South Carolina holds ring ceremony, unveils championship banner

South Carolina holds ring ceremony, unveils championship banner

The South Carolina women’s basketball team received their championship rings and witnessed the unveiling of their 2022 national title banner Monday night.

The ceremony at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina, was held before the No. 1 Gamecocks opened the season by defeating East Tennessee State 101-31. Six South Carolina players scored in double figures, with senior Aliyah Boston, the returning national player of the year, contributing 11 points and 11 rebounds.

“Truly special,” coach Dawn Staley said of the pregame ceremony. “Anytime you can share winning the national championship with the very people that allowed you to be great, that filled this area, that cheered us on … we love it.”

Staley gave out national championship pins to arena staff before the game while wearing a jacket with Brittney Griner’s photograph, name and No. 42 on it. The Phoenix Mercury center has been imprisoned in Russia since February, and Staley has frequently posted about Griner on social media and called for her return to the United States. Staley previously coached Griner on the US women’s national team.

The Gamecocks went 35-2 last season, beating the UConn Huskies 64-49 in the NCAA national championship game in Minneapolis on April 3.

The South Carolina players Monday also received their rings for capturing the SEC regular-season championship. The Gamecocks fell on a late shot to Kentucky in the SEC tournament final, and their only other loss was at Missouri in December.

South Carolina previously won a national title in 2017 and that championship is also represented on the new rings, with the trophies from both years featured on the front.

The individual’s name and the term “Networth” — the Gamecocks’ slogan last season — appear on one side, with the phrase “Wire to Wire,” the team’s record and the Final Four logo on the other side.

Engraved on the inside of the ring is the phrase “Keep the main thing the main thing,” along with the scores of the Gamecocks’ Final Four victories over Louisville and UConn.

Monday’s ceremony culminated with the unveiling of the championship banner in the arena rafters.

Staley was asked how she might compare this season’s team, which is just getting started, with last year’s champions. The Gamecocks lost just one starter from 2021-22.

“We’ve moved the needle … each individual player has gotten better,” Staley said. “I know there’s some question marks at the point guard position. But when they get healthy … I do believe that what they bring to the table will allow us to hopefully be better than we were last year.”

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