As South Carolina prepares for their Final Four matchup against the Louisville Cardinals, the Gamecocks celebrate another slew of awards, with center Aliyah Boston earning Naismith Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. In addition, Coach Dawn Staley earned the Coach of the Year award for the second time in three seasons.Staley, who last won Coach of the year honors in 2020, is the only coach – male or female – to have won the Coach of the Year award and Naismith Player of the Year. While playing for Virginia, Staley won Naismith Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992.
In our SLAM 237 issue, Coach Staley opened up about coming to South Carolina and changing the culture of the school.
“When I first took the job here at South Carolina, I wanted to change the culture. I wanted to make sure that we’re all cut from the same cloth. I work hard, everybody around me works hard. So, we wanted that reciprocated, with everybody that has a hand in our program and the players are a big part of it.”
The culture has indeed changed for South Carolina, bringing home the school’s first national title in 2017 with WNBA star A’ja Wilson. In 2019, the Gamecocks brought in Aliyah Boston, and many believed she would be the next Wilson for the program.
This season, Boston has averaged a team-high 16.8 points and 12.2 rebounds per game, tallying a total of 428 rebounds and 87 blocks, which rank second and ninth nationally. She led the nation in double-doubles with 28, and her streak of 27 straight double-doubles from November 29 to March 25 was an SEC record.In last week’s 80-50 Elite Eight win against Creighton, Boston finished with 19 points and seven rebounds to send the Gamecocks to its fourth Final Four in the last seven seasons.
The Gamecocks look to redeem themselves in the Final Four this year after last year’s loss to Stanford in that same round. Boston, who showed a lot of emotion after the game last year, told Slam they are using that loss to fuel this year’s run to another title.
“After the game, we were sad, obviously. But when the coaches came in, Coach Staley told us that she was proud of us and that we worked hard and basically that we’re going to use this to continue to fuel us. We didn’t get what we wanted this year, but we still have another shot,” Boston says.South Carolina will meet Louisville Friday at 7 PM to punch a ticket to the national championship game.