Staley Expresses Confidence in Top-Ranked Gamecocks Despite Cardoso’s Absence
COLUMBIA, S.C. — NCAA Women’s Basketball is set to witness some exciting times ahead as No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks gear up for their upcoming games without their leading scorer and rebounder, Kamilla Cardoso. The powerhouse center, who stands at 6-foot-7, will be absent due to Olympic qualifying commitments, posing an intriguing scenario for South Carolina’s coach, Dawn Staley.
However, displaying unabated confidence, Coach Staley expressed her optimism in the team’s ability to maintain their top position even without Cardoso. “They’re ready,” she affirmed during an interview on Wednesday.
Gamecocks to Face Two Major Test
The first significant test comes in the form of a game against struggling Missouri on Thursday night at home. Following this, the Gamecocks will have a sold-out showcase game, again at home, against No. 11 Connecticut.
Cardoso, who is a top contender for Southeastern Conference player of the year, boasts remarkable averages of 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. She also leads the league with an impressive field-goal percentage (.595) and a commanding tally of 60 blocks. However, Staley is seemingly unwavering, banking on her team’s versatility and talent.
“We’re different and versatile”
“We don’t have anybody who’s 6-7 and averaging a double-double,” Staley acknowledged. “But we’re different and we’re versatile, and we have to lean in on that and not try to reproduce what we’re missing.”
Staley appears to be applying her experience of leading the team without their star player, as national champions and WNBA standouts A’ja Wilson and Aliyah Boston both missed time for the Gamecocks due to injuries. She emphasized the importance of focusing on the current team rather than dwelling on the missing player.
Trust and Confidence
These Gamecocks, with an undefeated record of 21-0, have rightfully earned Staley’s trust this season. Having overcome numerous challenges, including winning all five games against ranked opponents, despite being regarded as underdogs after the departure of Boston and six other seniors, this year’s team has been remarkable, to say the least.
Despite Cardoso’s significant contributions, the collective team spirit has been crucial in leading the successful campaign so far. The rest of the squad, including Chloe Kitts, Sania Feagin, and Ashlyn Watkins, are all prepared to step up in Cardoso’s absence.
No one can replace Cardoso’s unique energy, but the players are ready to play their part, stated Kitts, a 6-2 sophomore. “People just need to keep playing their roles,” Kitts said, opining that every team member’s optimal performance was crucial, rather than relying on a single standout player.
It will be interesting to observe how the Gamecocks fare without their star player in the upcoming games. With Staley’s conviction and the team’s joint efforts, the women’s basketball world keenly awaits the thrilling action.