South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley used Sunday afternoon’s second round NCAA tournament game against South Florida to provide a history lesson. Staley appeared on the Gamecocks sidelines wearing a vintage Cheyney State jersey, a tribute to the nation’s oldest HBCU and the only HBCU program to reach the Final Four of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
In 1982, the Cheyney State women’s basketball team, coached by the legendary C. Vivian Stringer, finished the inaugural NCAA women’s basketball tournament as runner-up, losing to Louisiana Tech, 76-62, in the championship game. (You can read more on that inaugural NCAA Final Four — and the drama surrounding it — here.)
“Cheyney State was the only HBCU to make it to a Final Four, and for them to be led by Coach Stringer who opened doors that now I walk through, I mean, it was truly an honor to wear this jersey and to represent them,” Staley said after the game, which South Carolina won 76-45 to move on to the Sweet 16.
Staley’s wore jersey No. 44, which belonged to Yolanda Laney, who also happens to be the mother of New York Liberty player Betnijah Laney. Staley, who hails from North Philly, grew up playing in the Sonny Hill League, where she was coached by Yolanda Laney.
“She was serious about making sure that we had opportunities. She didn’t just coach us, she taught us how to play,” Staley told the Philadelphia Inquirer about the influence Yolanda Laney had on her.
According to the NCAA, a total of 19 HBCUs have competed in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament since it began, including three HBCUs that competed in that inaugural 1982 tournament (Cheyney, Howard, and Jackson State). Two HBCUs competed in this year’s NCAA tournament: Southern (lost to Sacred Heart in the First Four) and Norfolk State (lost to South Carolina in round one).