Dawn Staley wants women’s basketball community to stop fighting before NCAA Tournament

Women’s basketball legend Dawn Staley hopes a partnership with the Las Vegas Aces can set a positive example for the rest of the community after tiresome bickering in recent years.

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley urged the women’s basketball community – college and professional – to rise to the moment and put on a united front for the rest of 2024.

Dawn Staley has built a dynasty at South Carolina.

In comments made to reporters earlier this month, Staley said sections of the women’s basketball community haven’t been kind to one another. “There is somewhat of a gap where we don’t really support each other in the way that we need to support each other,” Staley said via WACH FOX of conflicts between people involved with the WNBA and NCAA.

Recently, an unfortunate sideshow pitted legend Sheryl Swoopes against the Iowa fan base. Swoopes, a four-time WNBA champion, questioned Caitlin Clark’s credentials in comments she’s since walked back. Some Hawkeyes supporters reacted strongly and wore shirts disparaging Swoopes, setting off a further firestorm as people such as A’ja Wilson and Angel Reese felt the clothing items were disrespectful.

That controversy was perhaps the most prominent example of worlds colliding in an unfortunate manner. However, there have seemingly been undertones of WNBA vs NCAA and old-school vs new-school throughout the past couple of years, partly spurred by the breakout popularity of new women’s college basketball stars.

Staley’s program will welcome the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces to its facilities on May 11 for an exhibition game against the Puerto Rican national team. The game will enable Wilson, now starring for the Aces, to return to her alma mater.

“We’re excited to see A’ja play on her former home court at Colonial Life Arena again, but we also love to see this kind of creative decision-making that allows our sport to continue to grow on all levels,” Staley said in a statement.

South Carolina has produced some of the WNBA’s top stars recently, including last year’s top draft pick, Aliyah Boston. So, it makes sense that the Gamecocks would be near the forefront of binding the college and pro games closer together.

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley has asked for more unity in women's basketball.

Under Staley’s watch, South Carolina has gone two seasons without losing a regular-season game. Its only defeat since March 2022 was a Final Four loss to Iowa at last year’s NCAA Tournament. The team, set to enter March Madness as the No. 1 overall seed, desperately wants to avenge that painful setback this time around.

“This team has responded time in and time out, and they’re going to have to respond now that’s it’s win or go home situation,” Staley said on Friday after her players bested Texas A&M 79-68 in their SEC Tournament opener.

Kamilla Cardoso led the way with 17 points as part of a balanced attack in which nobody attempted more than 11 shots. The post player’s production was a welcome development after she’d been away from the team for international duty and battled an injury.

Cardoso is in line to be the next South Carolina player to make the jump from the NCAA to WNBA, with analysts projecting her to be a first-round pick in the next draft.

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