Former Gamecocks fill WNBA rosters as league sees rise in national interest

Posted 6/12/24

There is a lot of buzz about the WNBA right now as the league is experiencing a national spike in interest.

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Former Gamecocks fill WNBA rosters as league sees rise in national interest


There is a lot of buzz about the WNBA right now as the league is experiencing a national spike in interest.

The league is full of talented players, many of which have roots in Columbia as former members of the South Carolina women’s basketball team. From one of the league’s best players, A’ja Wilson, to rookie and No. 3 overall pick Kamilla Cardoso, the WNBA is full of former Gamecocks.

10 total former South Carolina players were on a WNBA roster to start the season. This is the second most of any NCAA program, trailing only UCONN.

Leading the group is Wilson, who is arguably the face of the WNBA right now. Her team, the Las Vegas Aces, are coming off of a 2023 WNBA championship.

The Aces are on a bit of a recent slide. After starting 4-1, the team has since gone 1-3 to sit at 4-5 before action gets going this week.

But Wilson has not been struggling this season. She is averaging league-highs in points and rebounds with 28 and 11 per game. She was also recently named to the 2024 U.S. Olympic team.

Wilson’s recent scoring output has been historic. She has scored at least 20 points in all nine Aces games this season, and her streak of 14 consecutive 20-point games, extending back to last season, broke Diana Taurasi’s WNBA record of 13 games.

“I think I’m starting to read the defense better,” Wilson said. “It was like whatever was out there, I was like, ‘all right, let me just go put the ball in the orange hoop,’ but this year, feel like I’m really just trying to pick the defense apart and get into my spots. I sometimes settled a lot last year, which gave the defensive time to say that they kind of got a stop. But in actuality, it was just me settling.”

Last year’s No. 1 overall pick Aliyah Boston is still settling into her second year with the Indiana Fever. Joining her is one of her Gamecock teammates Victaria Saxton.

The Fever have been the center of attention in the league this season after drafting media darling Caitlin Clark. Her draw has attracted an entire new audience to the league, for better or worse.

Clark has history with Boston and the Gamecocks. In 2023, her Iowa Hawkeyes knocked out Boston’s Gamecocks in the NCAA Final Four. But in 2024, an undefeated new group of Gamecocks beat Clark’s team in the championship game.

Now, the two former women’s college basketball Players of the Year are teammates in Indiana, looking to rebuild the franchise into a winner. It’s been a slow start this season with the Fever entering this week 3-10.

Boston’s year two numbers are down from her rookie season and her usage rating has dropped slightly. She is averaging 11 points and seven rebounds after going for 15 and eight last year.

“We’re just trying to make sure that we continue to keep our spirits up because no matter what the time’s ticking and we have a game, and then, we have another game after that,” Boston said before a game against the Chicago Sky. “We can’t really hang our heads. We’re in the film room. We’re working on things that we have to, we know we have to improve on. But I mean, we’re just going to come out here and be happy and play for each other.”

The Sky is another team receiving a lot of attention after drafting Cardoso with the third overall pick and LSU’s Angel Reese with the seventh pick.

Cardoso missed the first six Sky games this season due to injury and made her debut against the Indiana Fever and her former Gamecock teammates.

“We just told her, ‘listen, don’t worry about what happened,’ because we knew she was super bummed about being out,” Boston said. “But, I’m really happy for Camilla. I think just being able to play with her and knowing the type of person and knowing the type of player that she is, being able to see her live out her dream is super exciting.”

Cardoso scored 11 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench for the Sky. Chicago lost to Indiana 71-70 and entered this week 4-6. Since her debut, Cardoso is averaging seven points and five rebounds. She is coming off her first career start where she scored 13 points in 21 minutes of action against the Atlanta Dream on June 8.

“I think I haven’t had the best games, but I feel like I’m coming back. The game is coming. I’m just trusting the process, letting the game come to me,” Cardoso said.

There are two former Gamecocks on both the Connecticut Sun and Atlanta Dream. Former Gamecocks Tiffany Mitchell and Tyasha Harris are on the sun, and Laeticia Amihere and Allisha Gray play for the Dream.

Gray was an All-Star last season after a career year in Atlanta. She is putting up similar numbers this season, averaging 16 points on 47% shooting from three.

Harris’ start to this season has her on track to achieve a career-best year in many statistical categories, including points, rebounds and assists. She is averaging 10 points, 2 rebounds and four assists after starting all 11 games on a 10-1 Sun team. 

Mitchell is in her first year with the Sun after leaving Minnesota. She has transitioned to a bench role and is putting up solid numbers, averaging five points in 15 minutes per game.

Amihere has made five appearances for the Dream this season in her second year but saw limited minutes.

The final two Gamecocks in the WNBA this season are Los Angeles’ Zia Cooke and Phoenix’s Kiki Hebert Harrigan. Both players are key reserves on their team and see limited action every game.

These 10 players are a product of the culture Dawn Staley has created at South Carolina. Other players who played under Staley have made the league and many more will continue to in the future.

“It’s what she does. It’s the way that she just teaches you professionalism, but also discipline,” Wilson said. “What keeps you in this league is how you carry yourself as a professional. You can be the best of the best, but if that is not it, and people don’t want you in that locker room, it’s not going to be long.”

The WNBA regular season runs until September. College basketball starts back up in October where some of the WNBA’s future stars could take the court in a Gamecock jersey.

WNBA, A'ja Wilson, Aliyah Boston, Kamilla Cardoso, Allisha Gray, Dawn Staley, Caitlin Clark,


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