South Carolina Notables
â€¢ This is the Gamecocks’ 25th season as a varsity sport.
â€¢ The Gamecocks are 1-0 in exhibition games under head coach Dawn Staley after defeating the Peach State All-Stars 78-69 last season.
â€¢ South Carolina was 6-9 at Colonial Life Arena last season.
â€¢ SEC coaches picked the Gamecocks to finish sixth in their annual preseason poll, an impressive jump after a 2-12 league record in 2008-09. If it comes to fruition, it would be the Gamecocks’ highest finish since tying for sixth place at the end of the 2002-03 season.
â€¢ South Carolina opens the regular season with a pair of road games. The Gamecocks’ 2009-10 opener is at Charlotte on Mon., Nov. 16. South Carolina travels to archrival Clemson for a showdown on Thu., Nov. 19.
â€¢ The Gamecocks play their home opener against Penn State on Sun., Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. The game will be televised oon SportSouth.
Scouting Augusta State
On paper, the Lady Jaguars appear to be behind the eight ball this season after losing the top four scorers, who include the top two rebounders, from last year’s squad that posted a 5-23 record. Senior guard Brittany Jarrard is the team’s top returning offensive player, netting 8.6 points per game last season. Senior point guard Eboni Davis is back as well after leading the team with 3.7 assists per game to go with her 6.8 scoring average.
Augusta State already has an exhibition game under its belt, suffering a 92-50 defeat at UAB on Sunday. Junior guard Blaire Egardo led the offense with 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting, while sophomore forward Jenny Nixon pulled down a team-high six rebounds and blocked a pair of shots.
Virginia alum Tes Sobomehin is in her second season with the Lady Jaguars and has a four-year career record of 20-83.
Six letterwinners return for their second season under head coach Dawn Staley, and their coach likes the makeup of the group. The returning players, who accounted for 51.5 percent of last season’s points and 43.1 percent of the 2008-09 rebounds, arrived in excellent shape to go along with the mental toughness bred of the extended minutes they were forced to play last season. That invaluable experience will be enhanced by the new players Staley brought into the program, as veterans will be able to return to roles in which they can thrive.
Staley made her first season of recruiting a productive one, nabbing the fourth-best class in the nation. Headlining that class is the first tandem of Parade All-Americans in the program’s history – Kelsey Bone and Ieasia Walker. Inking such a prestigious group was crucial to getting the Gamecocks on track toward Staley’s lofty goals.
Strength of Schedule
Staley stuck to her philosophy of challenging her teams in November and December as a building block for success in January and beyond. The Gamecocks will face as many as 22 games against teams that participated in the 2009 postseason, including seven non-conference outings.
To set the stage for 11 games against SEC teams that played in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, Staley has her Gamecocks opening at NCAA Tournament participant Charlotte and does not let up. South Carolina will face Final Four participant Oklahoma and NCAA Tournament veterans Notre Dame and San Diego State at the Paradise Jam. The non-conference slate also includes a neutral-site matchup against border rival and perennial top-25 presence North Carolina in December.
In all this season, South Carolina will face off with seven teams that are in the preseason top 25 (listed as AP/ESPN) – Notre Dame (4/7), North Carolina (5/5), Tennessee (8/9), LSU (9/17), Oklahoma (13/8), Georgia (21/-), Vanderbilt (22/20).
As both coach and team learned more about each other last season, Staley made strategic adjustments to maximize the talents of her team. Those shifts led to less of the frenetic pace the highly regarded head coach prefers. After stocking her team with the nation’s No. 4-ranked signing class, Staley is more comfortable lifting the structure her inaugural team needed to stay in games. Last season’s team mirrored its coach in its ability to battle no matter what the odds, but the 2009-10 Gamecocks will play even more in their mentor’s image.
Gamecocks on TV
South Carolina will play at least 12 games on television in 2009-10, including a pair of SEC contests on the ESPN family of networks. The Gamecocks’ first four home games will air on SportSouth. Two SEC games will air on FSN (games air on FOX Sports Carolinas, FOX Sports South, FOX Sports Tennessee, FOX Sports Houston, FOX Sports Southwest and Sun Sports), one on CSS, one on Sun Sports and another one on the SEC Network. Additionally, FSN and the ESPN family of networks are teaming to broadcast every game of the SEC Tournament in Duluth, Ga.