Media Picks Gamecocks as SEC Champs, Wilson Player of the Year
COLUMBIA, S.C. – A panel of both SEC and national media members picked South Carolina to win the 2017 SEC women’s basketball championship, the league office announced today. If the prediction holds, it would be the Gamecocks’ fourth-straight regular-season title and make them just the second team in league history to accomplish that feat. The media also selected junior forward A’ja Wilson as its SEC Preseason Player of the Year. Senior center Alaina Coates joined her on the five-member Preseason All-SEC First Team.
The Gamecocks are coming off a perfect 16-0 SEC record in 2015-16 and are one of just three teams in the nation to boast two returning All-Americans in the lineup in Coates and Wilson. Junior transfers Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray will take the court in the Garnet and Black for the first time after the 2015 First-Team All-ACC selections sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Both amassed 1,000 career points in just two seasons at their previous schools. Head coach Dawn Staley also added four freshmen to her squad, led by FIBA U18 Americas Championship gold medalist Tyasha Harris.
Wilson was a consensus All-American and finalist for all three national player of the awards in 2015-16 after becoming just the second player in league history to earn both SEC Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. She was 12th in the nation in blocked shots (3.12) and 38th in field goal percentage (.531), leading the SEC in both categories. Wilson was also among the league’s top five scorers (5th, 16.3 ppg) and rebounders (4th, 8.7 rpg). She further elevated her game in SEC play, during which she led the team with 16.3 points on 54.5 percent field goal shooting.
Coates continued to be a dominating force inside for South Carolina, forcing opponents to prepare for her on both sides of the ball. The three-time All-SEC selection captured her first spot on the first team last season and drew honorable mention All-America honors from both the Associated Press and the WBCA. The Wade Trophy finalist ranked ninth in the nation in double-doubles with 20 and 19th in rebounding average (10.3), leading the SEC in both categories. Coates averaged a double-double both overall and in SEC play, becoming the first Gamecock to do so in either category since the early 1990s. She reached the 1,000 career point plateau and became just the fifth Gamecock to do it while also reeling in 900 career rebounds. Coates shined brightest in NCAA Tournament play, yet again, recording a double-double in each of the Gamecocks’ three games to earn a spot on the NCAA Sioux Falls Regional All-Tournament Team.
SEC Preseason Media Poll
1. South Carolina
2. Mississippi State
6. Texas A&M
14. Ole Miss
Preseason Player of the Year
A’ja Wilson, South Carolina
Preseason All-SEC First Team
Mykala Epps, Kentucky
Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State
Alaina Coates, South Carolina
A’ja Wilson, South Carolina
Diamond DeShields, Tennessee