(USC SID)-COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina women's basketball head coach Dawn Staley achieved the highest honor of her career tonight as she joined basketball luminaries with her enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Of the now 337 inductees to the Hall of Fame, Staley is one of just 27 individual women to be enshrined and just the 15th female player to go in on her individual merits.
Joining Staley in the Class of 2013 are: nine-time NBA All-Star Gary Payton, seven-time NCAA Final Four coach Rick Pitino, five-time NCAA Final Four coach Guy Lewis, four-time NBA All-Start Bernard King, four-time NCAA Final Four coach Jerry Tarkanian, three-time National Coach of the Year Sylvia Hatchell, Roger Brown, Dr. E.B. Henderson, Oscar Schmidt, Richard Guerin and Russ Granik.
Staley is synonymous with women's basketball excellence in an era that launched two professional leagues in the United States, including the WNBA. After earning USA Today National High School Player of the Year honors, she went on to a stellar career at the University of Virginia. A three-time Kodak All-American, Staley was the Sports Illustrated Player of the Year and won the Honda-Broderick Cup Award for Collegiate Female Athlete of the Year in 1991 after leading her Cavaliers to the national championship game. She played in three NCAA Final Fours and was twice the ACC Player of the Year. She is the only player in women's college basketball history to record 2,000 points, 700 assists and 400 steals.
On the international stage, Staley continued to excel and has been part of the United States' last four Olympic gold medals - three as a player (1996, 2000, 2004) and one as an assistant coach (2008). Twice named USA Basketball's Female Athlete of the Year (1994, 2004), she was selected by her fellow Olympians from all sports to carry the flag in the 2004 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. Following the success of the 1996 Olympic team, Staley joined one of the two fledgling professional leagues in the U.S., playing with the Richmond (later relocated to Philadelphia) Rage of the ABL for two seasons, earning All-Star status both years. After joining the WNBA in 1999, Staley garnered five All-Star selections, twice earned the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award and was named to the All-Decade Team.
After her retirement in 2006, the league began awarding the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award in 2007. Staley was enshrined in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in the Class of 2012 with her former USA Basketball teammate and current assistant coach Nikki McCray. In 2013, the Phoenix Club of Philadelphia established the Dawn Staley Award, given to the nation's best guard in women's Division I basketball.
Now making a name for herself in the coaching ranks, Staley just completed her 13th season as head coach, her fifth at South Carolina. In leading the Gamecocks to a 92-66 record over that time, she has guided the team to back-to-back 25-win seasons, including last season's 25-8 mark for the fourth-highest winning percentage in program history. The Gamecocks advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in 2012, the deepest into the tournament a Staley-coached team has advanced.