Tyasha Harris (2016-2020) started her South Carolina career on a high note, helping guide the Gamecock women’s basketball team to its first national championship as a freshman starting point guard in 2017. As a senior in 2020, the Gamecocks were the top-ranked team in the nation after winning the SEC Regular-Season and Tournament titles while posting a 33-1 record, but the COVID pandemic cancelled the NCAA Tournament and her collegiate career was suddenly over. Not having the chance to bookend her career with another national title still hurts.
“I really wish I could have had the chance to finish my last year here,” Harris said. “My last year, we had great chemistry. Everybody accepted their roles. We were firing on all cylinders. We had a bench!
“My freshman year, we had really good players, too. Out of those two years, I’d have to say I think more about the championship I didn’t have the chance to play for. You dream of playing for a championship, and I had the chance to do that my freshman year, but as a freshman, I was still figuring things out and exploring everything. Then, as a senior, I know what it takes and we’re right there, but we didn’t get a chance to play.”
As the starting point guard for three and a half years, she led the Gamecocks to the NCAA Tournament every year. She also helped the Gamecocks win a pair of SEC Regular-Season Championships and three SEC Tournament titles. With all of that success, Harris has many great memories of her days in the Garnet and Black.
“Honestly, interacting with the fans is one of my favorite memories,” Harris said. “Our fans are one of a kind. We call them ‘FAMs’ because they’re like family to us. They’re always welcoming. When they see me now, they still want to take pictures. They still love me, and I love them!
“As a player, for most of my career I felt like the baby, but my senior year, I was the mom of the team. The older players helped prepare me for the NCAA Tournament when I was a freshman, so when I was a senior, I was the oldest, and I tried to tell the freshmen how it would be.”
“She is a player’s coach, and she does so much beyond basketball.”
Those freshmen she mentored are now seniors, led by All-Americans Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, and Brea Beal. Harris is one of greatest point guards in program history who also had a knack for calling her own number at the right time, especially as a senior when she averaged a career-high 12 points per game.
“My senior year we had this freshman class with all the accolades, but when it was time to take over, I knew it was time to take over,” Harris said.
Harris is all over the South Carolina career record books, most notably as the programs all-time leader with 702 career assists and also the single season record holder with 220 helpers as a senior. She scored 1,340 career points and is the only Gamecock to amass 1,000 points and 700 assists in her career. She earned numerous national and SEC accolades, including WBCA All-America and First Team All-SEC honors as a senior, when she we also The Dawn Staley Award winner and SEC Athlete of the Year for all sports.
In addition to her teammates, Harris has great memories of being coached by Dawn Staley.
“We’re really close,” Harris said. “We used to butt heads a little bit when I was a sophomore or junior. I think it’s because we’re both Tauruses. We have strong personalities. She is one of the main reasons I came here, and after I graduated, our relationship is still great. She is a player’s coach, and she does so much beyond basketball. She’s amazing. I talk to her quite a bit, especially when I’m having a rough time and she’ll give me some encouragement.”
Following her collegiate career, Harris was the No. 7 overall pick by the Dallas Wings in the 2020 WNBA draft, where she has played the last three seasons. She was recently traded to the Connecticut Sun for the 2023 season.
“I think one of the biggest adjustments anytime you move up to another level is the speed of the game and learning the new lingo,” said Harris, who has also played professionally in Turkey and Russia in between the WNBA seasons. “It was a great experience, but nope, I’m not going back to Russia! Turkey was a great experience. There’s a different speed to it and it’s very physical over there.”
During her time in the WNBA she has had the chance to play with or against some of her former Gamecock teammates, including Alisha Gray, Kaela Davis, A’ja Wilson and Kiki Herbert-Harrigan.
“We’ll hang out after the games, and during the games, we try to act like friends but obviously we want to win!” Harris said. “It’s fun to have the opportunity to play against each other. It’s a sisterhood.”
This year’s Gamecocks are currently playing as the top seed in the NCAA Tournament and hoping to get to the Final Four, which is being held in Dallas, Texas, where Harris and South Carolina won the program’s first national title.
“Maybe this can be a repeat!” Harris said.
Harris plans on following the team wherever they go in the postseason this year and has been helping out on some of the NCAA Tournament radio broadcasts.