The South Carolina women’s basketball team unveiled “LOVE” as the team’s theme for the upcoming 2023-2024 season.
Head coach Dawn Staley said she often says, “If you love the game, it will love you back.”
According to Staley, the pursuit of a relationship with the game means loving the commitment and sacrifice required to climb to the top.
Staley said in a video posted on X — the platform formally know as Twitter — what it means for the team to love each other, the game and its commitment.
“It will give you joy and suffering, disappointment and triumph,” Staley said. “Nothing beats love.”
Staley started the tradition of uniting the team, fanbase and community under a theme 11 years ago during the 2012-2013 season. The first team theme was Sacrifice.
Each year the theme aims to represent the team’s aspirations or reflect on what is happening in the world around them. The 2020-2021 theme entitled "What Matters" challenged the players to focus on the things they could control and let go of the things they could not, such as the cancelled 2020 NCAA tournament.
Staley said she is hoping to unite the the new generation of women’s basketball players after the graduation of their most famous recruiting class, which dubbed themselves “The Freshies.” The group that included Aliyah Boston exited South Carolina under the theme “DNA”: Dreams, Nets and Assets.
An emerging leader of the young group is redshirt sophomore guard Raven Johnson. Johnson has already experienced two of Staley's themes and said this year's represents all the love the team shares, on and off the court.
“This team, it’s a bond,” Johnson said. “Off the court, on the court, we have so much love for each other, and I think we hold each other accountable in so many ways.”
While returning players are beginning to connect with a renovated lineup, the new arrivals on the team must learn what it means to be united under Staley and the rest of the coaching staff's leadership.
Senior guard Te-Hina Paopao, a transfer from Oregon, said she hopes her past experience and developed basketball IQ will guide the young team to work together on the court.
“We are still building that love (and) that trust with one another,” Paopao said. “It’s not going to take a day. Over time, we will build that love and trust and be able to love each other even when we make mistakes. ... We've still got to love each other on and off the court.”
Staley said the "LOVE" theme captures the essence of this new group of players, helping them push beyond the victories of the past.
“We can’t erase what took place over the last four years,” Staley said. “But we can start anew and give this team its own identity.”
The women's basketball team will kicks off its season abroad in France as part of the Aflac Oui-Play against Notre Dame on Nov. 6.