Why did Kamilla Cardoso transfer to South Carolina? Gamecocks star began career at Syracuse

No. 1 South Carolina is arguably the best team in the 2024 Women’s NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks (32-0, 16-0 in SEC play) are looking to become just the first team to go undefeated since UConn in 2015-16.

And perhaps no player has been more impactful to South Carolina’s success to this point than Kamilla Cardoso.

The 6-foot-7 center from Montes Claros, Brazil, is not only among the team’s statistical leaders, but also saved the Gamecocks’ undefeated season with a buzzer-beater 3-pointer vs. Tennessee — the first of her career — in the SEC Women’s Tournament.

Why Kamilla Cardoso transferred to play for South Carolina from Syracuse

But, as has been the case more and more in recent seasons, Cardoso didn’t begin her career at South Carolina. Much like Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith at LSU, the Gamecocks star actually began her career elsewhere before transferring to South Carolina.

As the Gamecocks aims to win their second title in three seasons under coach Dawn Staley, here’s a look back at Cardoso’s transfer from Syracuse to play for the Gamecocks:

Why did Kamilla Cardoso transfer to South Carolina from Syracuse?

Cardoso originally committed to play for Syracuse, where she holds the distinction of being the Orange’s highest-rated recruit in program history. There she lived up to the billing not only as the ACC Freshman of the Year in 2020-21, but also the ACC Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

There, the 6-foot-7 center averaged ranked 16th in the ACC in scoring (13.6 points per game), ninth in rebounding (8.0) and second in field goal percentage (.576) while leading the Orange in blocks per game (2.7). She also posted five double-doubles and 20 double-digit scoring games,

Following a second-round loss in the 2021 NCAA Women’s Tournament to UConn, however, Cardoso confirmed her entrance to the transfer portal on April 22, 2021.

Former Syracuse women's basketball player Kamilla Cardoso transfers to South  Carolina - Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician

She was one of 12 players to enter the portal under former coach Quentin Hillsman, who in August 2021 resigned from the program despite being its all-time winningest coach.

It came little over a month after The Athletic reported Hillsman had been accused by several players of “inappropriate behavior, including unwanted physical contact, threats and bullying.”

Cardoso later transferred to South Carolina on April 30, 2021 — her birthday.

Kamilla Cardoso Commits to South Carolina - Sports Illustrated Syracuse  Orange News, Analysis and More

“Kamilla is a perfect complement to our program,” Staley said in a statement. “Coming from a traditionally rich grassroots program, her mobility, rebounding prowess and scoring ability at her size is a rarity.

When she’s on the court the FAMS will quickly see why she was named the ACC Freshman of the Year and Co-Defender of the Year.”

Cardoso joined a South Carolina team that not only returned all 11 players from its 2021 Final Four team, but also signed the No. 1 signing class heading into the 2021-22 season.

Kamilla Cardoso high school

Before committing to Syracuse and transferring to South Carolina, Cardoso played four seasons of high school basketball at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tenn. She played there after moving to the U.S. from Brazil at 15 years old.

As a senior for the Hawks, Cardoso became a McDonald’s All-American after averaging 24.1 points, 15.8 rebounds and 9.2 blocks per game as a senior.

Kamilla Cardoso recruit ranking

Coming out of high school, Cardoso ranked as the No. 1 center in the 2020 recruiting class, per the espnW 100. She also ranked as the No. 5 player overall, behind only No. 1 Paige Bueckers (UConn); No. 2 Angel Reese (Maryland); No. 3 Cameron Brink (Stanford); and No. 4 Caitlin Clark (Iowa).

Cardoso joined 6-foot-2 guard Priscilla Williams, the No. 9 overall player, and 6-foot Faith Blackstone (No. 84), as part of the Orange’s 2020 recruiting class. Cardoso still is the highest-ranked recruit to play for Syracuse in program history.

Kamilla Cardoso stats

Here is a year-by-year look at Cardoso’s stats, both at Syracuse and with South Carolina:

2020-21 (Syracuse): 13.6 points per game (57.6 shooting percentage), 8.0 rebounds per game, 2.7 blocks per game

2021-22: 5.4 ppg (55.3%), 5.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg

2022-23: 9.8 ppg (55.9%), 8.5 rpg, 1.9 bpg

2023-24: 14.0 ppg (58.4%), 9.5 rpg, 2.6 bpg

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