The Daily Gamecock

Coach Dawn Staley discusses upcoming women's basketball season on first official practice day

<p>Head coach Dawn Staley talks to players during a timeout at the first round of the NCAA playoffs in the Halton Arena on Friday.&nbsp;</p>

Head coach Dawn Staley talks to players during a timeout at the first round of the NCAA playoffs in the Halton Arena on Friday. 

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley said seniors who moved on to the WNBA, such as Tyasha Harris, a four-year starter for the Gamecocks, “leave a big hole” in the program. But according to Staley, there are players who are doing a good job of filling that hole.

Sophomore Aliyah Boston, who was named the NCAA Division I Freshman of the Year last season, is one of the women expected to fill the shoes of those graduated. 

“I don’t know if there’s another player in college women’s basketball that can do the things that Aliyah does, at her size, her ability, her agility, her court-awareness, her intellect. If she’s not in the conversation of being Player of the Year, you know, you’re reading it wrong. You've got blinders on,” Staley said.

The team is coming into the 2020-2021 season ranked No. 1 in the nation. 

Staley, an active twitter user, often refers to athletes as “killers." Staley said sophomore Zia Cooke, in terms of personality and “outwardness," and Brea Beal, also a sophomore, are two killers on her team.

“[Beal's] talking a lot more, but she's a killer,” Staley said. 

She said Boston, Laeticia Amihere and Victaria Saxton are killers as well. According to Staley, they have a killer mentality, but they’re super nice, and it "almost bothers" her how nice her team is. She said she asked her team a couple of weeks ago, "Can nice players win a championship?"

“Thats what [head coaches] are for, we've got to teach them how to recognize things in their competitive environment and nature,” Staley said.

Staley said the drills aren’t different because of COVID-19, and nobody has opted out or inquired about opting out of the season. 

“It was a two second conversation," Staley said. 

When the players first came back from the summer, there were two girls who tested positive for COVID-19, were asymptomatic and quarantined in their residence hall quad. When the two girls tested positive, Staley said the team “went off on them” because, prior to returning to campus, the girls had been talking about making sure everyone was adhering to protocols and not putting themselves in harm's way. 

Staley said the team will still play the University of Connecticut but will not play Maryland or Oregon. The team has not finalized its schedule, but the conference office is expected to give a glimpse into the schedule at the end of this week or beginning of the next. Staley said she expects the team will still play a multi-team event sometime in November. The Gamecocks will play a 16-game schedule.


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