USC Women's Basketball

Staley’s star USC freshmen feel ‘like we’ve all played together already’

The highly-touted freshman class of South Carolina women’s basketball is on campus, practicing with coach Dawn Staley and the entire squad in Carolina Coliseum.

But this isn’t the first time some of them have shared the court together — guard Zia Cooke, wing Brea Beal and post Aliyah Boston all played together in the McDonald’s All-American Game in March and the Jordan Brand Classic in April.

At the time, Staley said she was hopeful that her players-to-be were getting a head start on developing chemistry on and off the court. And while stats from all-star games aren’t necessarily that meaningful, all three put up solid numbers.

More importantly, all three said they felt an instant connection with their future teammates.

“The crazy thing about it is, it feels like we’ve all played together already. The chemistry was already there,” Cooke said of the showcases.

In the McDonald’s game, the trio was placed on the same roster, allowing them to share the floor at times.

“I think we played off each other really well. All three of us had a smooth flow and we just played well off each other,” Beal said.

Cooke was named MVP of her squad in the Jordan Classic and Beal led her team in scoring with 14 points. In the McDonald’s game, none of the top-15 prospects scored in double figures, but they each showcased unique skillsets — Boston pulled down 10 rebounds, Cooke dished out a game-high four assists and Beal was all over the place, recording eight rebounds, three blocks and a steal.

When all three were playing at the same time, they already had a sense of each other’s strengths, they said — Boston and Cooke had already competed together for Team USA in the U17 World Cup in 2018,

“I thought that we worked very well together and we kinda knew where everyone was gonna be and what they do well. It felt really nice,” Boston said.

Now they’re all on campus, together with fellow first-years Laeticia Amihere and Olivia Thompson, and with a headstart on working together and developing friendships ahead of a 2019-2020 season in which they’ll likely be asked to play important roles early on a 12-player roster that features eight underclassmen.

“For us all three to be on the court at the same time, it just showed how dangerous we’re really going to be at South Carolina, and it was a great headstart to be able to play with my future teammates and also to be able to talk to them and get to know them and just know who they are as a person.” Cooke said.

South Carolina women’s basketball new uniform numbers

Olivia Thompson (freshman guard) — #0

Zia Cooke (freshman point guard) — #1

Aliyah Boston (freshman forward) — #4

Destiny Littleton (junior guard) — #11

Brea Beal (freshman wing) — #12

Laeticia Amihere (freshman forward) — #15

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.