South Carolina senior Laeticia Amihere has seen a lot of dreams come true since she left her home in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada to play basketball for Coach Dawn Staley. She was an integral part of helping South Carolina reach three NCAA Final Fours and win a national championship in 2022 as well as three SEC regular-season and three SEC Tournament Championships. Having overcome adversity throughout her career, she is now enjoying the opportunity to play professional basketball and the quick transition in going from a Final Four to being selected as the eighth overall pick in the 2023 WNBA draft by the Atlanta Dream in a one-week span.
“That’s the life of an athlete,” said Amihere, who earned her undergraduate degree in sport and entertainment management last May and started work on her master’s degree in the same field this past year. “We’re used to being quick on our feet. We get home from a game at 3 a.m. and then we have to get up for a class. It also helps that you dream and plan for this moment when you first start playing basketball. I believe I was ready. Going into a meeting with Coach (Dawn) Staley, she said I was ready as well.
“Atlanta is not too far from Gamecock Country. I know our fans travel! I know I’m going to feel very welcome. I’m excited to represent Atlanta and the Dream as well.”
Although she came off the bench for most of her career on a team loaded with talent, Amihere made the most of her opportunities and was a big part of South Carolina’s success. She showed great versatility in playing multiple positions, using her 6’4” frame, athleticism, and ball-handling skills to become a matchup nightmare for opponents. She expects that experience to pay off at the next level.
“It comes from our coaches and my teammates. We had this unique experience at South Carolina where we embraced coming off the bench,” said Amihere, who also played with Team Canada in the 2020 Olympics and 2022 FIBA World Cup. “It was exciting. It’s for you to embrace it and see where you can impact your team in that position. I think I’ve done that. I’m grateful, and I think I got this opportunity because of that.
“I’ve always been the type of player to go wherever the coach, or the team needs me. I can bring different looks at different positions. In terms of playing people who are physical in the post, I have had a great opportunity to do that with Aliyah (Boston). Aliyah has been a great person to play against in practice as well playing internationally and playing against A’ja (Wilson) in September.”
“There is always room to grow. I’m excited to get to the next level and see where my game goes from there.”
It hasn’t always been easy for Amihere, known by Gamecock fans as “L.A.” She missed most of her last two years of high school basketball due to injuries. In her last year at South Carolina, she dealt with the tragic death of her brother, Kofi, late last summer and the passing of her beloved aunt, Olga Lambert, in the fall. Mental toughness has become a part of who she is.
Amihere was part of the highly touted 2019 “freshies” class, which included All-Americans Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, and Brea Beal, who were also selected in this year’s WNBA Draft, as well as Olivia Thompson. The five developed a strong bond over their four years, and that bond won’t be broken anytime soon, even if they’re in different parts of the country.
“We’re a very close group,” Amihere said. “We’re definitely going to stay in touch. I know they’re all going to go on to do great things. We’re great friends, and we’re going to stay in touch for a while!”
Amihere will now have the chance to play against some of her former teammates as well as other former Gamecocks who are on other teams, such as A’ja Wilson or on the Dream’s preseason roster, including Alaina Coates and Allisha Gray.
“It’s going to be fun going up against everybody who’s a Gamecock,” Amihere said. “It’s going to be so much fun to play against A’ja and to play against the ‘freshies.’ It’s going to be an amazing experience.
“A’ja comes to practice pretty regularly as well as Allisha. It’s been fun to hear their stories and how they handled themselves. There are a lot of things you can get away with in college that you can’t get away with in professional leagues. This is your job, so coming into that mindset you have to realize that no one is going to force you to go to the gym or to eat right. It’s going to be about how much you want it! They’re called pro habits.”
Amihere averaged a career-high 7.1 points per game as a senior and showed improvement on both ends of the floor, which helped elevate her draft status. Her willingness to grow her game and take coaching made a difference, especially in her final season.
“My main thing was in decision-making; when to kick and when to drive,” Amihere said of her improvements last year. “That has opened the floor a lot more for me. Speaking with Coach Staley, that’s one thing she said that she wanted me to work on and to focus at the rim. I came into this season with that mindset. There is always room to grow. I’m excited to get to the next level and see where my game goes from there.”