Gamecocks Dominate SEC Coaches’ Awards

Gamecocks Dominate SEC Coaches’ Awards
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley is seen during first-half action against Mississippi State in Columbia, S.C. on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA) (Source: Travis Bell)

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina women's basketball head coach Dawn Staley and four Gamecocks earned recognition from the Southeastern Conference coaches as the league announced its annual awards today. Forward Aliyah Boston collected every award for which she was nominated as the coaches recognized her as the SEC Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year and voted her on the All-SEC First Team, All-Freshman Team and All-Defensive Team. Seniors Tyasha Harris and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan grabbed All-SEC honors on the First and Second Team, respectively. Zia Cooke joined Boston on the All-Freshman Team.

With two of the league's highest honors, Boston joined South Carolina's Alaina Coates (2014) as the only freshmen in league history to earn multiple individual awards in a season. She is the Gamecocks' third SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Ieasia Walker, 2013; A'ja Wilson 2016, 2018) and the third to earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors from the league coaches (Coates, 2014; Wilson 2015). Staley picked up her fourth SEC Coach of the Year recognition from her peers, matching Van Chancellor (Ole Miss, LSU) for second-most all-time. The duo is just halfway to Tennessee's Pat Summitt's league record of eight selections.

"The light shines bright on several of our Gamecocks today; but I'm sure they would each be the first to say how much their teammates have contributed to these SEC honors," Staley said. "The sacrifices and hours that these young women have put in to bring it every night on the court is immeasurable. I have had the pleasure of watching them grow game by game. To be named Coach of the Year is an honor you don't earn by yourself. This award is for our coaching staff and players who all have made invaluable investments in our team's success. And, finally, we all thank our incredible FAMS who have been on this journey with us - your energy is felt every night."

Boston has been a mainstay on national player of the year watch lists, often as the only freshman in the mix, and is a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award and on the Lisa Leslie Award top 10. She averages a double-double in SEC play (13.1 ppg/10.3 rpg) and against nationally ranked opponents (13.8 ppg/10.8 rpg). Her .614 field goal percentage ranks seventh in the nation, and her 2.63 blocks per game are 17th in the country. Putting together one of the most impressive freshman seasons in program history, Boston already holds several freshman records already - 79 blocked shots, 12 double-doubles, seven SEC double-doubles and 109 offensive rebounds - and is among the top five in total rebounds and within striking distance of the top-five scorers.

Harris has been the driving force behind Gamecock success throughout her career, adding All-SEC First-Team honors for the first time after making the second team each of the last two seasons. In leading a young team to a No. 1 ranking and the second SEC regular-season championship of her career, Harris is on every national player of the year watch list as well as the late season lists for the Nancy Lieberman and Dawn Staley Awards. She is 17th in the country with and SEC-best 5.6 assists per game overall, a number that rises to 5.9 per SEC game. Harris also leads the league with her 2.78 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks eighth in the country. Between her points (12.0 ppg) and points off her assists (12.6 ppg), she has her hands on 30.1 percent of the Gamecocks' total offense (81.7 ppg). In 12 games against nationally ranked opponents, that number rises to 34.9 percent.

Herbert Harrigan is also enjoying her best season as a Gamecock, and the league coaches recognized that with her first career All-SEC selection. A force on both ends of the floor, she is the Gamecocks' top scorer at 12.9 points per game (18th in the SEC), ranks eighth in the conference with a .508 field goal percentage and is seventh in the league in blocked shots (1.7). Herbert Harrigan has scored in double figures 25 times through 29 games and has been the team's top scorer nine times. Against ranked opponents, her rebounding has soared, pulling down 7.2 rebounds per game in those 12 outings.

Cooke came in as the No. 4 recruit in the 2019 class and has been every bit as dynamic as advertised. She has led or tied for the team lead in scoring a team-best 11 times, and her five 20-point games is also a team high. Her 13.8 points per SEC game is the best average on the team, and her 13.2 points per game against ranked opponents is second. Cooke is the team's most active 3-point shooter and is shooting 36.9 percent from that range.

Staley's recognition from her SEC counterparts comes after a season in which she melded five freshmen ranked as the No. 1 signing class in the country with six returning letterwinners into the No. 1 team in the country, a ranking the Gamecocks have held longer than any other team this season. Staley has started three freshmen all season with a schedule that includes an NCAA-best 12 games against nationally ranked opponents, and her fifth SEC regular-season championship came with a perfect 16-0 record for a second time. This season's 81.7 points per game is the highest scoring average in program history, and its 55.7 opponent scoring average ranks third in program history.

The No. 1/1 Gamecocks (29-1, 16-0 SEC) earned the top seed in this week's SEC Tournament in Greenville, S.C. South Carolina will take on the winner of the game between No. 9-seed Georgia and eighth-seeded Alabama on Fri., March 6, at noon on SEC Network.

2020 SEC Award (Coaches)

Player of the Year: Rhyne Howard, Kentucky

Freshman of the Year: Aliyah Boston, South Carolina

Defensive Player of the Year: Aliyah Boston, South Carolina

6th Woman of the Year: Chasity Patterson, Kentucky

Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Jordan Lewis, Alabama

Coach of the Year: Dawn Staley, South Carolina

First Team All-SEC

Alexis Tolefree, Arkansas

Unique Thompson, Auburn

Rhyne Howard, Kentucky

Aliyah Boston, South Carolina

Tyasha Harris, South Carolina

Rennia Davis, Tennessee

Chennedy Carter, Texas A&M

N'dea Jones, Texas A&M

Second Team All-SEC

Jasmine Walker, Alabama

Chelsea Dungee, Arkansas

Ayana Mitchell, LSU

Khayla Pointer, LSU

Jessika Carter, Mississippi State

Jordan Danberry, Mississippi State

Rickea Jackson, Mississippi State

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, South Carolina

SEC All-Freshman Team

Lavender Briggs, Florida

Rickea Jackson, Mississippi State

Aijha Blackwell, Missouri

Hayley Frank, Missouri

Aliyah Boston, South Carolina

Zia Cooke, South Carolina

Jordan Horston, Tennessee

Koi Love, Vanderbilt

All-Defensive Team

Que Morrison, Georgia

Rhyne Howard, Kentucky

Faustine Aifuwa, LSU

Jordan Danberry, Mississippi State

Aliyah Boston, South Carolina

Jordyn Cambridge, Vanderbilt