As 2016 is coming to a close, SEC play for the Lady Gamecocks is fast approaching. Their first test will be against the Alabama Crimson Tide on New Year’s Day in Columbia. Although, before the Gamecocks begin always rugged SEC play, let’s take a look at how each Gamecock has performed during the non-conference portion of the season.
Alaina Coates- A+
Often overshadowed in her last 3 years by players like Tiffany Mitchell and A’ja Wilson, Coates has made sure to stand out in her senior season. The Dutch Fork senior is averaging 14.6 points and 10.7 rebounds. While her per-game averages are impressive, her efficiency is what truly stands out. Through 11 games, she is shooting 68% from the field, averaging 1.242 PPP, which puts her in the top 1% in the country for this category. Coates’s averages could easily be higher if it weren’t for the few games against lower-tier opponents which she did not get as many minutes in. Nevertheless, her performance thus far has turned the heads of many WNBA scouts, making it a possible thought for her to be the #1 pick in May. In SEC play, look for her scoring to improve and her FT shooting to continue to get better as it has in the ladder-half of the non-conference schedule.
A’ja Wilson- A
As expected, Wilson is leading her team in scoring at 16.4 points a game. She is also having an efficient season making 55% of her shots. Although, Wilson is nowhere near playing to her full potential. The reigning SEC POY is averaging only 6.6 rebounds a game and shooting an ok 69% from the FT line. Both of these stats are likely to change heading into SEC play, as great physicality of the opposing team on any night will be a given, causing Wilson to need to pull down more rebounds and get to the foul line more. Another place Wilson needs to expand her game is her mid-range shooting (17″ and out). On the season, she has attempted only two mid-range jumpers and made neither. While posting up will always be her bread-and-butter, availability and accuracy of her mid-range shot is key in her development for the next level. Therefore, while her season would be stellar for almost any other player, for someone with as much talent as she has, it has been very good, but not as great as it could be.
Allisha Gray- A-
Gray’s play has personally been my favorite thing to watch this 2016-2017 season. She is averaging 13.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, and is leading her team in assists with 3.2 apg. From the field, she is shooting 51%, astounding at the guard position. She is not flashy, but she scores buckets when her team needs her too. She is the kind of player that always has a great game, but is often overshadowed by the stellar play of her other teammates. As Dawn says, she is the “silent assassin” of this team, and helps her team in any way she can. Although, there is room for improvement. While her FG% is impressive, Gray is shooting only 29% from the 3-pt line. Coming into this season, that was thought to be where her main contribution to this team would come from, but this hasn’t been the case. Her FT% is also lackluster, shooting only 69% from the stripe, and her on-the-ball defense needs improvement. In SEC play, look for her to up her 3-pt % and continue to get the ball to her teammates.
Kaela Davis- B
The narrative for Davis’s season so far has been a roller coaster. With a flashy season opener against OSU in which she scored 37 pts, 10 rbs, and 5 asts, many fans were optimistic about the Georgia-native’s future with the Gamecocks. Although, the next 3 games, which were at home against weaker opponents, Davis struggled. Since then, she has had many ups and downs. In their matchup against Minnesota, Davis knocked down 6 3’s and finished with 22 pts. Therefore, she has shown flashes of greatness, but has struggled to be consistent so far. She is averaging 13.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3 apg, is shooting 42% from 3pt land, and leads the team in FT shooting at 78%. Although, she is shooting only 38% overall. Like Wilson, she is a phenomenal talent who is capable of having an All-American type season, but has yet to find her groove quite yet. Staley has expressed that she wants Davis to use all the “tools in her toolbox” being that she is such a versatile player. This being said, in SEC play, look for her to use her versatility to score more often and more efficiently.
Tyasha Harris- B-
The highest recruit of the Gamecock’s 2016 class has not disappointed so far. Harris has shown that she possesses the basketball IQ and sharp decision-making skills that BCM often lacks. Therefore, throughout this season she has paced her team and led the offense effectively. Although, she doesn’t score a lot, averaging only 4.6 ppg. This is not surprising given the offensive arsenal the Gamecock’s have in their starting 5. In SEC play, look for Harris to continue to be the judicious PG the Gamecock’s need, and don’t be surprised if she becomes the starter over BCM at some point.
Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan- B-
While Herbert-Harrigan, often referred to by her teammates as “KiKi,” does not possess the size that Coates and Wilson have, she has worked just as hard as her low-post compadres, causing her to be a key piece off the Gamecock’s bench. She is the leading bench scorers with 5.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, and is shooting 44% from the field. While she is not yet an offensive beast, with her being surrounded by the best frontline in the country this season, her development will only cause her to improve from here on out. During SEC play, look for her to continue to play hard and make her biggest impact on the defensive end, while still contributing on offense.
Doniyah Cliney- B-
While Cliney may not be a matchup nightmare, for those opponents who are, she is often given the defensive assignment. Her role this year has been to be a lockdown defender, and she has done nothing less than impress Gamecock Nation and her coach. While she averages only 3.1 ppg, in only 17 mpg, Cliney is averaging 4.2 rpg. She is your prototypical gritty, tough SEC forward. Staley knows that Cliney has offensive potential too. Therefore, as they approach conference play, look for her to look for her shot more and continue to be one of the Gamecock’s best defenders.
Bianca Cuevas-Moore- D
Many came into the season with high hopes for the former McDonald’s All-American PG. Although, her performance thus far has been disappointing. While she leads the Gamecock’s this season with 22 steals, her work on the offensive end has been anything but impressive. BCM is averaging 6.7 ppg, but is shooting only 34% from the field and 29% from 3. She simply lacks discipline and maturity to take good shots, and sometimes forgets about her teammates. Her style of play is so rapid and flashy that she sometimes leads fast breaks without even looking for her teammates. Her careless play has caused multiple turnovers and missed shots, leading to frustration from her coach and fans. BCM is still a great talent, and when she finds a way to use her quickness to her advantage and to be more a more pass-first PG, she can truly take her game to the next level and become the PG the Gamecocks need. In SEC play, look for BCM to still be herself, quick and fiery, but to play with pace and get her teammates the ball more often.
At the end of their non-conference schedule the Gamecocks sit at 10-1, a great record for most, but their lone loss which came against Duke has left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. This team is still gelling and building their chemistry, but with the vast amount of talent on this team they are sure to figure it out. The team that beat Louisville by more than 20 is still there, but being able to provide these performances consistently will be key to the Gamecock’s winning the SEC this season, and key to having any chance at beating UCONN come February.
Wishing all of Gamecock Nation and WBB fans a Happy New Year,
Gamecock Hoops Report
Photo via Spurs & Feathers