Lexington High alum making the most of her final run at USC

By Tim Leible
Posted 3/22/23

A championship is always special, but it would mean a little more to former Lexington star Olivia Thompson and the four senior teammates she played with for the last four seasons.

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Lexington High alum making the most of her final run at USC



That’s what the South Carolina women’s basketball team has its eyes on as it sits four wins away from a second consecutive national championship. The Gamecocks have already won their first 34 games as they look to complete an undefeated season.

A championship is always special, but it would mean a little more to former Lexington star Olivia Thompson and the four senior teammates she played with for the last four seasons.

“That would mean everything,” Thompson said of another title. “It’s kind of an unheard of thing to be part of a back-to-back championship team. I know we can do it and I think it would be so special to go out with my class and this group like this. It would be legendary.”

Thompson and this senior class, which features two of the best players in college basketball in Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke, have truly seen it all in the last four years, so what’s one more incredible feat?

“It’s so special,” Thompson said of her class. “We’ve been through a lot through these last four years, our freshman year getting ended by COVID and then losing in San Antonio our sophomore years and winning it last year was just amazing. We just want to keep it going.

“You can visibly see the growth that all of us have been through, and you can feel it in practice and in games. It’s a great feeling to be a part of these women that are going to have these amazing futures professionally and to even say that I knew them and became friends with them is an honor. I’m just very excited to see where life takes me after this.”

The NCAA Tournament has been business as usual for the Gamecocks so far. They opened with a blowout 72-40 win over Norfolk State before cruising past South Florida 76-45 in the second round. They’ll face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Saturday in Greenville.

Thompson said that being undefeated does add some pressure to close out the perfect season, but it’s not something that really hangs over them.

“It’s not something we’re constantly thinking about, it’s not something we worry about,” she said. “We just always think about the next game, doing what we need to do. We don’t look ahead, we don’t look back, we just look at the job in front of us and what we need to do to take care of that win. The undefeated season is very special and very exciting for us, but it doesn’t add too much pressure to the pressure we already have.”

Thompson is a reserve for the Gamecocks but has seen some action in each of the tournament games. On Sunday, she knocked down her only field goal attempt. Naturally, it was a three-point attempt for one of the state’s top high school sharpshooters ever.

But Thompson isn’t overly concerned about minutes. She just wants to see the team succeed, doing whatever is required of her to make that happen.

“I’ve never been stressed about my playing time, I never really worried about that, I’m just excited to be part of a team and a program like this. It’s very special and I’m very lucky to be a part of this,” Thompson said. “I just want to be the best teammate I can be, the best leader I can be, I always want to be there for my teammates and just do my role to make the team the best it can be. I think everyone’s roles are starting to shine this year.”

Thompson’s mindset during the tournament is simple: always be ready.

“I just try to pay attention, listen to coach, understand what we’re doing, know every position of play so I can help people if they have any questions and just really being a good teammate,” Thompson said. “For our underclassmen, this can be a really stressful time, so just keeping them level-headed and keeping them balanced is really important during this time. I just want to be the best leader and role model I can be.”

The former Lexington star takes her job as a role model for the next generation of South Carolina stars very seriously.

“When we have a lot of young players, they all really look up to the upperclassmen,” Thompson said. “When my class came in as freshmen, we leaned on the seniors and upperclassmen as much as we could, and we learned a lot from them. They were very supportive and patient with us and I think that really inspired us and taught us how to become good leaders ourselves.”

This year, Thompson has the pleasure of being joined by two more homegrown talents in former Cardinal Newman forward Ashlyn Watkins and East Clarendon graduate Talaysia Cooper, both of whom were McDonald’s All-Americans before joining the Gamecocks.

“It’s just a great thing for the state to have a national-championship-caliber team but also have players from the state that come here and play,” Thompson said. “I just hope we can keep it going.

“You always want to represent your state the best you can. I think being from South Carolina you have a lot of people in the crowd that are just rooting for you a little extra because they want to see the local kids succeed. It’s awesome seeing that support from the fans.”

Even though she’s four years removed from Lexington, Thompson still feels the love from the Wildcat faithful.

“When we walk around after games and take pictures with fans, sign autographs, there are people that tell me they either graduated from Lexington or they’re from Lexington and they just want to show me some support. It means a lot,” Thompson said. “It’s really cool that people have stuck with me and supported me after all these years and I really appreciate it.”

As South Carolina continues this run, Thompson is confident the Gamecocks have what it takes to finish the job for the second year in a row.

“I think the way our team is able to fight back when we’re in a deficit is something no other team can do,” the former Wildcat said. “We’re just always fighting and we all want to win very bad, it doesn’t matter how much we’re down by, how much we’re up by, we always have that grit in us to come back and win the game. I think that’s going to take us really far in this tournament.”

Thompson said the key to the incredible level of success South Carolina has achieved under head coach Dawn Staley, winning two national championships since 2017, is relatively simple.

“I think we just need to keep being true to us, keep being consistent, keep being locked in every practice, every shoot around, every game situation,” Thompson said. “Just keep being locked in and keep our goal in the backs of our heads but also don’t get lost in the future, don’t get lost in the past, just stay present, stay in the game that we’re in. If we take those steps, it’ll just keep us going all the way to the end.”

At the end of the season, win or lose, Thompson’s time as a player at South Carolina will end. She hopes it won’t be the last thing she does with the Gamecocks.

“I do want to stay connected to the team and the school somehow,” Thompson said. “I’m going to have to work that out some way because I don’t want to lose this team, I want to keep being a part of it.”

usc women's basketball, olivia thompson, coach dawn staley, Lexington high alum


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