David Cloninger

Alaina Coates knows her time with Gamecocks is running out

South Carolina senior Alaina Coates
South Carolina senior Alaina Coates jblake@thestate.com

She knows she might never get the recognition of her more heralded teammate.

That’s fine. That teammate is making her better – and it’s not like Alaina Coates isn’t talented by herself.

“Honestly, playing with A’ja (Wilson) is like a stress reliever,” Coates said. “The fact that we’ve played together before and we know what we want, I can think, ‘OK, if I’m in a panic and I need to go to somebody, I know who I can go to.’ We have that non-verbal communication in our relationship.”

As fourth-ranked South Carolina prepares to begin its season, (at least, play an exhibition game on Sunday against Benedict), all eyes are on junior A’ja Wilson. The defending SEC Player of the Year is a preseason All-American and a favorite for the Naismith Award.

But Coates joined Wilson on the preseason All-SEC team and received a few votes for All-American. While many have tried to stop Wilson, there aren’t many opponents who can stop Wilson and the 6-foot-4 Coates at the same time.

So the twin towers have an agreement – help each other out. If one’s double-teamed, the other has got to be open. Both should get their points, have fantastic seasons and will be instrumental if USC returns to the Final Four.

But only Coates has one year remaining. The senior from Dutch Fork High admitted it’s been a whirlwind.

“I feel like it’s been an upward battle. I know my sophomore year, I didn’t do as great as I wanted it to, but I feel like I definitely bounced back my junior year. I feel like I definitely have been doing some things I was expecting,” she said. “I mean, I know it’s my senior year but it’s not going to hit until we actually play somebody.”

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Benedict at No. 4 USC

What: Exhibition

When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Colonial Life Arena

TV/Radio: None

Tickets: Free admission, with the USC men following at 4:30 p.m.

South Carolina’s probable starters: G Bianca Cuevas-Moore 5-6 Jr. (6.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg); G Allisha Gray 6-0 Jr. (15.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg)#; G Kaela Davis 6-2 Jr. (19.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg)#; F A’ja Wilson 6-5 Jr. (16.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg); C Alaina Coates 6-4 Sr. (12.0 ppg, 10.1 rpg)*

Next game: USC opens its season at No. 7 Ohio State on Nov. 14

* 2015-16 statistics; # 2014-15 statistics