USC Women's Basketball

South Carolina’s oldest newcomer has message for freshmen: ‘Slow it down’

South Carolina women’s basketball’s class of freshman all-stars has just about everything — size, speed, shooting and plenty of self-confidence.

The one thing the five new Gamecocks don’t have, by default, is experience at the collegiate level. That’s where Destiny Littleton comes in.

A newcomer to Carolina but not to the NCAA, Littleton transferred to USC this past spring after spending two seasons at Texas. The 5-foot-9 La Jolla, California, native is a former McDonald’s All-American who put together a solid sophomore campaign, averaging 24.2 minutes and 8.4 points per game.

Now, she’s seeking a waiver from the NCAA to play right away, but regardless of whether or not that waiver is approved, she can provide a unique perspective for the freshmen as someone who is both new to the program and familiar with the challenges of this level of basketball.

“What I’ve learned is that you have to slow it down. I feel like when freshmen come in, they think that it’s like high school, that everything is so fast, and so my experience practicing with them is noticing that they don’t really understand that college is more of time management and possessions,” Littleton said. “And so getting them to understand that they can still play their game within time management and possessions is crucial, and that’s something that took me two years to learn. And so if I can like bring that on them earlier, the better.”

Littleton’s freshman year at Texas, where she arrived as a top-35 prospect and California’s all-time leading scorer, was a rough education in that lesson — she played in only eight games, and after scoring 4,300 points in four years of high schools, put up just 17 points across the entire season. Her field goal percentage was 21.9.

Things got better in Year 2, and now she’s restarting her career in some ways, but this time with a much better grasp of everything that comes with it, and alongside players and coaches who have welcomed her with “open arms,” she said.

“I’m kind of a freshman again when it comes to the system, but at the end of the day it’s basketball still, so that’s kind of been my biggest transition, because all the other stuff is the same — the academics, that comes with it. The team, honestly, they’ve made it a lot easier for me. I didn’t think it was going to be this easy transitioning to a whole new team. They don’t even think of me as a transfer.”

When she was picking her new school, however, Littleton wasn’t just looking for a relentlessly positive coach. Instead, coach Dawn Staley won her over with a blunt pitch.

“She was really straightforward. If you know her, she doesn’t sugarcoat anything, and that’s something that I needed and I wanted. I told her straight up that I don’t need anyone to pat me on my back. Obviously I don’t need somebody that’s gonna keep hammering me every second, but at the same time, I need somebody who’s going to push me to my limits. And she told me it’s not going to be easy, you need to get better at X, Y and Z, and so I’ve worked on that throughout the entire summer,” Littleton said.

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.