USC Women's Basketball

What led to Dawn Staley asking Bianca Cuevas-Moore to return to South Carolina

Dawn Staley describes how Bianca Cuevas-Moore came back to South Carolina

South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley talks about the sequence of events that led to guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore returning to the Gamecocks after initially deciding to spend her fifth year at West Virginia.
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South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley talks about the sequence of events that led to guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore returning to the Gamecocks after initially deciding to spend her fifth year at West Virginia.

Dawn Staley's tweet on May 17 had everyone guessing.

"A birdie just flew in the nest.....BOOM! #notwhatyouthinktho," the South Carolina women's basketball coach wrote. Typically when she talks about birds flying into nests, it means the Gamecocks have gained a new recruit or transfer.

This time USC and Staley were not getting someone new but someone familiar — guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore had already spent four years in Columbia before initially deciding to go to West Virginia as a graduate transfer. As Staley's tweet indicated she had changed her mind and would be returning for a fifth season with the Gamecocks.

"People only think flipping happens in football," Staley chuckled Tuesday.

A week after Staley's tweet, Cuevas-Moore wrote about her reasons and thought process for returning for GamecocksOnline.com. In her offseason press conference Tuesday, Staley gave her perspective on the unexpected turn of events that brought the former McDonald's All-American back into the fold.

"It happened really quickly," Staley said. "I was at Bianca's graduation and she came back to the tunnel where we were, and I just asked her ... 'Hey, you ready, you ready to go to West Virginia?' And basically she said — no. So I'm like, 'OK, well, let me see, I'm feeling kinda sentimental.'

Graduation happened on May 12, a Saturday, and after thinking about it over the weekend, Staley reached out to Cuevas-Moore early the next week.

"I just asked her ... if there was an opportunity for her to come back, would she want to come back," Staley said. "I think she was caught by surprise, and I just told her to think about it. And she came in on Monday to talk and we just talked about making good decisions and being responsible, and if she's able to do that then I think it's a place in which she knows and she can continues to grow and get better in certain areas of her life that for us, we've butted heads in those areas."

In both Cuevas-Moore and Staley's account, their relationship has teetered on the edge of turbulent, with player and coach disagreeing strongly at times. That's improved since Cuevas-Moore decided to return, Staley said.

"The very thing that I have strife with Bianca is the very thing that is the reason that she is the way the she is — the player she is, the person she is," Staley said. "I just have to get her to recognize, to communicate a lot more. A lot of the issues that have come up occurred because she didn't communicate with anybody. We are working on that part of it. Our conversations are incredibly humorous because she's talking a lot more. And I knew it from the beginning, but you can't make someone talk until they're ready to take that next step, and she is taking that next step."

What role Cuevas-Moore will play on the court in 2018-2019 is still unclear — USC returns starting point guard Tyasha Harris and has a host of other options in the backcourt, including potential point guards in redshirt junior Te'a Cooper and freshman Destanni Henderson.

But regardless, Staley said she is happy for Cuevas-Moore to have made it this far, proving some people wrong.

"I was really proud of her to graduate, to come from New York, everyone said this or that or the other about Bianca, and she wasn't going to do this, she wasn't going to do that," Staley said. "And she's a graduate, she's a graduate of the University of South Carolina."

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