Olivia Thompson has never had any doubts about her job for South Carolina women’s basketball.
“Mainly the reason (coach Dawn Staley) recruited me was because of my shooting, and I’m hoping I can just perfect that and use that as my role,” Thompson told The State back in January, when she was still a senior at Lexington High School.
The state leader in 3-pointers made as a junior with 105, Thompson committed to the Gamecocks as a preferred walk-on, and as she noted, Staley was most interested in her because of her ability to drain shots from beyond the arc.
And now that she’s arrived at USC and started participating in summer workouts, nothing’s changed about her goals.
“I want to … perfect shooting. I know it’s not going to happen overnight, but I want to be the best shooter I can possibly be,” Thompson said. “And (strength coach Molly Binetti) has been helping me a lot with just getting quicker and stronger, trying to get me ready for the physicality of college basketball.”
Flawless shooting is no small goal, but it’s likely Thompson’s best chance of seeing the floor this upcoming season. Last year, the Gamecocks’ best 3-point shooters were then-junior Tyasha Harris, who made 39 on 127 attempts, and then-freshman Destanni Henderson, who made 29 on 78 shots.
By comparison, Thompson shot 85-for-221 from long range in her high school senior season, a 38.5% clip. And the volume of those shots actually marked a downturn for her.
“I didn’t score as many points as I did last year, but that was because we had more options on our team, scoring-wise. We had people that stepped up, we had new people,” Thompson said. “(It) was more about sharing the ball because we had more offensive threats.”
Getting used to sacrificing shots is a lesson that could serve Thompson well as she and the four other members of South Carolina’s superstar freshman class acclimate to a bigger stage they all must share.
As Thompson and all her fellow first-years have noted, though, chemistry doesn’t seem to be an issue for the rookies. Instead, they complement each others’ skillsets and motivate each other.
“I’m really looking forward to learning and being pushed and being around all the recruits and the coaching staff and all the players who are coming in, just being able to play with them and getting better as a person and a player and seeing how my game develops, and how the team develops,” Thompson said before she arrived at school.
That feeling hasn’t let up since she joined the Gamecocks, Thompson said.
“(Coach Staley) motivates me a lot, and just being here motivates me even more to be the best player I can be and work on things and just get better every way I possibly can,” Thompson said.