College Sports

Dawn Staley says her new No. 1 recruiting class ‘has been brewing for a long time’

Recruiting the top class in the country is a team effort for the Gamecocks

The University of South Carolina have the top recruiting class in the country with recent signees.
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The University of South Carolina have the top recruiting class in the country with recent signees.

With the news Wednesday that Haley Jones, the No. 1-ranked recruit in the 2019 class, has signed with Stanford, South Carolina women’s basketball secured a different No. 1.

While Jones did go with the Cardinal over the Gamecocks, her choice wasn’t enough to leapfrog Stanford over USC in ESPN’s class rankings, and with no other major prospects left uncommitted, Carolina appears locked in to claim its first ever top spot.

Dawn Staley did so by getting the signatures of four of ESPN’s top 13 players — forward Aliyah Boston, guard Zia Cooke, forward Laeticia Amihere and wing Brea Beal, along with a three-star walk-on in local guard Olivia Thompson.

But when asked about the achievement Wednesday night after the Gamecocks defeated Dayton, Staley credited it to her support staff.

“They’re the ones that make this train go, obviously, and then when families come on our campus, it’s an entire production. Mary Wooley, who’s our director of recruiting, runs a tight ship. We know exactly who has who, when, where and why. Our assistant coaches do a great job before they hit campus, they’re talking to them, they’re talking to every single person that’s involved in their lives, and they put me in the position where I just have to pick up the phone and call or text,” Staley said.

With the addition of assistant coach and ace recruiter Jolette Law last year, observers might be quick to give her the lion’s share of credit for the 2019 class. But Staley reminded people that this recruiting success began years ago when players were first being offered, and it took working through a number of other prospects to get to the four that are coming to Columbia.

“This is something that has been brewing for a long time. In this recruiting cycle, we went after six kids really, really hard, and you realistically think you’re gonna get about three or four. But to be in the door for all six that we wanted, and they’re all top six kids,” is great, Staley said.

Also of importance to Staley was the fact that the four signees made their decisions individually — Cooke and Boston made their official visits with other top recruits but ended up being the only ones from those groups that came to USC.

“They individually made decisions based on what was best for them, and I’m happy about that. I’m truly happy that they did that, because they had some great schools that we’ve heard (other recruits) say no to South Carolina and go to those schools. But this is a pretty special class that they decided to do something different individually, not collectively. And that’s the beauty of it,” Staley said.

But don’t count on Staley and her staff resting on their laurels, even with all four players having signed National Letters of Intent.

”We can smile today, for sure, but we gotta keep them here too. The transfer rate is high,” Staley smiled.