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Women's Basketball Seniors Reflect on Final Home Game

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This year's women's basketball seniors are a remarkable bunch. They are the first class to be with fourth-year head coach Dawn Staley from the beginning. They have led the 2011-12 team to a 20-8 overall record and appear to have the Gamecocks on the verge of their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2003.

We caught up with Markeshia Grant, Courtney Newton, Charenee Stephens, La'Keisha Sutton and Ebony Wilson to reflect on their time here at Carolina and Senior Day this Sunday vs. Arkansas (2:00 p.m.) Check out some of their answers below.

Brittany: So just reflecting on your final home game, what are some of the thoughts going through your mind?

Sutton_011512_000123.JPGLa'Keisha (left): "I feel like I was just a freshman yesterday. I don't think it's hit me yet, it'll hit me once we start warming up I think. I know I'm going to be emotional because of everything I've been through personally, and the growth of the team, but I'm excited for what USC basketball is going to be like once I leave."

Ebony: "I'm more excited just thinking about where we started when I first got here to where we are now. It's exciting to see our transformation as a team and our success."

Charenee: "I feel like right now with the path we're going, it's all going to just hit me at the end.  It's the last home game but it's not the last game so I'm thinking more or less about trying to get to the tournament and what we're going to do then.  It hasn't hit me.  Once the tournament is over, then I'm going to be like, man, it's over."

Markeshia: "My college career is coming full circle and I think it's a great group of people to go out with. We just need to focus and win the game. It's going to be a crucial game for us, and I think it's a great time in my career."

Courtney: "It's mixed emotions...Knowing that it's my last year I'm just excited to play this last game.  It's gonna be a big game for us.  It's gonna be emotional but we are gonna need the win too.  So, I'm just hoping to end the season on a bang and on a high note."

BL: What do you think you have learned the most from Coach Staley?

WBB-11 Charenee Stephens vs. Furman.jpegCharenee (left): "I have learned that sometimes you have to follow.  I've been a leader my whole life. I've just always been this dominant figure, this person who's always willing to tell someone no, willing to say 'don't do that' or 'I don't like that'. Coming here and starting with Coach Staley, she's that type of person too and it was hard at first. We went at it but I appreciate it because now I know that I can't always be number one.  I can't always be the one who's giving the law, saying how things are supposed to be and I appreciate that.  Now I know how to follow and that's another dimension of my life that she helped me create."

Markeshia: "The thing I've learned the most from Coach Staley is loyalty. I think that's the biggest thing for her, if you're loyal, she'll do anything for you."

La'Keisha: "Life is more than the game of basketball. She's taught me what it means to be committed and dedicated, to work hard, and to compete every time you step on the floor, because she is a competitor. She gave a little joke 'if there's two roaches crawling, I'm going to pick the one that's going to win.' ... I feel like she's taught me to be a better person, helped me mature a lot. As far as basketball, I think she saw something raw, cut at it and cut at it until she got what she wanted and I reached my full potential. Just seeing all of her accomplishments, she's really inspiring."

BL: What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Carolina, both as a student and a basketball player?

01.26.12.vs.ole.miss000010.JPGCourtney (left, #22): "As a student it would be just being a college kid, just being able to go to football games.  I love football and going to those games with my teammates.  For me also just being able to get my undergraduate degree in three years and almost finishing with my graduate...On the basketball court, I would say last year definitely the Georgia game was one of my favorite memories as a player just being able to play like that against Georgia [Courtney hit a career-high five three-pointers in the upset win for the Gamecocks].  That was big for me.  This year we've had so many big wins - the North Carolina game was big and the Tennessee game of course will be one of my all-time favorite basketball memories.  That was just an awesome experience...being a part of history for me is one of the greatest memories.  It's not done yet so hopefully we can continue writing the history books this year."

La'Keisha: "I would definitely say the Tennessee game, the UNC game this year, the Kentucky game from last year, basically the big wins and the stuff we did off the court as a team. We like going to the movies or restaurants and just clowning, teaching Coach Staley how to dance, we do a lot of stuff off the court and I have a lot of pictures to show for it, even just being silly at practices. Coach Staley always finds a way to calm us down during the hard times without us even realizing what she's doing; she's a genius coach."

Markeshia (left, #5): "My favorite memory would have to be beating Tennessee at Tennessee; I think that was the biggest thing that's ever happened to me. It meant so much in so many ways, because growing up I always wanted to play for Pat Summitt and always wanted to be a Lady Vol, but I went in a different direction and ended up beating them. So that was something big for me." 

BL: What are some of the silly, funny or strange times you'll never forget?

Wilson_12studio_084.jpgEbony (left, showing her silly side during a photo shoot): "I just like the way our team can just goof off and have fun around each other. We genuinely like each other so we like to do things with each other, like team functions or school functions like the Halloween party...We always like going in Coach's office, we always get a good laugh. We all like to dance and Coach Staley tried to dance with us but she can't really...we tried to teach her how to Dougie,  but her arms and legs weren't coordinating [laughing]. She knows how to do the Wobble, she's got that down pat, but the Dougie I don't think she's going to get."

La'Keisha: "As a player, I would have to say my first three years we would do track workouts, it's not fun, but it's funny now that I think about it. I would always throw up; I could never NOT throw up. I think that's something I'll be remembered for because nobody else did it. I don't know why. I would never throw up on the court, but I would every single track workout."

Charenee: "My favorite would have to be Coach McCray singing that national anthem [for a game last season] because we, I didn't know...I was getting ready to pray and we locked hands and I put my head down and they said Coach McCray singing the anthem and I was like 'Oh my!!!  What?!?'  She sang that thing and she was nervous.  By the time I got up to touch her she was shaking so hard."

BL: What are your plans for after basketball, after graduation?

La'Keisha (major: broadcast journalism): I hope to play professionally, whether that's in the league or overseas. Once basketball is over, I either want to be a VJ or some sort of sports or fitness model, or try to get into film."

Ebony (major: psychology): "I want to play, if that's an option, I would like to continue to play but I'm also working on going to grad school, I'm applying for social work."

Markeshia (major: psychology): "My plans are to continue to play, grad school, and to travel."

Courtney (earned degree in psychology, working on specialists degree in counselors education):  "I'm in my second year of grad school now.  Next year, I'll be in Columbia and have to do my internship to finish up my degree.  So, I'll be doing that at the beginning of next year and then hopefully looking for a job in a high school, just depends on opportunities. I'd also like to get into some coaching in high school or something like that, but I definitely want to be around kids whatever I am doing."

Charenee (major: psychology): "Well right now I have some things in the works.  I'm trying to be a Richland County Police Officer.  It's really interesting and I think I'll be a good addition.  I like the sound of it."

Check out women's basketball on YouTube to see highlights, Gamecock Spotlights on our players, behind-the-scenes video and more.

The Gamecocks play their final home game of the season this Sunday vs. Arkansas at 2:00 p.m. Get to the game at least 20-30 minutes before tip-off to help give our seniors a proper farewell celebration on Senior Day.

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thanks for all u have done here ladies and i wish u nothing but the best.


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