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Sep 5, 2013

Two 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 counting down her top five on-court memories.

First Olympic Gold Medal (1996)

The first time an athlete achieves a goal is always special, and Dawn Staley’s first Olympic experience is certainly among her most treasured memories from a long and distinguished playing career. Perhaps it is even more so because of the disappointment and hard work that led up to it after she was cut the first time she tried out for the Olympic team in 1992.

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The 1996 Olympics was truly a watershed moment for women’s basketball in the United States as the Women’s Senior National Team spent 10 months in residence in a plan that was testing the viability of professional women’s basketball in this country. It was the first and only resident national team program in USA Basketball history, and it asked the players to give up sometimes lucrative salaries overseas to commit to it. Led by head coach Tara Van Derveer, the team consisted of Jennifer Azzi, Ruthie Bolton, Teresa Edwards, Venus Lacey, Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo, Katrina McClain, (current South Carolina assistant coach) Nikki McCray, (former South Carolina assistant coach) Carla McGhee, Staley, Katy Steding and Sheryl Swoopes.

The group logged more than 100,000 miles traveling to seven countries to compile a 52-0 record over the 10-month training period. The success set the stage for a dominant Olympic performance that saw the United States win all eight games by an average of 28.6 points. The tightest contest was a 15-point victory over Japan in the quarterfinals. The team’s games drew a record 202,556 fans during the Olympics, averaging 25,320 per game.

Staley handed out seven assists against just two turnovers in her Olympic debut, a 101-84 win over Cuba. En route to her first gold medal, she averaged 4.1 points and 3.5 assists, scoring a high of 11 points against Korea in group play.

Staley Hall of Fame Countdown: College
Staley Hall of Fame Countdown: USA Basketball
Staley Hall of Fame Countdown: U.S. Professional Basketball
Staley Hall of Fame Countdown: Undefeated in High School
Staley Hall of Fame Countdown: 3OT Win at NC State
Staley Hall of Fame Countdown: Defeat Tennessee to Reach First Final Four