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Double Dipping: Gamecock women’s Basketball nabs two top recruits in one week

Top class of 2019 recruits Zia Cooke and Brea Beal committed to the Gamecocks for next season.

Rock Island High School’s Brea Beal reveals her college choice at her reveal announcement on November 8, 2018
Meg McLaughlin for the Moline Dispatch & Rock Island Argus newspaper (East Moline, IL)

To paraphrase the rapper Ice Cube, “Last week was a good week.”

The #GHive was abuzz and Gamecock FAMs were equally excited when Zia Cooke of Rogers High School in Toledo, IL announced her commitment to the University of South Carolina on November 5. Cooke is the #7-ranked prospect in the nation (per ESPNW Hoopgurlz).

A few days later, on November 8, #13-ranked ESPNW national prospect Brea Beal of Rock Island High School in Moline, IL announced that she was also joining #GamecockNation.

A trifecta may potentially in the works, as Laeticia Amihere of Ontario, Canada (#10 on the ESPNW Hoopgurlz list) announces her college decision on November 14. She has narrowed her choices down to South Carolina, Louisville, and Kentucky.

The recruitment of two (and possibly three) top high school prospects further solidifies South Carolina’s reputation as an elite program for women’s college basketball overall and especially in the Southeastern Conference, which is considered the hardest, or at least one of the hardest, women’s basketball conferences in the nation. If Amihere decides to don the garnet and black as well, that would prove that Staley’s program has an international reach — one that would keep Gamecock WBB in the upper echelons for quite some time.

Both Beal and Cooke cited Staley as their primary reason for coming to Columbia. Her stellar resume as both a player and a coach, coupled with her no-nonsense coaching and mentoring styles, appealed to the two nationally-ranked guards. “If you want to be the best, why not be coached by the best,” Cooke told Danni Rogers of BCSN Sports in Ohio in a post-announcement interview.

Amihere is slated to be on the South Carolina campus this weekend for her official college visit, prior to her announcement next Wednesday. She has already visited Louisville and Kentucky but South Carolina may be the best place for her, as she wants to become a coach when her playing days are over. Cooke was correct: if you want to be the best, why not be coached by the best — and Staley ranks among the best as both a player and a coach. Plus, she’d have proximity to perhaps the best unofficial college mascot in Champ Staley, Staley’s beloved Havanese puppy.

The addition of Cooke and Beal enhances Staley’s new playing emphasis on speed and flexibility, as evidenced by this season’s guard-heavy roster that was on display for the first official time this season in a lopsided exhibition win against non-conference foe Lander University. Given the evolution of college basketball to pace and space this adaptation can only benefit the Gamecocks moving forward, especially since the departure of defensive Ace (ha, see what I did there?) A’ja Wilson.

Fans have every reason to be excited about Gamecock WBB moving forward; another national championship is certainly within the realm of possibility over the next few years. To keep up with the latest on the women’s basketball team make sure to follow Garnet and Black Attack and Gamecock WBB on Twitter, and the hashtags #GHive , #OwnIt, and #FAMS.

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