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Dawn Staley on South Carolina’s postseason: ‘One game at a time’

(Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Dawn Staley is locked in heading into the SEC tournament, as her No. 1 team begin its quest for a national championship.

The Gamecocks, though, aren’t looking too far ahead. Instead, they are taking each game as it comes, starting Friday in the SEC tournament quarterfinals.

“I do believe our players respond best to the task that’s in front of them,” Dawn Staley says on the latest episode of NETLIFE. “I never really hear them talk about the tournament. I don’t really hear them talk about wanting to win a national championship.”

Aside from laying out their goals at the start of the season, the players have tried to stay in the moment as they racked up 27 wins and just one loss in 2021-22. The Gamecocks haven’t gotten caught up in their status at the No. 1 team in the country, either.

“We actually don’t even talk about the No. 1 ranking. I don’t even hear our players talk about that,” Staley says. “They’ve been the No. 1 team before, so it’s nothing new to them.”

No matter the team’s achievements nor the challenges laid out in front of them, Staley takes a business-as-usual approach.

“If there is nothing that needs to be said, I don’t say it. If there is nothing that needs to be done, I don’t do it,” she says.

While Staley has instilled a composed ethos in her team, she admits that the players are creatures of habits with their routines.

“We are superstitious, as well. We walk in the arena a certain way, we get off the bus a certain way,” she says. “We do things a certain way because that is what we can control, because there are going to be some other things we can’t control.”

As a coach, Staley says her job during the postseason is to make sure the group is unified and doesn’t get in its own way, an undertaking made much easier by South Carolina’s captains.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a really responsible team. We have great leadership,” Staley says. “Victaria Saxton and Aliyah Boston are both young women who, if they were not captains of our basketball team, they could be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies because they get it, they see the big picture.”

Before the NCAA Tournament tips off in a couple of weeks, South Carolina has its sights set on winning the SEC tournament, which it enters as the No. 1 seed with a double-bye.

“If you can win an SEC tournament championship, well, guess what, you can win a national championship,” says Staley, adding that the conference is one of the best in the country, top to bottom.

South Carolina will face the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between No. 8 Arkansas and No. 9 Missouri in the quarterfinals at 12 p.m. ET on Friday.

Listen to the full episode of NETLIFE with President Bill Clinton and Reggie Love for more on Dawn Staley’s approach to the postseason.