For the past four years at the University of South Carolina, alumna A’ja Wilson was arguably the biggest personality on the women’s basketball team. Whether it was wearing her signature pearls or jamming to the student band, her off-court antics loomed almost as large as the on-court prowess that led her to sweep all national Player of the Year awards and get picked first overall in the 2018 WNBA Draft by the Las Vegas Aces. Indeed, sometimes media optics made it (unfairly) seem as if the Gamecocks consisted of Wilson...and then everyone else.
Wilson is gone, having graduated and finished a sensational Rookie of the Year campaign in the WNBA capped by winning a gold medal with the USA Basketball Women’s National Team at the FIBA World Cup in Tenerife, Spain. She is currently keeping her momentum going while playing in China as well as expanding her brand endorsement portfolio.
But all is not lost for the Gamecocks. In fact, it’s just beginning.
The 2018-19 Gamecocks WBB squad promises to be filled with just as much infectious personality. For some members of the team, the swag was always there but tended to get lost in Wilson’s shadow. For the incoming freshmen and graduate transfers, there is a blank slate for them to show Gamecock Nation who they are beyond the hardwood.
The team’s media relations group began with invitations to the special #GHive; respondees received autographed postcards with a player’s photo on the front and fun facts about that player on the back. A personalized hashtag was created for each player to use on social media — a mini-booster section, if you will. For example, those who received postcards featuring senior guard Alexis Jennings are part of the #35Hive; freshman Destanni Henderson’s recipients will be the #DestaNation crew.
Between practices, this season’s squad found the time to tap into their individual creativity by designing their own sneakers.
Who designed it best?— GamecockWBB (@GamecockWBB) October 2, 2018
Our team got to design their own lifestyle shoes this season. See what they did and why in this thread!#Gamecocks @dawnstaley #DoniyahsDefenders #SweetTs #BusyBs #LeLesGs pic.twitter.com/KzvSyWFDWQ
They also interacted with the Gamecock faithful (better known as the “FAMs”) at this year’s Gamecock Tipoff, where the team’s vibrant personalities were even more on display.
For some players, the off-season was a time for introspection.
And for others, to get used to being the new faces of this college franchise in the post-Wilson era.
While racking up wins is of importance to most sports fans, fans also fall in love (or not) with players based on who they are when the ball stops being dribbled, hit, kicked, or thrown. Kudos to the Gamecocks for helping to show who these young women are when the final buzzer sounds — lovable, intelligent, humorous, and ready to take the Gamecocks to the next level (and perhaps a second NCAA championship). But don’t take my word for it; tune in this season (and follow both Garnet and Black Attack and Gamecock WBB on Twitter) and see for yourself.
Thanks for stopping by. #Gamecocks #OwnIt