It’s the motto of South Carolina’s departing seniors. You’re forever part of the program, no matter if you’re still wearing the uniform or not. It’s why so many, after their eligibility is exhausted, return to Colonial Life Arena to watch what they helped build.
Senior Khadijah Sessions still has many games to play, but she already knows what waits next year and the year beyond. And she’s one who is in position to control what she sees in the future.
"We don’t want to drop the legacy, we want to keep it going," Sessions said. "We want to come back next year and come to games and hopefully see a third banner hanging up there."
The Gamecocks have been the class of the SEC the past two seasons, winning each regular-season championship and going a combined 29-3 in the SEC. They have turned CLA into an impenetrable fortress for the opponent, running off a 40-game home winning streak. The two title banners fluttering in the rafters look terrific now, but would look magnificent with a third beside them – only two other schools (Auburn 1987-89, Tennessee 1993-95, 1998-04) have ever won three straight championships.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
It starts Sunday. Title defense? Quest for a three-peat?
The No. 2 Gamecocks (12-0) just want to win the next game.
"That was teams of the past. This is a new team," coach Dawn Staley said. "We’ll see if they’re ready for the challenges of our league."
Arkansas (5-8) begins the 16-game crucible and visits CLA after a rough non-conference schedule. A surprising tournament team last season, the Razorbacks are one of the youngest squads in the country after returning a mere four players.
One of those is all-conference forward Jessica Jackson, who’s neck-and-neck with USC’s A’ja Wilson as one of the league’s top five scorers. "She’s been one that’s given us fits," Staley said. "We have her under control for 35 minutes, then she breaks out and can score 10 or 15 points very quickly."
Of course Staley is designing defense to limit Jackson and force Arkansas’ other players to produce, but USC’s defense hasn’t been what it once was. The Gamecocks are 44th in the country in scoring defense – not bad, but previous years have had USC in the Top 10 of that category, if not top three.
"It’s good and bad," Staley said. "Good in that potentially we can get better, it’s bad in that I just think we’re not where I projected us to be on both sides of the ball. Again, it’s a different team."
Defense has been the focus throughout the non-conference season, and a lengthy holiday break emphasized it even more. The Gamecocks have not been as dominant as they were last year, have not been as strong fundamentally as they have in the previous four years, all which ended in the NCAA tournament.
But they also haven’t lost, and they’ve beaten some great teams. Many more await in the SEC.
"This is a new team. We’re a different team than we were last year," Sessions said. "We got to come in and make a statement on Sunday."
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState
Arkansas (5-8, 0-0 SEC) at No. 2 South Carolina (12-0)
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
Tickets: Available at the box office
Arkansas’ probable starters: G Devin Cosper 5-10 So. (7.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg); G Jordan Danberry 5-8 Fr. (6.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg); G Melissa Wolff 6-0 Sr. (5.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg); F Jessica Jackson 6-3 Jr. (17.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg); C Alecia Cooley 6-3 Jr. (7.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
South Carolina’s probable starters: G Khadijah Sessions 5-8 Sr. (5.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 Sr. (14.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G Asia Dozier 6-0 Sr. (4.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg); F A’ja Wilson 6-5 So. (17.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg); C Alaina Coates 6-4 Jr. (13.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg)
Next game: USC tips off at Vanderbilt at 9 p.m. on Thursday.