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Oct. 11, 2004

Columbia, S.C. – With practice officially starting this week, basketball season is right around the corner. South Carolina head coach Susan Walvius said that she plans to utilize more defensive pressure than ever before and said that she would like to renew the home-court advantage enjoyed by the Gamecocks during their consecutive top-20 national finishes in 2001-02 and 2002-03.

Part of that is getting fans in the seats, and with the price of season tickets dropping from $75 a year ago to $40 this year, fans can enjoy fast-paced Gamecock basketball at an affordable price.

Here are some things to know about South Carolina women’s basketball entering the 2004-05 season:

* The Gamecocks return 11 letterwinners off last year’s team, including a trio of starters in 2004 Freshman All-SEC selection Lauren Simms, junior forward Olga Gritsaeva and sophomore Iva Sliskovic.

* There are no seniors on the South Carolina roster. In fact, the team has only two juniors. Guard Sarah Burgess and forward Olga Gritsaeva are the only two upperclassmen on a roster that features eight sophomores, two redshirt freshmen and one true freshman.

* One of the top tacticians in the sport re-joined the South Carolina coaching staff this summer in Linda Hill-MacDonald. Hill-MacDonald served as an assistant coach under Susan Walvius from 2000-03 and was a large factor in the Gamecocks’ trip to the Elite Eight in 2002 and in the team’s consecutive NCAA appearances and top-20 national finishes in 2001-02 and 2002-03. Hill-MacDonald has over 30 years of coaching experience, including the head jobs at Temple University, the University of Minnesota and with the WNBA’s Cleveland Rockers.

* Averaging 11.0 points per game as a true freshman last year, sophomore forward Iva Sliskovic is the team’s leading returning scorer. Her 7.1 rebounds per game average and .549 field goal percentage were also good for the team lead a year ago.

* The Gamecock roster features four players from the state of South Carolina. Lauren Simms (Columbia/Spring Valley HS), Angela Hunter (Columbia/Columbia HS), Melanie Johnson (Barnwell/Barnwell HS) and Lakesha Tolliver (Columbia/Dreher HS) are the Palmetto State natives.

* Former Gamecock great Shannon Johnson won a gold medal this summer with Team USA at the Athens Olympics. In addition, she was also inducted into the University of South Carolina’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

* Redshirt freshman Lakesha Tolliver is back in action for the Gamecocks after missing all but one game last year. Tolliver tore her ACL in practice the day after the first game and was forced to redshirt.