Will Muschamp fielding women’s basketball questions? That’s what happens when the first three-time women’s SEC player of the year, one who has won a national championship, is on the same campus.
Muschamp had a pre-spring news conference Tuesday, the same day Gamecocks senior center A’ja Wilson was named the conference’s top women’s basketball player for a third time.
When asked about the difficulty of Wilson’s three-feat, Muschamp praised it without hesitation.
“It’s extremely difficult. Especially other than UConn, SEC women’s basketball is the best in the country,” Muschamp said. “A’ja is from Columbia and she’s came here and accomplished everything she wanted to accomplish as a player and as an individual, but also as a team in winning a national championship and multiple SEC championships.”
Any other football coaches get questions about women's basketball and the SEC Player of the Year at their first spring press conference? 🤔Just at South Carolina? 🤙🤙🤙 Thanks for the ❤️@CoachWMuschamp! #Gamecocks pic.twitter.com/B0mSyDIrWE
— GamecockWBB (@GamecockWBB) February 28, 2018
Muschamp didn’t stop there.
“I know they’ll make a great run in the (NCAA tournament),” he said. “Texted back and forth with (South Carolina coach Dawn Staley), and she’s fired up.
“When she’s fired up, you better watch out.”
Muschamp concluded by saying he loves Wilson’s smile, the way South Carolina competes and that the women’s basketball team “may have been tougher” than his football team his first year in Columbia.
“Our first year, they may have been tougher than us, to be honest with you,” he said. “I think we’ve made some strides there, but (Wilson) is a great ambassador for the University of South Carolina and always will be.”
That’s high praise for the women’s basketball team, but perhaps a shot and challenge to his football team going into spring ball, which begins Wednesday for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina went from six wins in Muschamp’s first season in 2016 to nine last season, capped by a win over Michigan the Outback Bowl that was the Big Ten’s only bowl loss.
“I think they’ve handled the little success we’ve had very well. And it’s been very little,” Muschamp said of his team. “I told our football team, ‘We’ve made progress, but we haven’t accomplished anything.’ Let’s understand where we are. But I think when your best players are very grounded guys, and they approach things the right way, you’re going to be fine.”
Georgia is the clear favorite to win the SEC East. The Bulldogs won the conference title game over Auburn last season and fell to Alabama in the national championship game in overtime.
The Gamecocks finished second in the SEC East in 2017 and looks like Georgia’s toughest division foe in 2018. Quarterback Jake Bentley returns for his junior year after helping the Gamecocks go 6-2 down the stretch; the losses in that span came against playoff teams Clemson and Georgia.
South Carolina opens SEC play September 8 at home against Georgia. The Gamecocks need Bentley to have a season like Wilson to have a chance to win the SEC East – and more.
(Duane Rankin is an award-winning columnist/videographer for the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser whose work also can be found in USA TODAY. You can follow him on Twitter @DuaneRankin)
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