22 July 2024

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - MARCH 22: Te-Hina Paopao #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks is introduced as a starter before their game against the Presbyterian Blue Hose during the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March 22, 2024 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

On Monday evening, senior guard Te-Hina Paopao announced that she will return to South Carolina for a second season next year. What does this mean for Paopao and the Gamecocks?

How can a senior play another season?

The NCAA ruled that the 2020-21 season, when Paopao was a freshman at Oregon, would not count toward a player’s four years of eligibility. Essentially it gave players five seasons of eligibility instead of four, colloquially known as a “Covid year

Paopao’s fellow seniors Kamilla Cardoso and Sakima Walker also have an extra season they could use.

Is the decision surprising?

The timing of the announcement is surprising, but the decision is not. You’ve got to think that Paopao knew on Sunday she was going to return but kept a secret for Senior Day (to be fair, most players who have used their extra year still participated in their first Senior Day).

On Friday, Dawn Staley joked that she hoped one of the three seniors who was honored Sunday would be so overwhelmed that she decided to come back. She may have been dropping a clue.

As for the decision itself, Paopao made it clear last summer that she transferred to South Carolina because she thought it gave her the best chance to improve her WNBA Draft stock. She specifically cited her fitness and defense as areas she wanted to improve.



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