Staley was cautious not to test, the Gamecocks need all the reinforcements they can get in the backcourt, and Cooper, who was ranked the 12th best recruit in her class, would certainly benefit too, Staley said.
“We just need another body. She’s doing a great job in practicing. She’s a guard that can create her own shot. She’s extremely competitive, and I think she’s getting kind of complacent just practicing,” Staley said. “I think it would be a great boost to her, a great boost to us, if she’s able to get eligible and play.”
South Carolina plays Temple on Thursday in Philadelphia. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.