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Coaching transition causes Jones' transfer

Despite losing the leading scorer a week into her South Carolina tenure, new Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said Saturday she is moving forward building a program she expects to compete for SEC championships.

Staley said the departure of freshman guard Jordan Jones, who ranked ninth in the SEC last season with 13.1 points a game, was the type of personnel loss typical in any coaching transition.

“Anytime you have a change in coaches, there’s some skepticism on everybody’s part because they got recruited by that (previous) coaching staff,” Staley said Saturday in a phone interview. “We’re going to be OK. We’re going to run a tight ship and everybody is going to be on one accord.”

Attempts to reach Jones at her family’s Atlanta-area home were unsuccessful.

But Jones said last weekend at Staley’s introductory news conference she had considered transferring after former coach Susan Walvius resigned under pressure in April. Staley tried to convince Jones to stay, but ultimately agreed to release her from her scholarship.

“I tried to get her to see it a different way,” Staley said. “But I think she’d done her research and thought this was best for her and her career.”

Jones, who set a USC freshman record with 97 3-pointers, is the third member of the Gamecocks’ nationally ranked 2006-07 recruiting class no longer with the team. Freshman guards Ashlie Billingslea and Jasmine Payne were dismissed from the university last month following their arrests on drug and credit card fraud charges.

In other news, Staley confirmed she has hired former Olympic teammate Nikki McCray as the Gamecocks’ third assistant. The 36-year-old McCray, who played with Staley during the 1996 and 2000 Games, spent the past two seasons as a Western Kentucky assistant after retiring from the WNBA.

McCray joins former Temple assistant Lisa Boyer and ex-Auburn aide Carla McGee on Staley’s first USC staff. McGee and McCray both played at Tennessee for Pat Summitt.

Meanwhile, Staley has spoken with the five members of the top-10 recruiting class signed by Walvius last year to gauge their interest in remaining with the program.

“I’ve met with all of them and all of them seem like they’re on board. They’re all looking forward to what we have in front of us,” Staley said. “All is a go on my end.”

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.