Bone Leaving Gamecock Program

On April 15th, 2009, South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley made an announcement that sent shock waves through the women's basketball world when she announced the signing of the #2 recruit in the country, 6'5 Texas phenom Kelsey Bone. Bone was unquestionably the highest-rated recruit in program history, a player who Staley said was "a program changer."

On Wednesday morning, it was Bone that shocked the USC community when she informed Staley that she would not be returning to the Gamecocks next season.

"Kelsey made a significant impact on our program this season, and we regret that she feels it is in her best interest to leave," Staley said in a press release this morning. "We are a program that is constantly focused on doing what is best for our players, and we support Kelsey in her decision and wish her the best. I am confident that our program will continue to grow in her absence as we constantly strive to bring quality players and people into the Gamecock family, beginning with the outstanding group of players committed to join us next season."

Bone, who chose South Carolina over home-state schools Baylor and Texas A&M, made an immediate impact in the league. She finished second on the team with 14 points per game, good enough for 9th in the SEC and 1st among freshmen. She led the conference in rebounds with just over 9 per game and quickly became the focal point of opposing teams. Bone would routinely draw double-teams and sometimes even triple-teams, but she continued to produce at a high level.

For the season, Bone earned second team All-SEC honors by both the coaches and media, and was named SEC Freshman Newcomer of the Year by the AP.

Staley met with the media early Wednesday afternoon, flanked by an obviously dejected basketball team.

"I'm not going to go into detail about all that, that's something that Kelsey's probably going to have to talk to you guys about," Staley said. "The only thing I can say is, she feels like another school is where she would best fit in to continue her career as a basketball player.

"It's been about a two week period in which she was deciding what she was going to do and where she was going to continue her career. We tried to pull out all the stops to see if we could try and get her to change her mind, but she was steady on thinking that another place was better for her."

Staley said that Bone has yet to indicate where she will be transferring to, but Staley noted that USC will not allow her to transfer to another SEC school. Staley met with the team before the conference to tell them of Bone's decision and briefly discuss where the team would go from here.

"I told them we lost a family member." Staley said. "Sometimes family members make decisions that we don't all agree with, but we have to support them. We are supporting Kelsey. We're all shocked and we're still trying to grasp it. But we also know that this is her wish, and we want to make sure we're controlling it as much as we can control it."

Heading into mid-February, the Gamecocks were rolling and seemed to almost be a sure lock to make the NCAA Tournament. USC sat at 13-10 (7-5 in the SEC) after road wins at Auburn and Georgia and had most of its difficult games behind it. But a 4-game losing streak that included blowing an 18-point lead late in the game against Arkansas, the Gamecocks were reeling. The Gamecocks ended the regular season with a victory over Vanderbilt to keep WNIT hopes alive, but a 1-point loss to Mississippi in the first round of the SEC Tournament ended the Gamecocks' season at 14-15.

"Sometimes when you don't win as many games as you would like, and you don't go to the NCAA tournament or the NIT, sometimes you start thinking about that as a coach, as a player." Staley said on the impact it had on Bone's decision. "I'm quite sure maybe that played a role in it, but I don't know how significant."

While losing Bone will make a definite impact next season, Staley and the team will have to focus on some positives.

"It creates more opportunity for the people behind me to get more playing time and work harder so that we're not feeling her absence as much." Staley said. "We've just gotta keep moving forward. This type of thing happens all the time. It's unfortunate that it's happened to our program at this time when having a top-notch player coming to our program and trying to change the culture of our program. We're all resilient. I don't think you're going to find a more resilient person than standing before you."

Charanee Stephens, Jewel May, and Ashley Bruner will have to pick up most of the slack in the post, but incoming freshmen Brittany Webb and Kayla Brewer will get a chance to make an immediate impact in the post.

"The good thing about this is the players we got commitments from are still on board." Staley said. "So I think that our program is moving in the right direction when a player of Kelsey's caliber decides something like this and we're still able to get the players here that want to be here and want to wear a Gamecock uniform."

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