WBB Media Day: Notes, photos, videos
The South Carolina women's basketball team held its annual media day Tuesday. Some news and notes from the event:
Back in Action
Head coach Dawn Staley suspended two players, sophomore Alaina Coates and freshman Kaydra Duckett, for the start of preseason practice. Both have been reinstated, and Staley was happy with how they responded to the punishment. Coates was reinstated a day early due to her positive response.
"She was there, she was into it, and I felt like the lesson was learned quickly," Staley said. "We inserted her back in practice and she's done extremely well since then."
Coates seldom took a shot more than a few feet from the basket last season, but wants to add a viable jump shot to her game this year.
"It's dangerous when a post player can be deep in the post with post moves and have a jumper as well," Coates said. "I'm trying to become that post player."
Coates struggled at times last season with her conditioning. It wasn't a big surprise; freshmen have often struggled with conditioning given Staley's demands. Coates improved as the season went on, but high school was no preparation for the rigors of SEC competition.
"I know there are going to be times I need to be on the floor longer than I was last year," she said. "High school conditioning is nothing like college conditioning."
Staley has been experimenting with a jumbo lineup that features four of her post players on the court at the same time. It would have some combination of centers Elem Ibiam, Jatarie White, and Coates, with forward Aleighsa Welch and guard/forward A'ja Wilson. Welch and Wilson are good enough ball-handlers on the perimeter that the lineup could work. However, Staley emphasized that the lineup is just an experiment for now, to be used only in half-court situations.
Still, it brings to mind something Staley said during her first season in Columbia. After a loss to Stanford in which the Cardinal dominated the undersized Gamecocks, Staley was asked if one day she hoped to have a roster full of 6-4 players like the Cardinal.
"I'll take four midgets that can play," Staley said.
Fortunately, she doesn't have to resort to that.
Spreading the minutes
The competition for minutes this season should be intense. South Carolina returns all five starters and essentially the entire rotation from last year's team, plus brings in four talented freshmen who are expecting to play right away. Some veterans are going to see their playing time shrink, and only time will tell if that becomes a source of friction.
Looking at the glass half-full, the added depth will mean added rest for key players like Welch and Tiffany Mitchell. And, they hope, added rest will mean a stronger team in March.
"If you have somebody that can come in and you don't have to play 30-35 minutes a game, that saves the wear and tear on your body come tournament time," Welch said.
Staley revealed that one returning starter (she wouldn't say who) has already offered to give up her spot in the starting lineup if is in the best interest of the team.
"One of them has already come up to me and said that if she had to sacrifice coming off the bench, that's what she'll do," Staley said. "That's the culture you want to breed when you're talking about winning a national championship."
"They couldn't play more than 30 minutes a game at the level we play on both sides of the ball," Staley said.
Last season, the Gamecocks' goal was to average 5,000 fans a game. They smashed that goal, averaging 6,371 fans, tenth-best in the country. This season, the Gamecocks have already sold 5,864 season tickets with a month to go before the season starts.
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