BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Tennessee legend Pat Summitt watched last season as South Carolina's Dawn Staley struggled during her first SEC season.
But Summitt also watched Staley clean up on the recruiting trail, including with a player she wanted.
"They'll be fine. I have no sympathy for them," Summitt said about Staley on Thursday. "She's added some talent and there's no doubt that they'll be competitive in this league."
Staley hopes so. Her debut season at USC was somewhat expected, as roster attrition and injuries led to a 10-18 record, including 2-12 in the SEC.
But the off-court news was much better, as Staley brought in one of the nation's top recruiting classes. A number of recruits were swayed by the former Olympic guard, the marquee signee being 6-foot-5 center Kelsey Bone.
"We'd like to have had her," Summitt said, adding Bone is "definitely" the type of player that could turn around USC's program.
"A lot depends on her and being in great shape and taking on the responsibility of being the go-to player in the paint," Summitt said. "She's certainly got the skill set to do it."
Guard Ieasia Walker, like Bone a Parade All-American, also came on board. And the player USC brought to SEC media days, normally an honor reserved for upperclassmen, was sophomore La'Keisha Sutton.
With that said, Staley could be caught between two themes: Tempering expectations for a team with good recruits, but wanting to improve on last year's record.
"I think people see how hard we worked as a basketball team last year," Staley said. "I think they really see that part of it. I think they really see some promise into that. I'm quick to say that yes, we did bring in a good recruiting class. Yes, I think you can build a program around the likes of Kelsey Bone.
"But we also have to stay true to she's a freshman. She's probably going to look like a freshman most nights. She's going to have nights where she looks like she's a senior, where she's just dominating. She's going to play a lot more inconsistent than people want to believe. We have to help her stay more consistent. But also the people around her have to play."
Staley also agreed when asked if she felt like the team needed to have a good season.
"I do think we need to have a good year, just for morale," Staley said. "I think the people of South Carolina, they want a winner. I would like to be considered a winner. I think we put in the work to have that need become a reality."