COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina senior forward LeLe Grissett will miss the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Grissett will be unable to compete due to a right lower leg injury suffered in the SEC Tournament championship game on March 7th.
“Anytime a young person, the game that they love is snatched away from them for injury or any other reason – they’re devastated,” said Staley. “LeLe took it much like you see LeLe playing on the floor. Super energetic. [She] took the onus off of her and put it back on the team. She’s going to be an unofficial coach on our sidelines. Get our players to play at maximum effort.”
Even though she won’t provide a presence on the court, her voice will influence the squad from the bench.
“Going into the tournament without LeLe being able to play, we’re really sad,” said sophomore forward Aliyah Boston. “But LeLe has still been with us the entire time cheering us on, talking to us, giving us the type of encouragement and coaching from a player standpoint that we need.”
The situation feels somewhat familiar for Staley and Carolina. In 2017, star center Alaina Coates suffered a late-season injury that kept her out of the dance. The Gamecocks came together to win the national championship that season.
Carolina enters the 2021 NCAA Tournament as the top seed in the Hemisfair Region. The Gamecocks face Mercer in the first round on Sunday, March 21st at 6 p.m.
Practices before the bracket’s unveiling on Monday night provided Staley a glimpse of how the team will function without Grissett.
“Working on a couple of things throughout the week,” said Staley. “Pleasantly surprised with some of the changes that we will make.”
Staley has seen other key reserves, Destiny Littleton, Laeticia Amihere, and Eniya Russell embrace the opportunity to contribute more to the team’s success.
“Let’s just say they all are in a great place,” Staley added. “They understand who we lost and the contributions that LeLe gave us. They want to do their part. But they can’t be LeLe. They can only be themselves. They can only do what they’re good at. That’s all we ask them to do. Do what you’re good at. Not anything more or less, imitate or emulate, be good with what you’re at. Be ready when you’re number is called.”
Grissett ends her senior season averaging a career-high 6.7 points on 50.0 percent field goal shooting. She pulled down 4.2 rebounds per game as well. She scored in double figures five times, including four SEC games, and twice posted a season-high of 13 points, most recently against #17/17 Kentucky on February 21st.