Nov. 18, 2014
By Brad Muller | More Features
These rings are one of a kind. The South Carolina women's basketball team won its first ever Southeastern Conference Championship last season, and those players will receive their championship rings prior to Thursday night's game against Clemson at 7 p.m.
"It's exciting," said senior forward Aleighsa Welch. "It's a reminder of all the hard work we put in last year. It's something that we'll have for the rest of our lives to remind us about making history. I think it means more because it is the first one.
It's something everyone on this team will cherish. The level of competition in the SEC is at an all-time high, so it means a lot."
"We've been working for this for a long time," added senior center Elem Ibiam. "Since we came in here, coach has been telling us her vision for the program, and to see that vision come to fruition is really exciting. I feel like we have a place in history. Just playing for Coach (Dawn) Staley is making history."
South Carolina's ascent to the top of the SEC has been a steady climb under Staley, who now enters her seventh season. The Gamecocks improved their winning percentage and SEC win total in each of the previous six seasons, going 2-12 in the league in Staley's first year, and culminating in last year's 14-2 record in SEC play, along with a 29-5 overall mark and third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
"That's one of the things you can take into homes when you're recruiting," Staley said. "Every year we improved and our players improved individually. It's something that we're very proud of, and we've done it the right way. They're good kids and they work hard. The players made a commitment to it and believed in it from the very beginning. I'm glad they have something tangible to remember being the SEC Champions."
"There's nothing that will take the spot of that first one, but we want more."
The championship rings aren't exactly a cookie cutter design as players had input on how they wanted the ring to look. Welch and Ibiam were asked for their input in the creation of the ring.
"They talked to us about the size of it and what we wanted on it," Welch said. "We wanted a ring we could wear. A lot of times you get men's rings that are really big. We want to be able to wear it casually. So it meant a lot to have input on it."
Some of the players are torn as to how they will show off the ring.
"I think this year I might wear it a little bit just as a reminder of where we came from last season," Welch said. "After graduation I will probably get a case for it and keep it in my house and wear it some too. We worked hard for it, so I may as well show it off."
Members of the team take pride in knowing that their ring is the first of its kind for the women's basketball program, and although they were picked as the preseason favorite to win the SEC title again this year, the Gamecocks know it will take a lot of work to get a ring for the other hand.
"There's nothing that will take the spot of that first one, but we want more" Welch said.
"Now that we have a taste of what it really takes to win the SEC championship, we know it's going to take a lot of really hard work and not take any days off to win again," Ibiam added. "Nobody is going to lay down and let us beat them. We know we have to bring it every night."
These rings are one of kind, at least for now.
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