Coach Dawn Staley Surprised At South Carolina Basketball

Kamilla Cardoso

In an unexpected turn of events, the South Carolina women’s basketball team, led by Coach Dawn Staley, has completed yet another undefeated regular season. Despite facing challenges and doubts earlier in the year, the No. 1 Gamecocks showcased their competitive spirit and secured a 29-0 record in the SEC.

The recent victory against Tennessee marked the culmination of a remarkable journey for a team that faced roster changes and a lack of experience.

Kamilla Cardoso
Kamilla Cardoso

Coach Dawn Staley Surprised At South Carolina Basketball

COLUMBIA — In a stunning display of resilience, the No. 1 Gamecocks celebrated their second consecutive undefeated season in women’s basketball, defeating Tennessee 76-68 at Colonial Life Arena.

Coach Dawn Staley expressed her bewilderment, stating, “I am super proud of them. If you compare the undefeated season from last year to this year, there’s so much different and yet we end up in the same place.”

After a significant roster overhaul and the departure of all starters, South Carolina (29-0, 16-0 SEC) embarked on the 2023-24 season with minimal experience.

The team, led by only sophomore guard Raven Johnson, faced an uphill battle. Staley even contemplated retirement in June due to the uncertain state of the team. However, the unexpected camaraderie in the locker room transformed into a driving force for the team’s success.

“I’ll probably equate it to a doctorate program — and they’re gonna get me for saying this — and day care,” Staley humorously remarked. “There’s so much talking about nothing. At the beginning of the season, we’d say to be quiet, but now it’s really who they are.”

On Sunday, the Lady Vols (17-11, 10-6) gave South Carolina a run for their money, narrowing the deficit to three points in the fourth quarter. Senior center Kamilla Cardoso played a pivotal role in securing the win, scoring four consecutive points when Tennessee threatened.

Tennessee coach Kellie Harper acknowledged the Gamecocks’ prowess, stating, “It’s a great basketball team we played against. They just don’t have a lot of deficiencies. They can guard, they can score, they can rebound.”

Despite mounting external expectations as the undefeated regular season neared reality, senior guard Te-Hina Paopao emphasized the team’s focus on their game, stating, “We just go out there and play our game knowing who we are and that we’re going to get the dub at the end of the day.”

The Gamecocks remain steadfast in their approach, looking ahead to the SEC tournament. Freshman guard MiLaysia Fulwiley emphasized, “Everyone’s on the same page, which is the job’s not done yet. After every win, we get ready for the next one.”

Kamilla Cardoso Reunites With Family

In a touching moment during Senior Day, South Carolina’s 6-foot-7 forward Kamilla Cardoso was reunited with her mother and sister from Brazil, marking the first time they witnessed her play college basketball in person.

“A native Brazilian, Cardoso has lived away from her family for the past eight years,” reported the Greenville Online. Cardoso moved to the United States at the age of 15 to pursue her basketball dreams, attending Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before joining South Carolina.

Coach Dawn Staley orchestrated a surprise reunion during a Gamecocks practice, bringing Cardoso’s family to Colonial Life Arena. The emotional moment was captured as Cardoso shared a loving embrace with her mother and sister.

Staley expressed the significance of the event, stating, “This is an incredible moment for all of us, for someone who has made incredible sacrifices for her family for the past eight years…the past eight years, just for this game, just for the game that she loves.”

Staley thanked Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina for leading the efforts to make this heartwarming reunion possible.

Cardoso, taking over as the Gamecocks’ starting center this season, has been a standout player, averaging a team-high 14 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game. This heartfelt reunion adds an extra layer of meaning to an already remarkable Senior Day for Cardoso and the undefeated Gamecocks.

In conclusion, South Carolina’s women’s basketball team, under the guidance of Coach Dawn Staley, continues to defy expectations, securing an undefeated regular season.

The emotional reunion of Kamilla Cardoso with her family adds a heartwarming touch to this success, making the journey even more memorable for the players and fans alike. As they head into the SEC tournament, the Gamecocks remain focused and determined, ready to prove themselves in the postseason.

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