USC Women's Basketball

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan’s grown off the court. How Dawn Staley sees that helping on it

There’s never been a question about Mikiah Herbert Harrigan’s talent. The senior for South Carolina women’s basketball offers tremendous defensive instincts and an international flair to her offense as a mobile forward that can play facing the basket as well as she does in the post.

But over her first few seasons with the Gamecocks, Herbert Harrigan’s emotions have sometimes gotten the better of her, and this offseason, she briefly entered the transfer portal, before a meeting with coach Dawn Staley convinced her to stay.

Since that decision, Staley has praised Herbert Harrigan’s growth off the court, seemingly echoing the process that one of Herbert Harrigan’s friends, Bianca Cuevas-Moore, went through last offseason as well.

“Kiki off the floor ... is probably, she’s breaking a record as far as not having any issues,” Staley said at SEC Media Day two weeks ago. “She’s communicating a lot more. I think Kiki, she’s just maturing at the right time for her, where it’s not too late. She’s not gonna look back on her South Carolina career and think I should have done this or that. She’s actually acting on the things she needs to get better at.

Herbert Harrigan, speaking publicly for the first time since her transfer saga, confirmed that she and Staley are in a good place.

“I have a great relationship with her. She’s a player’s coach, and I can always talk to her, and what I like about her is she always keeps it real with you,” Herbert Harrigan said.

How that improved relationship and maturity might translate to her play on the floor is yet to be seen, but Staley sounded optimistic on one point.

Herbert Harrigan was named to the SEC All-Tournament team as a sophomore, averaging 14 points and five rebounds per game and playing a key role in the Gamecocks’ title run. And as a junior, she continued to get up for big games, averaging more points, rebounds, assists and field goal attempts, as well as fewer turnovers, against ranked teams last season than she did against unranked ones.

And after getting held out for the first half of Carolina’s first NCAA tournament game, she wound up totaling 36 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks over the next two contests, further solidifying her status as a big-game player who shines in the spotlight.

For the 2019-20 season, though, Staley wants Herbert Harrigan’s high-level play against opponents both ranked and unranked.

“I think Kiki wants to complete the task of putting an entire season together. So it’s good to see that players rise up to the challenge of ranked teams, but really good players play that way their entire seasons, and not just take it up another notch,” Staley said. “So you’ll see Kiki play with a lot more consistency this year.”

Consistency and steady leadership have been themes Staley has emphasized this offseason for her seniors, Herbert Harrigan and guard Tyasha Harris. And especially in the frontcourt, where the Gamecocks are expected to rely heavily on underclassmen, Herbert Harrigan will have to “anchor” USC, Staley said.

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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.