Te-Hina Paopao may be new to the South Carolina women’s basketball program, but the senior transfer has quickly taken on a leadership role.
“I’d say I’m the most experienced guard on this team, so leading means being able to have that experience in talking with players and leading them into spots where I can best get them the ball,” said Paopao, who transferred from Oregon where she was a three-time All-PAC 12 selection. “I felt like family when I came here. They’ve definitely accepted me, and I accepted them. It has been great!
“The coaches’ trust and my teammates’ trust are what made me feel comfortable. I felt that right away.”
“She brings leadership, calmness, poise, intellect, and she communicates well,” said head coach Dawn Staley. “She really understands what needs to happen out there on the floor, and she has a great group of listeners, so that’s pretty cool to see develop.”
Paopao provides a veteran presence as a point guard and is also an outstanding perimeter shooter after hitting 81 three pointers last year at a 42% clip while averaging 13.1 points per game. She is confident that her style of play will mesh well with the rest of the team.
“Opposing teams will be spreading the floor out and defenders won’t be able to sag in the paint,” Paopao said. “So, spreading the floor out and my ability to knock down shots will help.”
The Gamecocks are fortunate to also have redshirt sophomore point guard Raven Johnson returning as well, who had a knack for helping the Gamecocks get out in a transition. She averaged 4.2 points per game and ranked ninth in the SEC with 3.9 assists per contest last year. Johnson noted that she and Paopao can learn from each other to make the team better.
“We’re going to compete every night. We’re going to come in with the mindset that we can win every game.”
“Paopao is a shooter!” Johnson said. “She is confident on that side of the ball. We bring different things to the table, and we also complement each other. She is a change of pace point guard. I’m a fast point guard. She is teaching me how to change the speed.
“We’re a scrappy young group. This team wants to win. We hold each other accountable for so many things on the court and off the court.”
“We’re competitors,” Paopao said of her new team. “We’re going to compete every night. We’re going to come in with the mindset that we can win every game.”
While Paopao came from an established program, she is excited about helping South Carolina maintain its position as one of the elite teams in the country.
“Coming to a different program, it’s kind of the same, but there are different cultures,” Paopao said. “Oregon was known for its offense, and South Carolina is known for its defense. This helps make me a more whole player with offense and defense.
“I’m really excited. I’ve heard great things about this conference, and I know it will definitely prepare me for the next level.”