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Aug 31, 2013

Seven days away from the start of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend for South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley, is taking a closer look at Staley’s incredible playing career, including her top five career moments next week.

USA Basketball (1989-2004)

Dawn Staley routinely refers to USA Basketball as utopia, but her experience with the program did not start out that way. In her first attempt, the reigning national college player of the year was one of 18 finalists for the 1992 Olympic team but was cut from the squad, postponing her lifelong Olympic dream. Staley was not alone as no collegian was selected to the team that year, though, and the slight fueled her determination to be part of the 1996 Olympic contingent.

After closing out her college career and playing professionally in Europe, Staley returned to the U.S. to spend a year (1995-96) with the USA Basketball Women’s National Team that posted a 60-0 record, which culminated in the 1996 Olympic gold medal. The year-long residency with the team was challenging for Staley and all of her teammates, but fulfilling her Olympic dream felt all the sweeter for it.

“There is no better feeling in the world than to accomplish something you worked so hard for and that people told you that you couldn’t do just because of the color of your skin or the place you grew up or maybe just bad luck,” Staley said.

Beginning with her first USA Basketball experience on the Junior World Championship Team, Staley posted a 196-10 record playing for her country, amassing 10 gold medals, one bronze medal and seven tournament titles. During her tenure, she played alongside countless legends of the sport, including current South Carolina assistant coach Nikki McCray.

In her three Olympic games, all yielding a gold medal, Staley averaged 4.1 points and 3.3 assists while guiding her team went undefeated at the games. She is second in U.S. Olympic women’s basketball history in career assists (80), third in games played (24), seventh in free throw percentage (.886) and eighth in steals (28). Staley netted an Olympic career-high 14 points in the 2004 gold medal game against Australia (Aug. 28). She handed out five or more assists five times, including a pair of seven-assist outings in her first Olympics (1996) and a career-high eight against Cuba during group play in the 2000 games.

Staley was twice named USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year – a decade apart (1994, 2004) – and was among the final nominees for induction into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012. In addition to her playing career, Staley returned to USA Basketball in coaching roles in the FIBA World Championships (2006), FIBA Americas Championship (2007) and Beijing Olympics (2008).

Staley Hall of Fame Countdown: College