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November 5, 2012

WBB: Breaking down the Gamecocks



South Carolina begins its season on Friday. A look at the Gamecocks' roster.

USC schedule: Click

ASHLEY BRUNER
Position: Forward
Class: Senior
Height: 6-0
Number: 21
2011-12 statistics: 35 games, three starts, 7.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 25 blocks, 47 steals, 38.4 FT pct.
The skinny: Bruner has been a quality post for her first three years, but was hardly ever an option to go to with the ball - she got most of her points on put-backs and the like. This year, especially early in the season, she will be targeted from the point guards. Bruner is as fast as she's ever been and very good on defense, able to play high or low, pick off a pass and start the fast break, while also holding her ground on the block against players taller and heavier than her. If she can consistently score in the half-court all season, the Gamecocks will be able to throw the classic "pick your poison" at opponents. She can also help herself and the team by making free throws. A notoriously bad shooter from the stripe (nobody was great at it last year, as USC finished dead last among 336 teams in the country in free-throw percentage), Bruner will be going there often this year. If opponents know she's going to miss, they'll hack her. But she made her only attempt during the exhibition.

IEASIA WALKER
Position: Guard
Class: Senior
Height: 5-8
Number: 3
2011-12 statistics: 35 games, 33 starts, 7.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 113 assists, 90 turnovers, 63 steals, 31.6 FG pct., 23.5 3-point pct., 66.3 FT pct.
The skinny: Hand-picked by Dawn Staley to run her offense, Walker has struggled at times over the years shooting the ball but has always been a superb ball-handler. Her turnovers mounted last year, but she locked in on taking care of the ball late in the year, and it paid off. Walker was in a dreadful shooting slump last year, but with La'Keisha Sutton and Markeisha Grant around her, didn't need to be a scorer. She will need to do all of it this year - score, direct, be tenacious on defense. She is also the team's unquestioned leader - point guards on Staley's teams are required to be, and Walker took over the role after seeing what Sutton and Grant did so well.

SANCHEON WHITE
Position: Guard
Class: Senior
Height: 5-10
Number: 20
2011-12 statistics: 35 games, one start, 3.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 30 steals, 23.3 3-point pct.
The skinny: A role player last year who was still learning Staley's system, White was an outside shooter who spelled the others in the three-guard offense. She may start this year. White concentrated on being more of a slasher during the offseason, retaining her 3-point skills, but also worked on her passing, which will be used in USC's half-court offense. The Gamecocks are looking to go inside but know that they can swivel the ball around the arc in order to get there - White on the elbows is vital to that plan.

WILKA MONTOUT
Position: Forward
Class: Junior
Height: 6-3
Number: 12
2011-12 statistics (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M): 18.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg
The skinny: A junior-college transfer, Montout brings depth into the post, something that Staley hasn't had in her first four years. She can play the middle or the forward spots, and between her, Bruner, Elem Ibiam and Aleighsa Welch, the Gamecocks can always have two forwards on the floor - or even go with the three-big lineup. Nicknamed "WiWi," Montout has good touch underneath and can hit the 10-to-15-footer. She blocked three shots during USC's exhibition-game win.

SHELBRETTA BALL
Position: Guard
Class: Sophomore
Height: 5-8
Number: 2
2011-12 statistics: None
The skinny: Like last year, Ball won't play this season. She was medically disqualified before her freshman year but she will continue to be on scholarship throughout her tenure. She is able to lightly practice and the team continues to honor her with a small heart-shaped patch on their jerseys.

ELEM IBIAM
Position: Forward
Class: Sophomore
Height: 6-3
Number: 33
2011-12 statistics: 25 games, no starts, 3.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 17 blocks
The skinny: Not quick enough to play heavy minutes last year, Ibiam spent all summer in Columbia, shifting between the gym and the weight room. The result is a much faster, much improved player who may not start, but can be a force off the bench. The Gamecocks can go to her if Bruner and Welch get in foul trouble, but that's not the only reason she'll play. Ibiam will play because of what she can bring - great defense, a body to clog the lane and being another on-the-block scorer. Not many want to go up against her while fighting for an offensive rebound.

