USC Women's Basketball

Dawn Staley, transfer left ‘devastated’ after NCAA denies request for waiver

South Carolina women’s basketball transfer Destiny Littleton will not be eligible to play in the 2019-20 season after her application for an NCAA waiver was denied, coach Dawn Staley announced Thursday.

Littleton, a redshirt sophomore guard who came to the Gamecocks from Texas, will sit out this year and have two more seasons of eligibility remaining under NCAA rules.

In announcing the news, Staley confirmed that USC had already appealed the decision and been denied. She declined to comment much more about the decision itself, but added that Littleton is also dealing with an injury that will prevent her from practicing, which all transfers are allowed to do under NCAA rules.

“She does have a chronic ankle injury that will need a small procedure. She’ll be out for a period of time,” Staley said.

Littleton, a former McDonald’s All-American and five-star prospect in high school, is from La Jolla, California. In two seasons at Texas, she averaged 7.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game, breaking out in a sophomore campaign in which she played 33 games and started 12.

Receiving news of the NCAA’s decision was a hard moment for both player and coach, Staley said.

“Probably as a young person would, very devastated,” Staley said of how Littleton handled the decision. “I handled it that way, because when we’re asking the NCAA to approve someone for a waiver, we tell the truth. I think sometimes you have to fudge the truth a little bit in order for you to get those things approved. But I’m devastated for her. She’s got a past that if she shares with any of you guys, and she may, I thought it was enough to allow her to play.

“To take a big piece of her life, as far as basketball, away from her, and that’s what she’s here to do, I think it wasn’t a wise decision on their part, but she’s injured too. So we got that information after we found out the extent of her injury.”

Speaking at USC’s newcomers media day this summer, Littleton said she was adjusting well to her new team, adding that she “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.”

Littleton also said she could provide extra leadership for a Gamecock freshman class full of highly touted players like she was coming out of high school.

“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.”

Without her services on the court this year, the Gamecocks will have 11 players available, 10 on scholarship. Of those 11, only three will have more than one year of collegiate experience.

This is the second time in three years South Carolina has been denied by a waiver by the NCAA — guard Te’a Cooper was denied one in the 2017-18 season before playing last season and then transferring again this offseason.

South Carolina women’s basketball plays its lone exhibition of the season this Friday against North Georgia, then opens regular season play next Tuesday against Alabama State at Colonial Life Arena.

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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.