COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has something new to entice women's basketball players this fall — her Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame trophy.
Staley returned Monday from a weekend of celebrations and ceremonies in Springfield, Mass., where she was inducted along with 11 other basketball greats. She sat next to her trophy at South Carolina's arena, saying it will eventually end up in her office.
"That's where the recruits will see it," she said with a grin.
Staley was humbled by the honor and hopes she's set an example for young women looking to achieve big things in basketball.
"I hope little girls will approach the game like I did," she said. "I didn't cut corners. It was just a process for me where I was living out my passion."
Staley hopes several of those type of teenagers grow up to play college basketball for her Gamecocks, where she'll start her sixth season this fall. South Carolina won 25 games each of the past two years and reached back-to-back NCAA tournaments for the first time since the 2002 and 2003 seasons. The Gamecocks' 11-5 mark in the Southeastern Conference also was the school's best-ever league showing.
Staley's got the bar set even higher down the road — she's turned down coaching overtures from Ohio State and her alma Virginia for their vacancies the past two years — and told her South Carolina players in her hall induction speech Sunday night that if they stuck with her they'd eventually become national champions.
"That's right, I said it," Staley said Monday. "I put it out there."
Then again, reaching high goals are why Staley was inducted into the hall in the first place. She was the national player of the year out of Philadelphia's Dobbins Tech high school. She played her college ball at Virginia, where she played in three Final Fours and was twice the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year.