Junior transfer guard Te’a Cooper’s status remains uncertain as South Carolina women’s basketball is still awaiting a decision from the NCAA regarding Cooper’s hardship waiver to become immediately eligible, head coach Dawn Staley said Friday. As a result, Cooper will likely not play when USC opens conference play against Texas A&M on Sunday.
“It’s probably not going to be until after the new year,” Staley said of the final decision on Cooper’s waiver.
Cooper’s eligibility as a transfer had been an issue since before the season even began, as Staley announced at SEC media day that the Gamecocks were seeking the waiver because the guard had missed her sophomore season with a knee injury. At the time, Staley said she believed the decision-making process for the NCAA would take a week.
Several weeks later, however, Staley announced that the team would delay its submission of the waiver until after the fall semester in order to let Cooper get “acclimated” and improve the waiver’s chances of being approved.
At the same time, the NCAA approved a similar hardship waiver for Jessica Shepard and Notre Dame, and Staley has seemingly referenced that case several times when speaking about Cooper.
Since the beginning of the season, however, Cooper’s potential debut for USC has taken on added significance with the news that senior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore will miss the season with an ACL injury and a nagging knee sprain that has kept redshirt senior Lindsey Spann out of the lineup. As a result, South Carolina has had just nine healthy available players, only four of whom are guards.
“Hopefully they’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 said of the injuries and Cooper’s waiver on Dec. 19.
But while Cooper will remain sidelined for the immediate future, Spann has healed to the point where she will be able to play against Texas A&M on Sunday, Staley said.
“She’s back, she’s practicing the past few days, so she’s ready to play,” Staley said of Spann, who has missed five games with the injury but was leading the Gamecocks in 3-point shooting beforehand.
The waiver for Cooper was submitted Dec. 18 or 19, Staley said at the time. Since then, Cooper has retweeted several messages on Twitter calling for her to be reinstated.
South Carolina tips off against Texas A&M to begin SEC play at 2 p.m. Sunday at Colonial Life Arena