Recruiting the top class in the country is a team effort for the Gamecocks
This summer on the recruiting trail, South Carolina women’s basketball coaches and fans watched one particular AAU team with special interest.
FBC Hunt, drawing players from Georgia and Tennessee, featured a starting five, all ranked in the top 40 of their class by ESPN and all with Gamecock offers — point guard Raven Johnson (2021), guard Madison Hayes (2020), wing Treasure Hunt (2020), forward Olivia Cochran (2020) and center Kamilla Cardoso (2020).
Coached by Hunt’s mother, Keisha Hunt, the team won the Under Armour Association championship. Now as the recruiting trail for 2020 heats up, Dawn Staley and USC remain in strong pursuit of several members of that group.
Cochran, who listed the Gamecocks in her top 10 at one point, committed to Louisville in late July. Hayes has not announced any finalists but has hosted 11 coaches for home visits, none of them from USC.
Cardoso, the fifth-ranked player in her class and top-rated post player, is slated to take an official visit to Carolina, as well as UConn, Ohio State, Mississippi State and Syracuse, Keisha Hunt told The State. A Brazilian citizen who plays high school basketball for Hunt as well at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy, Cardoso did not play AAU ball until the past summer, instead returning home to spend time with her family.
But her size and skill set have made her one of the most coveted prospects in her class.
“She’s 6-foot-7, she runs the floor like a guard. Can catch and shoot on the run good. She is a very good passer too — she sees open people,” Keisha Hunt said. “In fact, she probably needs to shoot around the rim more. She will kick it out in a second. We’re developing her back to the basket (game) because even with her size, she’s always liked playing facing the rim, but she realizes that maybe that’s not her preference, but it can be a real strong tool that she needs in college.”
Cardoso would be the tallest player South Carolina has had in the Dawn Staley era.
When Cardoso visits, she’ll likely be joined by Keisha Hunt’s daughter, Treasure. A 6-foot-2 wing, Treasure Hunt has listed the Gamecocks in her final 12 and is slated to cut her list to five in the near future. South Carolina, Keisha Hunt said, is “one of her top schools.”
“They want her. But they tell her what her strengths are, and weaknesses, and they can set her up to be successful but also polish up her weaknesses,” Keisha Hunt said of USC’s pitch to Treasure. “(Staley) talks a lot about academics, how important that is, and the support that will be there, is there for the athletes. She’s talked about who all they have and what the depth would look like. Hadn’t promised her anything but said she’ll be successful if she comes there and is willing to work hard.”
Ranked 36th in the class of 2020 by ESPN and 14th by Prospects Nation, Hunt offers a versatile set of skills somewhat in the mold of current Gamecock freshman Brea Beal. As a junior in high school, she averaged 19.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.3 steals.
“Offensively, she’s like a triple threat in scoring. She can shoot the 3, she can also drive and get to the rim, and she also has a good jump shot, midrange is good too,” Keisha Hunt said. “And she also passes good, makes assists, sets her teammates up.”
Looking beyond this recruiting cycle, Johnson, an Atlanta native, is ranked 16th in the class of 2021. She has yet to narrow her list of offers, which already includes Mississippi State, Oregon, Louisville, Georgia, UCLA, Florida State and others. But Hunt said whatever team winds up landing the 5-foot-8 guard will have a true floor general.
“Always smiling, energetic, very very coachable, seeks out coaching,” Keisha Hunt said of Johnson. “As the point guard, she’ll come over and maybe I’ve not said, ‘OK well the other team switched to this, let’s do this.’ She’ll come over there and say, ‘Coach, what do you think about this?’ Or, ‘We need a two-guard front now.’
“She’s really into the coaching side and noticing things as a point guard. She really is a true extension of me and whoever her future head coach will be.”