The season is five months away.
The journey begins now.
Our goal this summer is for us to not get distracted with the task at hand, which is to win a national championship, coach Dawn Staley said. We want to win a national championship. Nothing else matters, it really doesnt.
Staley readily volunteered her goal for the 2014-15 season. There was no hesitation. Simply, her seventh team at South Carolina will have the talent to compete for the biggest prize. She knows it, her players know it and the nation knows it.
So why not say it? As summer work began on Monday, she made sure to tell every player that they want no, that they expect to win the national title.
We know what we have to do, said SEC Player of the Year Tiffany Mitchell, who departed on Monday for Moscow and the 3x3 world championships. Starting next year, Im probably going to have to take more of a leadership role. This will help me become more vocal.
All players except Tina Roy and Olivia Gaines have returned for the first summer session, and they will be back in July. Three of Staleys five recruits Aja Wilson, Kaydra Duckett and Jatarie White reported for Summer I while Bianca Cuevas and Doniyah Cliney will be here for Summer II.
The summer will be one of training. The Gamecocks coaches can work with players for two hours per week, and the players can work with the strength coach for six hours per week. All time will be spent keeping the Final Four in mind.
What we have planned, we have a couple of individual sessions, and a couple of team sessions, Staley said. Were looking forward to working with our entire team. Working with the freshmen will be a good thing, because they dont have any idea of the level that we play with, day-in or day-out.
Staley and her staff will have a plan in place for when Staley departs Columbia for two stints with USA basketball, one where she will coach Wilson on the under-18 national team and one where she will assist Geno Auriemma with the top U.S. national team. Staley will be gone for much of the late summer, but with the foundation set, her assistants and returning players will be able to keep the drive going.
All of the Gamecocks spoke of what they expected this year as they sat in a locker room at Stanford following their NCAA tournament loss to North Carolina. Rising senior Aleighsa Welch quickly stopped her tears as she spoke of how much damage USC could do in 2014-15.
Welch and Mitchell will be the leaders of a team overflowing with talent. The Gamecocks return every significant piece of a 29-win SEC champion. Then Staley added the countrys No. 2 recruiting class, topped by Wilson, the nations top-ranked prospect.
The Gamecocks have made one Final Four appearance in their history, in 1980 in the old AIAW. Staley doesnt care about that. Before last season, theyd never won the SEC.
We have a lot of questions about everything how far this team can go, how we can manage the playing time, Staley said. But were going to talk about the Final Four, about a national championship. We have to. We want to win it.
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