After a year of challenges, Staley quite proud of her team
For a South Carolina women’s basketball fanbase still processing the news of four potential transfers in two days, a piece of good, albeit expected, news dropped Wednesday.
On Instagram, rising senior guard Tyasha Harris posted a photo of herself in her Gamecock uniform with the caption, “Last go around, gotta make it a good one ... (this should answer all questions).”
The fact that Harris had to confirm she would be back at USC for her final season at all speaks to the uncertainty surrounding the program after Te’a Cooper, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, Bianca Jackson and LaDazhia Williams all made public their intention to transfer in the span of about 36 hours.
Cooper and Herbert Harrigan in particular were expected to play pivotal roles for Carolina in 2019-2020, and Jackson was thought to have at least a chance at working her way back into the rotation after a down sophomore season.
The exact reasons why each player decided to transfer is not entirely clear at the moment — Cooper, Herbert Harrigan, Jackson and Williams have retweeted messages on social media but have not personally commented on their moves, and coach Dawn Staley has declined to comment through a team spokesperson.
Much of the speculation online has centered around the incoming freshman class of four five-star recruits, three of whom were McDonald’s All-Americans. Forward/center Aliyah Boston, forward Laeticia Amihere, wing Brea Beal and guard Zia Cooke will all come in and at least compete for playing time right away, and as USC saw this season, plenty of depth means close to no one has a starring role or is even guaranteed playing time or a starting spot.
And as some have noted, transfers are increasingly common in women’s basketball — there are more than 250 publicly known players seeking transfers and reports of as many as 500 players who have entered the transfer portal. Student-athletes seeking new coaches, new opportunities and changes in scenery is simply part of the landscape nowadays.
Still, South Carolina has never seen this many players leave the program in this short a time under Dawn Staley, and the attrition rate for the Gamecocks over the past five years has been undeniably high. From the signing classes of 2014 to 2018, 17 players signed with USC and nine either transferred or currently intend to do so — 53 percent.
And more immediately, the latest departures leave the Gamecocks’ roster looking thin and incredibly young — nine scholarship players and one preferred walk-on are left, and eight of them will be underclassmen in 2019-2020. That makes Harris’s return all the more crucial, as she has played a key leadership role for South Carolina since her sophomore season, when she was chosen as a team captain.
Beyond Harris, rising junior Lele Grissett would be the team’s only other upperclassman, and she saw her playing time decline slightly as a sophomore.
Things probably won’t stay that way — Staley has never been shy about using the transfer market to add players to her roster, and there’s plenty of talent to pursue for some immediate help. Nearby Power 5 programs Georgia Tech and North Carolina are currently dealing with alleged coaching misconduct, and players transferring from those programs might be able to obtain NCAA waivers to become immediately eligible even if they aren’t graduates yet.
In the meantime, the Gamecocks still have Harris, and regardless of what happens, Staley will likely lean on her heavily to lead the squad as it seeks a return to the top of the SEC.
South Carolina signee transfers
Bianca Jackson (2017) — Undecided
LaDazhia Williams (2017) — Undecided
Haley Troup (2017) — Missouri
Araion Bradshaw (2016) — Dayton
Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (2016) — Undecided
Victoria Patrick (2016) — North Florida
Shay Colley (2015) — Michigan State
Jatarie White (2014) — Texas
Kaydra Duckett (2014) — Coastal Carolina