Dawn Staley has never been shy about taking in transfers, even before the portal made it a must. However, after bringing in some players who were poor fits, Staley has become more selective about who she brings in.
The Gamecocks like to bring in players they recruited out of high school or players that come from programs and coaches they respect. They are more willing to take a chance on graduate transfers they know will be low-maintenance.
This list is hardly complete but includes most of the biggest names in the portal.
South Carolina’s needs
– Backup post
The trio of Kamilla Cardoso, Ashlyn Watkins, and Sania Feagin is ready to take over the frontcourt rotation. However, the Gamecocks could use at least one more big body for depth.
– Veteran lead guard
Raven Johnson is set as the starting point guard. Talaysia Cooper and Milaysia Fulwiley played point guard in high school, but there is not much experience behind Johnson. Numbers-wise, the Gamecocks don’t need another guard, but they have limited experience at the position.
– How many?
South Carolina has five available scholarships, but don’t expect Staley to use all of them. She has rarely carried a full roster, plus in this era it is absolutely essential to have a couple of spots open for potential mid-year transfers or early enrollees. Look for the Gamecocks to add two or possibly three players.
Too talented to turn away
F Aneesah Morrow – Morrow put up huge numbers in two seasons at DePaul, battling Aliyah Boston for the double-double crown when she was a freshman two years ago. With only one First Four appearance to show for it, Morrow is presumably interested in going someplace she can win. She’ll have her pick of landing spots and everyone would make room for her. Morrow said she would release a top three this week, but instead released a video expressing interest in about a dozen teams. There is real, mutual interest between Morrow and USC.
G Hailey Van Lith – Van Lith is the most accomplished player in the portal, coming off a season where she averaged 19.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists and leading Louisville to the Final Four two seasons ago. Van Lith has her senior season and optional COVID season left. But even if a program only gets her for one season, she is a difference-maker. Van Lith visited LSU this week.
G Te-Hina Paopao – The Oregon point guard averaged 13.1 points, 3.3 assists, and 4.2 rebounds last season. She also shot 42% from three, and that shooting touch will probably give Paopao her choice of destinations. Paopao visited South Carolina last weekend and the Gamecocks rolled out the garnet carpet.
Fills a need
G Endyia Rogers – Rogers was a two-time All-Pac 12 selection so she could have easily been in the “too talented” category. As a senior at Oregon, Rogers averaged 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. Rogers only has one season of eligibility left, but she should be a plug-and-play transfer somewhere.
P Lauren Ware – Ware missed all of last season with a knee injury, meaning she has three years of eligibility left. She didn’t put up huge numbers at Arizona, but was productive. Ware would fit the role of a fourth big for South Carolina, but she could probably start at a lot of other places.
G Lexi Donarski – The 2021 Big 12 Freshman of the Year is talented and experienced. She averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists for Iowa State last season and would fill the role of a veteran lead guard.
G Shayeann Day-Wilson – The Duke guard was the ACC freshman of the year in 2022. Her numbers dipped last season as Duke played a grinding pace and the drop in her shooting percentage is a concern, but Day-Wilson will still be in demand. South Carolina heavily recruited her in high school and Day-Wilson recently visited Columbia. She clearly fits the description of a veteran lead guard. Her position coach at Duke was new Gamecock assistant Winston Gandy.
G Celeste Taylor – Taylor joined Day-Wilson in the portal and has also been linked to Gandy. Taylor was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year last season and was a likely first round WNBA pick if she had gone pro. The only knock on Taylor is that you only get her for one season, otherwise I’d put her in the Too Talented category.
G Mackenzie Kramer – As a junior, Kramer averaged 17.2 points, 3.2 assists, and 3.3 rebounds last season at Lehigh. That alone makes her a good fit. But she also shot 43% from three, and South Carolina could definitely use her shooting touch.
PG Ashley Owusu – A year ago Owusu was too talented to turn away, but then she had one star-crossed season at Virginia Tech after starting her career at Maryland. She suffered an early-season injury but then never rejoined the rotation. It is widely believed that Owusu will rejoin her former Maryland teammate Angel Reese at LSU, so I put her as doubtful. If Owusu decides to play elsewhere, she did have a successful run at the AmeriCup under Staley a couple of years ago.
G Diamond Johnson – Staley is a big fan of Johnson going all the way back to high school, when South Carolina recruited the North Philly product. Johnson began her career at Rutgers before transferring to NC State, where she led the Wolfpack in scoring last season. However, as a second time transfer who is not a grad transfer, Johnson will have to sit out a season. I’m not sure USC can spare a scholarship unless all other transfer targets fall through. If Johnson can get a waiver and play immediately, that changes things.
F Erynn Barnum – The Arkansas senior exploded last season, averaging 15.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. She’ll have her choice of destinations, and Barnum doesn’t seem like a good fit at South Carolina.
G Aicha Coulibaly – Coulibaly averaged 16.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists last season at Auburn. She’s a big, strong guard who has put up big numbers. Is she looking for a place she can win or just a change of scenery? Coulibaly is rumored to be heading to Texas A&M, but if that falls through there could be interest.
G Indya Nivar – The North Carolina native is transferring after one season at Stanford. South Carolina recruited Nivar early on, but the interest seemed to have waned by Nivar’s junior and senior seasons.
Off the Market
F Sedona Prince – Prince might have been a good fit. She is talented but injury-prone and missed all of last season with an elbow injury. It’s unclear how much Prince will be limited by past injuries, but she believes she has more to offer than being a third or fourth big, and committed to TCU Easter weekend.
G Jada Walker – The former all-freshman selection at Kentucky averaged 3.1 assists and 2.6 steals last season. She fits the role of a veteran lead guard that South Carolina needs, but opted to go to Baylor where she will have a bigger role.
P Lauren Betts – 6-7 Betts was the top overall recruit last year and South Carolina was one of her finalists. She put up strong numbers in limited minutes in her one season at Stanford. South Carolina would have gladly taken Betts, but she chose to stay west and committed to UCLA this week. The Bruins, by the way, also added recruit Kendall Dudley in the last week and are loaded for the next few years.
W Frannie Hottinger – Hottinger averaged 20 points a game at Lehigh last season and has one year of eligibility remaining. Whether South Carolina is interested in a player like Hottinger depends on how much confidence the coaching staff has in Bree Hall and Chloe Kitts. I think they are ready to take over the position, but if the coaches have doubts they might look to bring in someone like Hottinger. It became immaterial this week when Hottinger committed to Marquette.
G Lauren Hansen – Hansen began her career at Auburn and then transferred to Missouri. She averaged 12.9 points on 33% shooting from three last season. Hansen would have been a solid pickup for anybody that needed a perimeter scorer, but committed to Michigan this week.
G Kennedy Cambridge – Cambridge was a four-star prospect, so she’ll be in demand on her own merits. She’s also the younger sister of the top prospect in the class of 2024, Jaloni. Programs are going to be interested in Kennedy as a way to form a link with Jaloni. Kennedy could also join her older sister Jordyn at Vanderbilt. Despite being Nashville natives, Vanderbilt is not expected to be a finalist for Jaloni.
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