The Freshies, South Carolina’s beloved 2019 recruiting class, aren’t done being teammates just yet. Aliyah Boston, Brea Beal, Laeticia Amihere, Zia Cooke and Olivia Thompson started a group chat called ‘The Freshies’–to this day, the nickname has stuck. Now, the group looks on to new adventures.
Boston, Beal, Amihere, Cooke and fifth-year senior Victaria Saxton all heard their names called in the 2023 WNBA draft after successful playing careers with the Gamecocks. Thompson decided to step away from the game of basketball for the time being, making her the sole ‘freshie’ that will not be suiting up for a WNBA team as her next venture. As the most heralded prospect in this year’s draft class, Boston was selected No. 1 overall by the Indiana Fever.
While they may be wearing separate uniforms–personally, the group remains as one. They hope to stay connected through their South Carolina bond, helping each other through new experiences and goals.
Coach Dawn Staley works to bring out her player’s full potential as basketball players, professionals and human beings.
“Not one, not two, not three, not four but five! Where they do that at?!” Staley said of her most recent draft class.
“What drives me is just wanting our players to be successful and them understanding how they navigate through all of that,” Staley said in an interview with Sports Business Journal. “That’s what I love to do — help our players grow and reach their dreams. That’s what being a Dream Merchant is all about.”
A ‘dream merchant’, perhaps the strongest responsibility that Staley brings upon herself as head coach of South Carolina’s women’s basketball program.
As former players continue to see great heights, Staley’s program looks to bring in a new wave of professional talent that is primed to grow for years to come.
Compared to other schools, South Carolina still has work to do in becoming an all-time incubator of WNBA draft talent. UConn and Tennessee have both had over 40 past players hear their name called on draft night, thanks to long-standing dynasties in the women’s game.
The Gamecocks have come into the fold more recently, as Staley develops the program into a national powerhouse, including having eight players drafted since the 2020 season alone.
As a program, South Carolina hopes to continue their upward trajectory, where future professionals solidify their game.