TINA ROY
Position: Guard
Class: Sophomore
Height: 5-11
Number: 23
2011-12 statistics: 34 games, no starts, 4.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg, nine steals, 25.2 3-point pct.
The skinny: Known as the team's sharpshooter last year, Roy really picked up her game in the postseason. There were times last year where she looked lost on the court - it was expected, as a freshman playing in the SEC. She went into the offseason wanting to focus on her defense, but an ACL injury in mid-August derailed those plans. Roy does some light work at practice but did not dress for the exhibition game; there is no timetable for her return. Staley said that if she proves capable of playing sometime during the season, she'll play her, but Roy won't be rushed. Not definite to redshirt, but going by the usual six-month recovery from an ACL tear, the calendar ends in mid-February.

ALEIGHSA WELCH
Position: Forward
Class: Sophomore
Height: 6-0
Number: 24
2011-12 statistics: 7.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 22 blocks, 57.1 FT pct.
The skinny: Staley's first homegrown recruit didn't disappoint in her freshman year, playing well and not buckling to the pressures of playing a much longer college season. She's even better this year. Welch knew that the team was losing Charenee Stephens, a toughened senior who wasn't the tallest or heaviest, but was so strong in the post that she could force opponents out of their shooting comfort zones. Welch took over that role, strengthening her defense and also working on her speed. Like Bruner, she can play high or low and also like Bruner, she will be a target. Welch is an outstanding player now and will be the backbone of the team going forward.

TIFFANY DAVIS
Position: Guard
Class: Freshman
Height: 5-7
Number: 15
2011-12 statistics (high school): 22.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 4.1 apg
The skinny: A native Texan, Davis is one of the four freshmen guards that Staley signed. A solid scorer in high school, Davis will probably spend this season learning her role. She can play both guard spots and will cycle in and out due to the team's thin bench - her success will depend on how quickly she can get comfortable in the system.

ASIA DOZIER
Position: Guard
Class: Freshman
Height: 5-10
Number: 31
2011-12 statistics (high school): 18.6 ppg, 4.5 apg, 4.0 spg
The skinny: It seemed destined that Dozier would sign with USC, having helped build a dynasty just around the corner at Spring Valley High School and with father Perry Dozier having played at USC. The Gamecocks are glad that Asia Dozier wanted to continue the family tradition. Polished already, able to score inside and out and play defense, Dozier is vital to continuing the building of an elite program. Like the other three freshmen guards, she may struggle at times this year, but once she figures out that Walker will keep passing her the ball, the shots will start to fall.

TIFFANY MITCHELL
Position: Guard
Class: Freshman
Height: 5-9
Number: 25
2011-12 statistics (high school): 19.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg
The skinny: Perhaps the most ready of the newcomers, Mitchell started the exhibition game and will probably continue to start. She earned the job because she picked up the defense the fastest, and can offer a lot of different looks in Staley's system. The Gamecocks naturally want Mitchell to score, but don't need her to - at least, not yet. As long as she's offering the threat of being the three, able to stick on the perimeter or slash to the basket, and keeps playing defense, she'll continue to start.

KHADIJAH SESSIONS
Position: Guard
Class: Freshman
Height: 5-8
Number: 5
2011-12 statistics (high school): 29.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg
The skinny: Another high-ranking name from in-state, Sessions is another piece that the Gamecocks will build around. Quick, fearless, able to score from inside and out, Sessions is going to be very exciting to watch. She'll spend this year as Walker's backup at the point, learning how to defend at this level and also learning that she won't have to be the one-woman gang that she was in Myrtle Beach. She can score often, and that's great, but Sessions will learn how to use what's around her so that she doesn't have to score often every night.



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