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Gamecocks on the world stage in the FIBA Women’s World Cup

Head coach Dawn Staley and Gamecocks alumna A’ja Wilson will #DefendTheCup in Spain.

Basketball: International Women’s Basketball-Japan at USA Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Lady Gamecocks have slowly but steadily eased their way into the public eye since head coach Dawn Staley took the reins over ten years ago. The delivery of the school’s first NCAA championship (for either the women’s or men’s basketball programs), plus the highest game attendance for four years straight, thrust the Gamecocks into the national spotlight.

Mississippi State v South Carolina Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

That spotlight shone brighter when three-time SEC Player of the Year and consensus National Player of the Year A’ja Wilson, who was an integral part of that national championship team, was taken as the number one overall draft pick in the 2018 WNBA draft by the Las Vegas Aces. She was recently named Rookie of the Year, following in the footsteps of her former Gamecocks teammate Allisha Gray, who was the 2017 WNBA Rookie of the Year and a first-round pick for the Dallas Wings. Gray was also a member of that 2017 championship team.

Now, Staley and Wilson have reunited again to try and bring an unprecedented third consecutive FIBA Women’s World Cup home to the USA.

Wilson, fresh off a stellar rookie season in the WNBA and news of a recently confirmed statue on the South Carolina campus, is one of the new faces on the finalized 12-player roster that will begin tournament play on Saturday, September 22, when Team USA faces off against Senegal in group play. It’s only fitting that she, who helped Staley achieve the college championship that she was unable to win in her playing days at the University of Virginia, will try to get her college coach another championship — but this time, an international one.

[Sidebar: will Champ Staley get a brother or sister if Team USA wins the World Cup? Asking for a friend.]

Staley, as the new head coach of USA Basketball’s Women’s National Team (USABWNT), has not wasted the opportunity to build upon and amplify the Gamecocks’ notoriety . She has held training camps for Team USA on the South Carolina campus, which also exposed her college team (and the Columbia community) to professional players who have excelled both in the WNBA and overseas.

She added Wilson, Gray, Gamecock junior Tyasha Harris, and another Gamecock alumna, Tiffany Mitchell (2-time SEC Player of the Year and first-round pick of the 2016 draft for the Indiana Fever), to the training roster for Team USA prior to the team’s overseas departure.

A Red and White team scrimmage was held on the Gamecocks’ home court at the Colonial Life Arena. Gamecocks associate head coach Lisa Boyer is part of the Team USA coaching staff.

All of this means that the Gamecocks, which is already considered an elite women’s basketball program both inside and outside of the Southeastern Conference (thanks, Coach Staley!), will get to bask in international glory over the next week. If the past few years are any indication, the Gamecocks via Staley and Wilson are up to the task. It is a bold beginning to the journey of the Gamecocks in the post-Wilson era.

You can check out Team USA’s first 2018 World Cup game (versus Senegal) today at 1:00 p.m. on ESPN+ (you can get a free 7-day trial, and can watch either on TV or via the ESPN app). Follow USA Basketball on Twitter and use the hashtags #FIBAWWC , #DefendTheCup, and #USABWNT to comment and keep up with the latest Team USA info as they progress through the World Cup tournament. The FIBA Women’s World Cup also has a free app that is available for download for both iOS and Android systems. Of course, Gamecocks Women’s Basketball will provide as much coverage as possible.

You can also follow Staley Wilson, Harris, Gray, and Mitchell on Twitter, if you aren’t doing so already.

Thanks for stopping by. #ForeverToThee