The Gamecock women’s basketball team will look different next year, as three additional players from the team’s No. 1 ranked 2019 recruiting class announced their decisions Tuesday to depart from the program.
Senior guard Zia Cooke, senior guard Brea Beal and senior forward Laeticia Amihere announced their decisions to join senior forward Aliyah Boston in declaring for the 2023 WNBA draft. Senior guard Olivia Thompson also announced that her career with the program was over.
Beal was the first to announce her decision on Tuesday. She started every game for the Gamecocks this season, averaging 6 points, four rebounds and three assists. She was also selected for the 2023 All-SEC Defensive team.
“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Coach Staley, Coach Law, Coach Boyer, Coach Chmiel and all the phenomenal coaches and staff,” Beal said in a post on her social media. “To my teammates and The Freshies, thank you for your support through the highs and lows.”
Amihere made her decision official after averaging a career-best in points per game with 7 and a shooting percentage of 49%.
“Before anything, I want to take a moment to honor two people who are very special to me but are no longer with us,” Amihere said in a post on social media. “My aunt and brother were two of the most important people in my life, and I know they would be so proud of me today. They were always my biggest supporters.”
Cooke was the final Gamecock to announce her decision to enter the draft. She was the team’s leading scorer in the 2022-23 campaign, averaging 15 points, two rebounds and two assists. She finished her Gamecock career by leaving it all on the floor, scoring 24 points while playing every minute of the team’s Final Four loss to Iowa.
“Thank you to the FAMS, Coach Staley, and everyone who has supported me. I’m excited for what’s ahead as I enter the 2023 WNBA Draft,” Cooke said in a social media post.
Thompson announced she would not be returning to the program, posting a statement on her Instagram that said “BYE," with a caption reading, "it’s all jokes FAMS, with love.”
This news means that no player from the team’s 2019 recruiting class will be on the roster come next season. The group, referred to as the “Freshies,” are leaving behind a legacy that has elevated the program over the last four years.
Their accomplishments include one national championship, three Final Four appearances, three SEC tournament championships, three SEC regular season championships and the first undefeated regular season in program history. They also went wire-to-wire as the nation's top-ranked team for two straight seasons.
The five "Freshies" now mark seven players from the 2023 squad who will not be returning next season with senior forward Victaria Saxton and graduate student guard Kierra Fletcher having exhausted their eligibility.
Boston, Beal, Cooke and Amihere will now have to wait and see if they hear their names called during Monday’s WNBA draft, which will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in New York City and televised on ESPN.