Favor ain’t fair.
South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley may have a nontraditional approach in this “by any means necessary” era of college recruiting (hi, FBI-investigated schools), but you can’t knock the results.
Last week, top-ranked high school seniors Zia Cooke and Brea Beal made their 2019 commitments to #GamecockNation within days of each other.
Laeticia Amihere, another 5-star prospect, was slated to make her college decision on Wednesday; her choices had narrowed to South Carolina, Louisville, and Kentucky.
The #GHive and Gamecock FAMs awaited with bated breath: Could the magic of Staley make lightning strike a third time? And in just over a week, no less?
BOOM BOOM BOOM!!!— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) November 14, 2018
Amihere announced her decision to join the Gamecocks’ stellar 2019 class, which is being touted as a top-five recruiting class nationally. It’s another feather in the cap for Staley, who added a FIBA World Cup championship as the first-time head coach of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team to her already diamond-studded resume two months ago. The 6’3” Amihere will bring superior defense, especially around the rim; this is an A’ja Wilson-shaped vacuum that has loomed since Wilson graduated in May of this year and will need to be filled yet again when Alexis Jennings completes her final year of eligibility next spring.
ON POINT ON LOCATION: Laeticia Amihere @_Theblackqueen_ chooses @GamecockWBB and Head Coach @dawnstaley improving on their already amazing recruiting class! #Gamecocks #gamecockswbb #canball #onpoint pic.twitter.com/ZgTpi9mNiV— OnPointBasketball (@DrewEbanks) November 15, 2018
That Staley and her staff have turned things around in the women’s basketball program at South Carolina to this extent is a testament to Staley’s authenticity and blue-collar work ethic. She surrounds herself with like-minded people and doesn’t ask them to do anything that she won’t do herself. As a “round-the-way” girl from North Philly, Staley relates to her players in a way that perhaps other coaches can’t, or won’t.
Before we start practice today, great time for #Gamecocks FAMS to get a look at the @dawnstaley thru eyes of those she has coached and coached with over the last 18 seasons. You'll definitely and you might even a little bit. pic.twitter.com/xYXIyQKKNb— GamecockWBB (@GamecockWBB) October 4, 2018
Staley embraces her fans (the “FAMs”), going so far as to create the famous (and soon to be infamous) #GHive. She interacts regularly with them through her official Twitter account, which may be part of the reason why South Carolina women’s basketball has led the nation in game attendance for the past four seasons.
The GHive enjoyed a delicious meal from @GamecockFeed AND the inside scoop on the full roster and tonight’s exhibition. @dawnstaley always has the for the biggest FAMS #Gamecocks pic.twitter.com/JLgtviOwKd— GamecockWBB (@GamecockWBB) November 2, 2018
Thank you @GamecockWBB FAMs & my Ghive members for coming out on a rainy Friday to see your team. We are a work in progress as you can see but encouraged where this team can go. Keep supporting because we really need it. See you November 15th or November 11 if you’re coming to AL— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) November 3, 2018
Although she is a South Carolina transplant, Staley has become involved in the community since she arrived in Columbia in 2008.
Let me tell you ... the goodness that is @DawnStaley never stops giving!— Judi Gatson (@JudiGatson) November 14, 2018
Such an honor to emcee her annual grandparents breakfast. .
Coach teamed up w/ NetLife & @Wellcare_Health to send EVERY grandparent w/ a complete ➕ a “pot of gold!” #therealMVP pic.twitter.com/PXDZckWbMZ
And she visibly supports other sports at South Carolina and receives support in kind.
Staley even promotes fun rivalries between NCAA women’s basketball coaching staffs from all conferences.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the Staley Effect is that she never forgets those who have helped pave the way for her success.
This article isn’t meant to be a puff piece on Staley (there are plenty that have already been published) but rather to show why top recruits are choosing to even cross international borders to play at South Carolina. There are other schools with more national championships and more burnished pedigrees, that have sent more players to the WNBA (especially in the first round). There are coaches considered to be more established household names.
Instead, it’s the intangibles that are swaying recruits to the Gamecocks in both unofficial and official visits, though the Final Four appearances, consecutive SEC championships, national championship, and first-round WNBA draft picks (plus two consecutive Rookies of the Year) are indeed a factor. It’s the knowledge that they will be pushed to become better versions of themselves. It’s the certainty that they, too, can have a successful career on the hardwood and beyond by virtue of a school that only entered the upper echelons of women’s basketball over the past few years; that they will leave the program, as one of Staley’s former Temple University players said in the previously posted video, as women after entering it as girls. It’s the vibe felt by the parents of recruits that their children will be taken care of mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s the feeling of home.
As the recruits quickly realized, game recognize game. This is the house that Dawn Staley built, and it was built to last.
Thanks for stopping by.