Before joining the SEC in 1991, the South Carolina Lady Gamecocks (originally nicknamed "the Chicks") were frequent NCAA participants by virture of winning the Metro Conference championship. Since joining the SEC, however, the Lady Gamecocks haven't made either post-season tournament, typically finishing 10-12 in the conference standings. In 1997, in attempt to turn around the women's basketball program, South Carolina brought in Head Coach Susan Walvius, who had just led West Virginia to their first-ever winning season. After several years of recruiting the best of local talent and scouring Europe, Coach Walvius led the team to a tie for 5th place in the SEC with a 6-8 conference record, their best-ever conference finish. Unfortunately, however, their overall losing record prevented an invitation to the WNIT. Getting a post-season bid is a primary goal for the Lady Gamecocks this year, and barring unforeseen problems, it's a goal they are likely to reach.
Players Returning: South Carolina returns everybody from last year's team. In addition, junior forward 6'0 forward Jocelyn Penn (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and the Lady Gamecock's best 3-point shooter, 5'7 sophomore guard Kelly Morrone (7.0 ppg, .370 3pt%) will be available after redshirting last year. In all, the team will include eight European players and three players who earned South Carolina Player of the Year honors in high school. Besides Penn and Morrone, key players include 6'1 senior guard Shaunzinski Gortman (11.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.0 apg), 6'4 junior center/forward Petra Ujhelyi (8.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg), 6'4 senior center/forward Teresa Geter (11.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.1 bpg), 6'2 senior forward Tatyana Troina (10.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg), and 5'9 sophomore guard Nihan Anaz (9.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.9 apg).
Incoming Player: With all players from last year returning, South Carolina is bringing in only one new recruit, 5'10 guard Koretha Johnson who is transferring from Howard Junior College in Big Spring Texas. In 1999, Johnson was South Carolina's Player of the Year. During her two years in JC, she averaged 10.8 ppg and 6.3 rpg. According to Coach Walvius, Johnson is a "very aggressive player who can hit the three-point shot and put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket."
Outlook: With all players returning from last year, two key players returning from absences last year, and an additional year's experience playing together, the Lady Gamecocks could be the sleeper team in the SEC this year. Their height and athleticism are a match for any in the SEC. With reasonable luck, they should at a minimum reach the WNIT and have a real shot at finishing at or above .500 in the SEC and earning a trip to the NCAA tournament.