South Carolina women's basketball: An epic season
Three times the ladies.
South Carolina’s record haul of three players was taken among the first 10 picks of Thursday’s WNBA Draft, led by Alaina Coates with the second overall pick. Allisha Gray was fourth while Kaela Davis went 10th.
Coates and Gray were the highest picks in school history, beating the previous record of ninth, held by several players.
It didn’t take long for the Gamecocks to hear their name called, although coach Dawn Staley was chosen to announce the top overall pick (Washington star Kelsey Plum, to San Antonio). Coates went to Chicago at No. 2, the Sky needing to replace a void in their post game after trading former league MVP Elena Delle Donne during the offseason.
“It’s very exciting, and I’m very nervous, and my heart’s pumping,” Coates said on her TV interview. “I’m very excited and very grateful that they can see my potential.”
The 6-foot-4 Coates, an Irmo native and Dutch Fork High graduate, updated the ankle injury which robbed her of the chance to be on the floor for the Gamecocks’ first national championship. With her foot still in a cast and propped on a rolling scooter, Coates said she’d be out for a little while.
“We’re not entirely sure when I’ll be out (on the court),” Coates said. “Couple of weeks in the cast, then we’ll talk to my doctor.”
Coates feels she can impact in other ways beside rebounding and putbacks. Her AAU coach, Jerome Dickerson, told The State this week that everyone would be surprised by how well Coates can shoot from the outside.
“I feel like in little areas like hustle plays, other type of intangibles, things you might not expect from a tall center,” Coates described as ways she could affect the game.
Gray is headed back to Dallas after winning a national championship there. The early entry guard is a scoring threat from anywhere on the floor and played a lot of power forward during the NCAA Tournament.
“I was doing anything that coach asked me to do,” Gray said. “She asked me to play the 4, and I was pretty successful. I was willing to do anything to be a national champion.”
The “silent assassin,” Gray could take over any game at any time, but often preferred to facilitate instead of dominating. Her 18 points against Mississippi State in the title game capped a brilliant career that was defined by USC although she only played one season there.
At North Carolina, Gray ended USC’s season once, had her season ended by USC once, then transferred to USC and won a championship.
“That’s something I pride myself on, is being able to adapt quickly and pick up on things quickly,” Davis said when her pick was announced. She didn’t take long to do it at USC, scoring 37 points in the season-opener. She’ll also head back to Dallas for another season as Gray’s teammate.
Davis’s scoring was up and down but she never left the lineup, and she was a crucial part of the Gamecocks’ late-season run. Following a poor game at Missouri, Davis had the most impact of any player beside A’ja Wilson in leading the Gamecocks to the Final Four.
She shot nearly 50 percent from the floor in the nine games leading to Dallas and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Stockton Regional.
The trio became the seventh, eighth and ninth players in program history to be drafted.
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BEST OF THE BEST
South Carolina’s WNBA draftees (draft selection)
Alaina Coates (No. 2), Allisha Gray (No. 4), Kaela Davis (No. 10)
Tiffany Mitchell (No. 9)
Aleighsa Welch (No. 22)
Jocelyn Penn (No. 9), Petra Ujhelyi (No. 16)
Shaunzinski Gortman (No. 9), Teresa Geter (No. 36)