It wasn’t long after South Carolina women’s basketball’s second national championship that six players left for different schools, graduation and professional basketball. Nevertheless, this didn't stop head coach Dawn Staley from finding her next batch of talent.
Right away, Staley went out and added two freshmen and a transfer to round out the roster.
Needing to reload in the point guard department, the Gamecocks landed graduate transfer Kierra Fletcher from Georgia Tech. She missed the entirety of the 2021-2022 season with a foot injury but previously was a four-year starter.
With the Yellow Jackets, she averaged 31.5 minutes per game with 9.6 points and 5.7 rebounds. In her last season of action, Fletcher elevated into an outside weapon, shooting 35.9% from three-point range.
Fletcher's already had an opportunity to prove to the Gamecocks what she could do. In a Sweet 16 matchup with South Carolina two years ago, she scored 16 points with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“I think our team did an incredible job of answering whenever South Carolina went on their runs. I think it shows how resilient we are as a team in that we don’t have any quit in us,” Fletcher said after the 76-65 loss.
South Carolina's first recruit, incoming freshman Talaysia Cooper, has been touted by ESPN as being "an explosively athletic guard with a scorer’s mentality." Based on her numbers, that would prove to be the case. In two seasons at East Clarendon High School, Cooper averaged 23.7 points with 12.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists.
Cooper ranks No. 4 among the class of 2022 at her position and No. 18 overall. She’s a two-time South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Year as well as the 2021 South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year.
Cooper became the first signee of South Carolina’s 2022 class, as keeping her in-state was important to Staley.
“She’s in line with all the great South Carolina players that we have had the privilege of coaching,” Staley told GamecocksOnline. “Her upside is endless, and we think our FAMS are going to love her game and her energy.”
South Carolina's second signee, 6-foot-3 freshman forward Ashlyn Watkins brings a boost of athleticism and versatility to the hardwood.
Though for Watkins, helping her new team win games will be her biggest priority.
“I want to be able to be a big part in them winning, them hopefully getting championships,” she said after announcing her commitment last year.
Watkins, a five-star prospect, averaged 16 points and 12.3 rebounds in 109 games at Cardinal Newman High School. She was named the 2022 South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year and even won the McDonald’s All-American Slam Dunk Contest.
When it came down to it, she said her college decision wasn’t easy. Though, the determining factor was the chance to be coached by Staley.
“Dawn is a great coach," Watkins said. "I feel like she was the type of coach that would take me to the next level."
In addition to these three newcomers, 10 players will be returning to the team, including redshirt sophomore guard Raven Johnson.
Johnson, the No. 2 overall player in the class of 2021, suffered a torn ACL in the second game last year.
The Gamecocks' recruiting class is ranked sixth heading into the season.