Recruiting the top class in the country is a team effort for the Gamecocks
For South Carolina women’s basketball, the November of 2018 will always be remembered as a special time — that’s when the Gamecocks struck the recruiting jackpot, securing the commitments of four top-15 prospects and vaulting to the No. 1 spot in ESPN’s recruiting rankings, a first for coach Dawn Staley.
But at the same time, the recruiting trail for the class of 2020 is starting to heat up, and the Gamecocks could be major players once again.
First, South Carolina’s situation: With the graduation of Tyasha Harris and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan next spring, Staley will have nine scholarship players on her roster and six potential open slots. In all likelihood, the Gamecocks won’t take six commits as Staley has rarely carried a full roster of 15 scholarship players, not to mention the possibility that freshman preferred walk-on Olivia Thompson could be placed on scholarship or a transfer could come on the scene.
Second, here’s how the competition’s doing: A number of other big-name schools have already gotten a jump start on the 2020 class — UConn, Stanford and Notre Dame already have two commits each, and Oregon has five, all in the top 40 nationally. Of South Carolina’s main SEC rivals, however, no one has a commitment from any of ESPN’s 54 five-star players.
Of those 54 players, 21 have committed, leaving 33 available. Of those 33 top players, the Gamecocks are publicly known to have offered eight. Here are four of their top targets.
Angel Reese — 6-foot-3 wing, Baltimore, Maryland
Reese checks in at No. 2 in ESPN’s rankings and No. 6 according to Prospects Nation. She has South Carolina among her final five schools, alongside Maryland, Tennessee, Southern Cal and Syracuse. She recently said she hopes to take her official visits in September.
With a background at point guard but the size of a forward, Reese can stretch the floor and create matchup problems for just about anyone, while on defense, she can guard every position. As a junior, she averaged 22.6 points and 19.3 rebounds per game.
Olivia Cochran — 6-foot-2 forward, Columbus, Georgia
Cochran is rated as the 21st-best player in her class by ESPN and 12th-best by Prospects Nation. South Carolina, Louisville and Tennessee headline her top 10 schools, which also include Georgia, Kentucky and Miami (Fl.). She’s AAU teammates with Hunt.
A gold medalist at the FIBA 3x3 U18 Women’s World Cup in 2019, Cochran is a more powerfully built player than Reese and thrives most in the low post. She doesn’t have the overwhelming size of the biggest forwards but can hold her own down low.
Sarah Andrews — 5-foot-7 point guard, Irving, Texas
How many top point guards can one team have? Staley doesn’t seem to think there can be too many — Andrews would be South Carolina’s third ball-handler in three years, all in the top 10 of their class overall. She ranks seventh in ESPN’s ratings and fourth for Prospects Nation in 2020.
South Carolina survived Andrews’ first round of cuts, making her top 12. But the Gamecocks face stiff competition for her services in the form of UConn, Louisville, Baylor, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M and Florida State, among others. Prying her from her home state while also warding off UConn would mark another major coup for Staley and recruiting coordinator Jolette Law.
Treasure Hunt — 6-foot-1 wing, Chattanooga, Tennessee
ESPN ranks Hunt 36th in her class, while Prospects Nation has her at No. 14. She has included South Carolina in her top 12, alongside Mississippi State, Tennessee, Baylor and others, and the Gamecocks have taken a home visit to see her. She told ESPN she hopes to trim her list to five in July.
Like Reese, Hunt is a versatile player with length and ball-handling ability. Her outside shot is also impressive for a player of her size. Carolina has also offered her high school teammate Kamilla Cardoso, ESPN’s No. 5 player in the class, but not much is known about her recruitment.