Dawn Staley throws out first pitch for Gamecocks
South Carolina completed its greatest season with its first national championship. As the celebratory parade ends Sunday afternoon, what’s next for the Gamecocks?
SHE’S OUTTA HERE
C Alaina Coates (12.9 ppg, 10.7 rpg)
A dominant post that became a matchup nightmare paired alongside A’ja Wilson, Coates leaves as one of the most productive players in USC history.
G Kaela Davis (12.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
She’s taking advantage of a sterling end-of-season stretch by bypassing her final year of eligibility to go pro. Davis played outstanding basketball after the Missouri loss, and while she wasn’t that productive in the Final Four, USC doesn’t get there without her contributions in the nine games before it.
G Tiffany Davis (1.1 ppg, 0.8 rpg)
Often hurt but always smiling, “Slim” was a vital member of the locker room. She’s the one who helped create the pre-game introductions for each starter.
G Allisha Gray (13.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
The team’s X-factor, Gray is going with Davis to the WNBA. Able to score inside and out, pop a 3-pointer and get back on defense, Gray ends her college career with a paradox – she ended USC’s season in 2014, had her season ended by USC in 2015, sat out in 2016 and helped USC win a title in its final game in 2017.
F Lele Grissett, Fr.
A five-star small forward from Durham, N.C., the 6-foot-1 Grissett is the highest-ranked member of the recruiting class (fourth at her position, 24th in the country).
G Bianca Jackson, Fr.
A four-star guard from Montgomery, Ala., Jackson is rated 11th at her position and 54th in the country.
G Haley Troup, Fr.
A three-star guard from Gadsden, Ala., the 5-9 Troup was rated 30th at her position.
F LaDazhia Williams, Fr.
A five-star forward from Bradenton, Fla., the 6-2 Williams is rated 12th in the state and 47th in the country.
As of now, USC has three scholarships to give for this year. With Gray and Davis leaving unexpectedly, Dawn Staley could elect to pursue an immediately-eligible graduate transfer or junior-college prospect. She could also entertain getting regular transfers, although they couldn’t play this year. The biggest need is to get some proven scoring in place.
USC will host Duke, and could host a game in the Big 12/SEC Challenge after visiting Texas last year. The Gamecocks will play at Clemson on a date to be determined and host Connecticut, most likely in February.
The Gamecocks’ permanent SEC opponent remains Kentucky. The SEC tournament will switch to Nashville, Tenn., this year as the men’s tournament is taking a one-year break from Music City.
They need points. While they have freshmen coming in who can supply a lot of what they’ll lose, and Kentucky transfer Alexis Jennings becomes eligible and can step into the post with Wilson, the Gamecocks will need some outside shooting threats. They have Ty Harris and Bianca Cuevas-Moore to keep running the “speed” lineup, but who runs it with them? Does Doniyah Cliney step into a starting role? A freshman, perhaps? Do Victoria Patrick and Araion Bradshaw rise into productive roles?
A’ja. USC will have the best player in the country for another year and she’s going to be the focal point. She can still work the high-low combo with Jennings instead of Coates, giving opponents another matchup nightmare, and as long as the Gamecocks can get some immediate production from the freshmen or anybody else who joins up, there should be no significant dropoff.