Dawn Staley

Dawn Staley

While the NCAA’s decision to deny the waiver request of Destiny Littleton was the foremost newsworthy topic of Dawn Staley’s chat with reporters on Thursday, the South Carolina head coach also touched on several topics as her team preps for its 7 p.m. Friday exhibition against North Georgia.

Staley, wearing a Mardi Gras themed Halloween costume — a nod to New Orleans, the site of this season’s NCAA Tournament Final Four — spoke for almost 10 minutes about her squad.

“What I’ve liked is that they come to work every day,” the coach said. “Every single day we get better. We don’t take a step back, and that’s real encouraging. They are extremely competitive. They work well together. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect basketball, but it’s an attempt to play perfect basketball, to find the right shots, to stay connected defensively.

“What we need to work on is what we don’t have right now, and that’s experience and playing against other people besides our practice players and ourselves.” 

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Added the coach, “We’re a work in progress, but I’m super excited to see how they play and how they come together and gel when there are thousands of people watching them.”

When asked if she has an idea of who her starting players will be, Staley said, “Actually, I do,” but would not share who those will be. 

Here’s more of what Staley had to say:

On seniors Ty Harris and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan: “They have been incredible leaders. They have been the ones that have had the biggest voice in the locker room, the biggest voice on the floor. And they’re the chiefs, so we’re going to follow as they lead us. I’m proud of where they are as well. They’ve held our young team to a high standard. And in order to do that, they themselves have to be on every day for practices. Even though they’re probably bored with the information because they’ve been here for three years and know it, you wouldn’t know by how they practice each and every day.” 

On sophomore center Victaria Saxton: “Victaria is much stronger, so she’s finishing around the rim a lot better. She’s jumping a lot higher, if you can imagine that. But I think she just look more comfortable in her skin. Obviously, she’s still at a place where she needs to improve, just fluidly, working through our offense. But as far as posting up … She can shoot the ball. I think she’s got to get confidence shooting the basketball. Once she does it, I don’t care if she makes it or not at this point, once she does it enough, she’ll work at it to loosen up a little bit and be more confident, because that’s what we want her to do.”

On redshirt-freshman forward Laeticia Amihere, who missed last season while recovering from a knee injury: “She’s good. She’s good. She’ll play limited minutes. But if we leave it up to her she’ll probably go full.”

On freshman guard Olivia Thompson, a product of Lexington (S.C.) High School: “Olivia has improved a great deal. Just from a defensive standpoint, she is definitely not a lack of effort. So, the effort is there. I think she has an understanding of where we need her to force people so we can help. Obviously, her weakness is on the defensive side of the basketball. But if you can funnel people to the right places, you can be on the floor. … Any time that we can continue to have local people on our team, ones that can really contribute, it always helps us.”

On lineup combinations: “At this point we want to try to start to get our substitutions patterns in a good place. I mean, this team is playing hard. I mean, we could actually put five people on the floor, [if] they play that hard, you know, maybe they won’t have that much offensive continuity, but defensively, they’re pretty connected.”