Sports fans who follow recruiting hear it all the time. Every season there is a new player or players who are going to come in and turn the program around. World-class athletes who are ready to play right away and are sure to fill the record books with statistics and bring one, maybe two national championships to the university before their four years are up. That’s if they even stay for all four years, because this one might be good enough to declare early for the draft.
It’s the same story year in and year out. The names change, but the plot remains the same. And rarely, if ever, do those who live their lives vicariously through sports message boards have their predictions come true.
The lesson to be learned is this: Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Do not let yourself become too invested in one team or player, because disappointment will inevitably follow.
I have learned that lesson myself. I just don’t care. This season more than ever I am laying all my chips on the table, and I encourage other fans to do the same. A’ja Wilson is THAT player and this team is THE team. If fans cannot get behind the South Carolina women’s basketball team this year, they never will.
Not to say that South Carolina fans do not support women’s basketball. They assuredly do. Head coach Dawn Staley praises them season after season in attempts to drive up season ticket sales and improve the atmosphere within Colonial Life Arena. The fans have answered the bell, prompting Staley to say, “I don’t know if it’s ever been done like this. Ever, in any program.”
I’m not telling fans they need to show up to more games or buy more tickets. No, I’m challenging fans to go completely over the top. We need more “USC WBB National Champs 2017” tattoos, more people painting their chests for home games, more people booking hotels in Dallas for early April when the women’s team will be cutting down the nets.
The UConn Huskies have had a stranglehold on women’s basketball, winning four national championships over the past four years, but their three best players from that run have graduated.
Meanwhile, South Carolina came into this season ranked third in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and the Gamecocks have the reigning SEC Player of the Year in Wilson. The team is flush with frontcourt talent and has been given a boost by two transfers in the backcourt, Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray.
The Gamecocks took down No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday by a score of 92-80, a game in which Wilson had as many points as fouls. Davis went off for 37 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to go along with another double-double from senior forward Alaina Coates, more than making up for Wilson's off night. The performance did absolutely nothing to temper my expectations for this season.
Flights from Columbia to Dallas are going for around $300. See you all at the tattoo parlor.