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How South Carolina’s Raven Johnson handled Caitlin Clark’s viral snub

Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes defeated Raven Johnson and the South Carolina Gamecocks in the 2023 Final Four. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

South Carolina sophomore Raven Johnson is using her viral Final Four moment with Iowa star Caitlin Clark as fuel heading into the season.

During the Gamecocks’ national semifinals loss to the Hawkeyes, Clark waved off Johnson as the South Carolina guard dribbled behind the 3-point line. With the gesture, Clark seemed to say that defending Johnson wasn’t worth the trouble; Johnson shot 24.1% from beyond the arc in her freshman season.

The moment went viral, and Johnson has used it to fire herself up ahead of her second season with the Gamecocks.

Speaking Thursday at a preseason practice, Johnson noted that she has leaned on head coach Dawn Staley and her teammates to help her following the loss and that play. She also noted that everything “happens for a reason.”

“Honestly I don’t think a lot of people could handle that,” she said. “It did go viral, but I’m glad that I have people around me such as Coach Staley, my teammates and just resources that Coach Staley brings around us that helped me. I think that, you know, it happens for a reason. I always go to God and I say things happen for a reason.

“Maybe I needed that to happen to me. I definitely will take that as fuel to the fire. It just tells me I need to get in the gym, put up some shots, go get my shot better.”

And the Gamecocks are ready to prove themselves as contenders. Without Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, Bria Beal and Victaria Saxton for the first time in four years, it could be tough to get back to the same level, but Staley isn’t worried.

“Obviously, they were mainstays for the last four years, and to not have them is definitely a big void,” Staley said, noting that this team is finding its own identity. “But this crew is stepping up. They’re starting to figure some things out.”

Johnson, one of six returners for South Carolina, agreed with Staley’s assessment.

“I’d say our identity is we’re a scrappy, young group,” Johnson said. “We’re so scrappy. I think that everybody on this team wants to win. … I’d say we’re a scrappy, young transition team.”

She also called this season her “revenge tour.”

“Revenge tour, to me, it’s like an apology to myself from last year because I know I could have done better. We had high expectations,” Johnson said. “To win the national championship. And we didn’t get that expectation. So this year, like I said, it’s fuel to the fire, and it’s a revenge tour to get back to that point and to win the national championship.”