Those two points came to a head Sunday during South Carolina’s resounding 83-65 home win over No. 11 UConn, which moved USC to 23-0 this season and included a little extra love for Strong, the top uncommitted recruit in the nation.
During the sold-out game at Colonial Life Arena, the USC home crowd broke out into a “We want Sarah! We want Sarah!” chant directed toward Strong, who was reportedly in attendance for the game, per 94 Feet WBB. Staley also hinted at Strong’s attendance in her postgame news conference.
As she made her way to the podium, Staley joked to the assembled media: “Thought I was gonna have a ‘Welcome Home,’ but we didn’t get it done yet.”
“Welcome Home” is the phrase used by Staley and other South Carolina coaches (most notably football coach Shane Beamer) when they land a verbal commitment from a recruit.
As evidenced by Sunday’s chants, the Gamecocks, the only remaining undefeated team in Division I men’s or women’s college basketball, are putting the full-court press on Strong to join them.
Two days earlier, Staley and the rest of USC’s coaching staff also traveled to Sanford, North Carolina to watch Strong play on her senior night at Grace Christian School. Strong, a 6-foot-2 forward, dominated with a 19-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple double, per MaxPreps. Her team moved to 27-0 with Friday’s win.
Adding to the intrigue of her No. 1 recruiting status, Strong is one of only two players in the espnW top 100 rankings for the Class of 2024 who haven’t signed with a school. She’s kept things quiet publicly regarding her recruiting but told The State in December that Gamecocks and UConn are among the schools showing her interest. Others include North Carolina, UCLA, Oregon, LSU, N.C. State and Louisville.
Strong has said that she doesn’t have a timeline for making a college decision. Strong can commit to a school at any point, but the regular signing period for basketball recruits (her last window to sign a national letter of intent with a school) runs from April 17 through May 15.
“Sometimes, I take one big break because it gets (to be) a lot,” she said.
Strong has family ties to the Palmetto State. Her father, Danny, played basketball at Great Falls High School and N.C. State before a 15-year playing career overseas. And her mother, Allison Feaster, was a star basketball player at Chester High School and later a teammate of Staley’s with the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting. Feaster currently works in the Boston Celtics’ front office.
Staley and her three lead assistants (Lisa Boyer, Jolette Law and Winston Gandy) all sat courtside to watch Strong play in the Chick-fil-A Classic girls showcase game in December. Strong faced off against Camden and fellow five-star recruit Joyce Edwards, who signed with USC in November.
Edwards, the No. 2 player in the Class of 2024 behind Strong, said she’s “for sure” recruiting Strong to join her in USC’s 2024 class. South Carolina’s three-player class of Edwards, five-star point guard Maddie McDaniel and five-star center Adhel Tac already ranks No. 2 nationally, per ESPN.
“Yes, for sure, I will try to get her but at the end of the day it is her decision,” Edwards said of Strong. “I don’t want to pressure her too much.”
Strong has led Grace Christian to back-to-back North Carolina Independent Schools Association state championships and is averaging 20.6 points, a career-high 16.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game as a senior.
Strong is also averaging 2.8 steals and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 51% from the field, 33% on 3-pointers and 75% on free throws. Her Grace Christian coach, Chad Revelle, has compared her to NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
“She literally can play every position,” Revelle said in December. “She stretches the floor inside to out. … It’s cliché to say that the ceiling is the roof. But you’ve got a girl that can do all she can do and stretch the floor and play the one through five positions. It is pretty incredible and fun to watch.”
Sarah Strong Update
#1 2024 Recruit Sarah Strong is in Columbia for the matchup between South Carolinaand UConnas both schools are in the race to secure her talents. Follow for more recruiting information coming soon pic.twitter.com/hGZX5Osfti
— 94 Feet WBB (@94FeetWBB) February 11, 2024
No. 1 class of 2024 recruit Sarah Strong is here, and the home crowd at CLA just broke out in a “We want Sarah” chant
— Payton Titus (@petitus25) February 11, 2024
Dawn Staley walks into the postgame presser and says, “I thought I was going to have a ‘Welcome Home,’ but not yet.”
Sarah Strong was reportedly at the game.
— Chris Wellbaum (@ChrisWellbaum) February 11, 2024