VIDEO: Dawn Staley
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (Exh.)
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
Tickets: Free admission
Anderson's probable starters: G Alissa Diaz 5-10 Sr. (14.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg); G Sierra Simpson 5-6 So. (6.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G Amanda Parris 5-7 Sr. (7.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg); F Tilde Ahlin 6-3 Sr. (8.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg); F Breonda Shannon 5-10 Sr. (8.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg)
South Carolina's probable starters: G Ieasia Walker 5-8 Sr. (7.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Sancheon White 5-10 Sr. (3.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 So. (7.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg); F Ashley Bruner 6-0 Sr. (7.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg); C Elem Ibiam 6-3 So. (3.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg)*
Notes: South Carolina holds its only exhibition of the season, with Dawn Staley's fifth season as coach set to start on Friday. … The two teams have met nine times in history, with Anderson holding a 6-3 lead. The last matchup was in 1978. … Anderson has already played two exhibitions, losing to Wake Forest and beating Clemson. … The Trojans are coming off a 10-18 season while USC was 25-10 and ended the year in the Sweet 16. … The Gamecocks are healthy outside of sophomore Tina Roy, who had ACL surgery in late August. While Roy is lightly practicing, she is not expected to play in the early part of the season, and may be on the redshirt list depending on how the season progresses. … The debut of USC's highly-rated recruiting class, featuring four freshmen and one junior-college transfer. … The Gamecocks received 49 votes in the preseason USA Today/ESPN Top 25, good for 28th place.
*Note: Statistics are from last year
Next game: USC begins the regular season by hosting Elon at 7 p.m. on Friday.
They've been waiting for this for a while.
Ever since the curtain closed on last year's 25-win season and Sweet 16 berth, South Carolina has been aching for another chance to get back on the floor. While it's a different-looking team than the one that ended the year at Stanford in March, it has enough returning talent - and a precocious crop of newcomers - that it's a realistic goal to match last season's result.
If not do it a step or two better.
Sunday is just an exhibition game, but it will be the first time that the Gamecocks get to play another team instead of beating up on each other. As senior Ieasia Walker nonchalantly stated, the goal this year is the Final Four - USC will get its first peek at how it can run to that goal against Anderson.
"We look pretty good," fifth-year coach Dawn Staley said. "I think our players are a little bit more comfortable with how we need to play, especially on the defensive end. Offense, I think, is probably the last thing to come."
Despite having a group of five veterans to lean on last year, Staley said that this year's group is further along in preseason preparation. She estimated that about 20 offensive plays have been installed, and all but one defense. While she joked that she doesn't know if the Gamecocks will be any good in the alignments, she likes the makeup of her squad. Although it only numbers 10 - sophomore Tina Roy is out indefinitely while recovering from knee surgery and sophomore Shelbretta Ball, as she did last year, is part of the team but will not play due to a medical condition - the Gamecocks have plenty of talent.
For the first time in Staley's tenure, she has depth in the post. Sophomore Aleighsa Welch and senior Ashley Bruner can anchor the blocks, while centers Elem Ibiam (who Staley said had a magnificent summer) and junior-college transfer Wilka Montout can play in the middle.
Then there are the guards, a Staley staple. Walker returns for her final year and has four freshmen bidding for time, either as her backup or as her outlets on each trip down the floor. Khadijah Sessions and Asia Dozier lead the pack with Tiffany Davis and Tiffany Mitchell also around, along with senior sharpshooter Sancheon White.
Staley hopes to get more production out of her post players this year and not have the Gamecocks' offense be so dependent on the guards, although it worked well last year. Having Ibiam and/or Montout in the post can offer the threat of a pass inside, as opposed to last year's post production mostly coming from put-backs.
While it seems logical that one or possibly two of the freshmen will eventually start, Staley said that she'll likely go with experience on Sunday. USC has checked some of Anderson's film, but will use Sunday as an extended audition for everyone.
Even though it's an exhibition, the Gamecocks are ready to see what they have. "We're excited to get somebody else in here, show them what we're working with," Bruner said. "It's exciting. We'll have fans, parents. We finally get to show our intro video and it's exciting all around."
Staley is anxious to see how much of the teaching has really sunk in. The danger with freshmen having to play a lot - and USC's small roster means that that will be the case - is they sometimes revert to high school in tight situations. With most of the freshmen being stars in the prep ranks, sometimes they fall into freelancing and old habits instead of what Staley wants them to do.
Still, Staley likes what she has seen.
"We're probably more further along than we have been," Staley said. "We're feeling pretty good that we've been able to put in so much stuff. This is a good coachable team."