March 23, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks’ top three scorers Alaina Coates, Tiffany Mitchell and A’ja Wilson were tapped with regional honors today by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The organization named Staley one of its Region 2 co-Coach of the Year with the three Gamecocks earning spots on its All-Region 2 Team. South Carolina is the only team with multiple entries on the All-Region 2 team.
Staley has guided the Gamecocks to yet another historic season in a string of them as she steadily establishes the program at a national level. She became the SEC’s first head coach to be named Coach of the Year by her peers in three consecutive seasons after guiding South Carolina to a 16-0 SEC record — just the second time any team has posted that mark in league history. The Gamecocks followed up their third-straight SEC regular-season title with their second-consecutive SEC Tournament championship, becoming just the third program to win both the regular-season and tournament titles in back-to-back seasons.
Coates has been a dominant force for the Gamecocks on both sides of the ball, neutralizing opposing centers while averaging a double-double overall, in SEC play and so far in the NCAA Tournament, the only league player to do so. She has posted 19 double-doubles this season, including a school-record 10 during the SEC regular-season, and has been the team’s top rebounder 23 times through 34 games. Coates posted her first career triple-double this season and the program’s first to include blocked shots as she swatted away a school-record 10 to go with 29 points and 16 rebounds against Winthrop (Dec. 13). She is the team’s top percentage shooting, hitting 63.4 percent from the field en route to her 12.0 points per game. Second on the team in blocks this season, she is second in school history with 169 blocks in her career, just eight away from the school record of 177.
Mitchell was a First-Team All-SEC selection and has turned up her play even more in postseason action. Named the SEC Tournament MVP, she is averaging 16.2 points per game in the Gamecocks’ five postseason games so far. In NCAA Tournament action, her 17.0 points per game have come on 50.0 percent shooting as she helped guide the Gamecocks into the Sweet 16 for the third-straight season. For the season, Mitchell ranks among the SEC’s top 10 in scoring (7th, 15.1 ppg), free throw percentage (4th, .820), steals (7th, 1.8 spg) and 3-pointers made per game (6th, 1.8). She is tied for the team lead with seven 20-point games, including three in the last six outings. Mitchell is a finalist for the Naismith Trophy and the Dawn Staley Award and appears on the Wooden Award Final Ballot.
The SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Wilson also appears on the Wooden Award Final Ballot and is a finalist for the Naismith Award. Among forwards on the Wooden Award ballot, she is the most efficient scorer against ranked opponents with her 19.1 points per game coming in just 29.7 minutes per game in South Carolina’s 14 contests against ranked teams. Wilson has been the Gamecocks’ top scorer a team-high 15 times and scored in double figures 27 times in 34 games with 13 double-doubles. In South Carolina’s most recent game, she became just the second Gamecock to record her 1,000th career point in her sophomore season, joining all-time leading scorer Sheila Foster in that category. Wilson broke the school record for blocks in a season, recording 100 so far this season, including six games of five or more.
The 2016 WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches’ All-America Team will be announced on Sat., April 2, during NCAA Women’s Final Four Super Saturday festivities in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
No. 3/2 South Carolina, the top seed in the NCAA Tournament Sioux Falls Region, returns to the court in Sweet 16 action on Fri., March 25, at 7 p.m. (ET) against No. 14/15 Syracuse. The game will air on ESPN.
WBCA All-Region 2
Alaina Coates, Jr., C, South Carolina
Makayla Epps, Jr., G, Kentucky
Nathalie Fontaine, Sr., G, Ball State
Jordan Frericks, Jr., F, Missouri
Tiffany Mitchell, Sr., G, South Carolina
Victoria Vivians, So., G, Mississippi State
Courtney Walker, Sr., G, Texas A&M
A’ja Wilson, So., F, South Carolina
Region 2 Coaches of the Year
Amanda Butler, Florida
Dawn Staley, South Carolina