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Seniors forge wining program at South Carolina

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 20, 2013 at 5:12 pm •  Published: March 20, 2013

South Carolina tied a school record with a 10-0 start. Its 11 SEC victories were a program best and Walker became the school's third player with at least 1,000 points, 250 assists and 250 steals on the way to her being named the SEC's defensive player of the year.

More importantly, sophomore Aleigsha Welch said, the seniors set a tone for how the players would perform in practice, in games and around campus.

"Being able to hold this team together, they've showed me the meaning of leadership," Welch said.

They've also gotten Staley and her staff to lighten up a bit. There's not as much yelling at practice or disciplinary runs for not following rules.

"I think we've become a better practice team and that's why you're seeing the results," the coach said.

It's almost as simple as players growing up, Staley said. Five years ago, Staley and her assistants were challenged by players questioning the increased emphasis on weight-room training and fitness, or the harder regimens at practice. The questions kept coming as losses continued.

"But kids are tangible beings and being in the spotlight is something they like to do," Staley said. "And when they find that they're successful with things, it's a little easier to coach, it's a little easier to motivate."

Staley believes she's got a highly motivated group heading into the NCAAs when they leave campus Thursday morning. The yelling of the past is largely left as team folklore, passed down from the older players when a new group arrives.

"We remind them all the time of what we went through," Bruner said. "I think they have a grip on where we came from so that makes them want to do things a lot better and leave a better legacy."