Gamecock trio earn spots in ESPN’s top 25 player rankings

South Carolina guard Destanni Henderson grabs a rebound during the second half an NCAA college...
South Carolina guard Destanni Henderson grabs a rebound during the second half an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina won 74-54. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)(Sean Rayford | AP)
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 5:49 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Carolina’s top stars are as good as any nationally.

Today, junior forward Aliyah Boston ranked atop ESPN’s mid-season player rankings. Two Gamecock guards, Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson are joining Boston, landing spots on the top 25 list.

Aliyah Boston ranks No. 1 in ESPN's mid-season player rankings.
Aliyah Boston ranks No. 1 in ESPN's mid-season player rankings.(Derick Hingle/AP | Sean Rayford/AP)

Henderson’s on the verge of entering another exclusive list. She’s 20 points away from joining the one-thousand-point career club. A club she can join Thursday at home against Texas A&M.

“She’s been committed to the journey and the process,” said head coach Dawn Staley. “The good. The bad. She just takes it.”

Henderson’s evolution to becoming an elite guard begins with her approach.

“She got a different personality where nothing seems to bother her,” Staley said.

Staley adds it’s a good way to maintain.

“Because of her personality, she’s able to take the trials, triumphs, of the journey of a career,” said Staley.

Her presence was missed in a three-game stretch back in December when she sat with an injury. The Gamecocks won each of those games but did not look as sharp offensively.

Carolina plays on a higher level with Henderson because she’s transformed into an elite player.

“See her grow, talks a lot more,” mentioned Staley. “She facilitates a lot more. She’s starting to be aggressive in scoring in different phases of the game. It’s the whole evolution of her being a senior guard in our program.”

Against the Aggies, Carolina welcomes the return of junior forward Laeticia Amihere. She has been sidelined the last two games due to health and safety protocols.

Competing in the COVID-era brings a whole new set of challenges.

“We’ve been practicing as if we could be without a lot of people,” said Staley.

Staley takes a little time to make sure her players do their best to stay safe.

“We make sure they are masking up and staying away from crowds,” Staley added.

Staley does not spend as much time dwelling on who is in or out on the court.

“I’m confident in the players who have been here every day in practice that we can pull our own weight,” Staley said. “We just don’t really concentrate on who we don’t have.”

Carolina keeps it moving. And one newcomer trending in a good direction is 6′7 sophomore forward Kamilla Cardoso.

Although the Syracuse transfer is not progressing as quickly as they’d like, she has a tremendous upside.

“She does have great footwork,” Staley said. “She does have a package down there in the paint. We can’t get to it because she’s too much of a willing passer.”

And as you read, Staley wants Kamilla to be a more willing scorer, utilizing her size. It’s something they work on in practice.

“We meet people where they are,” Staley said. “She’s still trying to get to know who we are and how we play. She’s trying to figure out where she fits in.”

When Cardoso figures it out, look out!

The top-ranked Gamecocks host the Aggies on Thursday for a 7 P.M.

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