Where are expectations at for the South Carolina Gamecocks after All-Everything player A’ja Wilson departed as the number 1 draft pick of the WNBA Las Vegas Aces? Amazingly, SC should still be an elite team. They were picked to finish second in the SEC behind Mississippi State following a 26–6 record last season and an appearance in the Elite Eight.
The Gamecocks shot very well last season, hitting 34% of their 3-point shots and ranking 10th in overall field goal percentage. Defensively, they held opponents to under 37% shooting while allowing few second chances with a 62% defensive rebound rate.
Coach Dawn Staley, in her 11th year at SC, has plenty of good options available. They return four starters from last season, added a key transfer and recruited a remarkable incoming freshman class. No matter who ends up starting, the Gamecocks should have a deep bench of high-quality players.
There are four newcomers who could make an immediate impact:
Te’a Cooper G Redshirt Junior
Transferred from Tennessee and and has huge potential, but hasn’t played since the 2015–2016 season due to injury and transfer rules. In that season, she was voted to the SEC All-Freshman Team. She is also a Her Hoop Stats Transfer to Watch and did not disappoint in her first game for SC scoring 20 points with 4 steals.
Destanni Henderson G Freshman
Ranked 6 overall and 1 at her position.
2018 Florida Gatorade Player of the Year.
2018 McDonald’s All-American.
Victaria Saxton F Freshman
Ranked 47 overall and 6 at her position.
Elysa Wesolek F
Ranked 47 at her position.
Notable returning players and how they performed:
Doniyah Cliney G Senior
Averaged 31 minutes per game in 36 games last season.
Increased her scoring average to 7.8 PPG as a junior from 2.9 as a sophomore.
Mikiah Herbert Harrigan F Junior
Averaged 17 minutes per game in 33 games last season.
Shot 51% from 2-point range.
Tyasha Harris G Junior
Averaged 34 minutes per game in 36 games last season.
Doubled scoring average to 10.4 PPG as a sophomore from from 5.6 as a freshman.
All-SEC Second Team (Coaches, AP).
SEC All-Tournament Team.
Bianca Jackson G Sophomore
Posted 10 double-digit scoring games last season, including four against nationally ranked opponents and three in postseason play.
Averaged 30 minutes per game.
2018 SEC All Freshman Team.
Alexis Jennings F Senior
Averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season.
Shot over 59% from 2-point range.
Named to Preseason All-SEC First Team and on the watch list for the Katrina McClain Award this season.
This depth and experience should allow Staley to bring the freshmen up to speed at a reasonable pace and set optimal rotations for always tough SEC conference play. South Carolina has won the last 4 SEC tournaments, but will face a stiff challenge from Mississippi State this season.
If just one or two of the newcomers live up to expectations and the sophomores and juniors continue year-over-year improving, we should see South Carolina in the Elite Eight and perhaps beyond come March and April.