SAN ANTONIO (AP) — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley had a special supporter on hand for the team’s Sweet 16 victory Sunday: big Tracey Underwood.
Staley’s older sister is recovering from leukemia and needed a bone-marrow transplant last August.
Underwood, who lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and has been avoiding crowds due to her condition, arrived in San Antonio late Saturday night and was at the Alamodome watching the top-seeded Gamecocks reach the round of eight with a 76-65 victory over Georgia Tech.
“My sister being here is an awesome thing,” Staley said. “I look forward to hearing her call my name out. I know once I hear it, I give her a little Philly nod saying, ‘I hear you but can’t see you, especially if I don’t have my glasses on.’”
Staley did her part to ensure her sister not succumb to the disease, mobilizing her family last spring after doctors diagnosed Underwood’s condition. Underwood received the necessary stem cells from older brother Lawrence.
Staley oversaw much of her sister’s treatment, even calling on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to discuss that school’s Cancer Institute. That’s where Underwood’s transplant took place last summer.
Underwood has had few speed bumps in her recovery. Staley hopes the sisters can hang out in San Antonio for at least another week or so as the Gamecocks chase a second national title during the coach’s tenure.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
The Alamodome is allowing 17% capacity for the Sweet 16, so other players and coaches have had their family and friends inside the spacious arena.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife, singer Ciara, were in the stands Sunday watching his sister, Stanford guard Anna Wilson. San Antonio native Kiana Williams has had plenty of supporters wearing her Stanford No. 23 jersey.
Baylor also has had plenty of supporters make the 200-mile drive from the Waco campus. More should be in the arena Monday night for the River Walk Region final against UConn thanks to a free bus trip for students.
Williams has given her family and friends incentive to be loud.
“I told them it’s a competition for tickets so if I don’t hear you I’m going to have to rotate you through,” Williams joked Sunday after Stanford’s 89-62 win over Missouri State.
STRICT COVID LIMITS
UConn coach Geno Auriemma believes the NCAA is going overboard with some of its COVID-19 protocols, which he sees holding teams hostage in their hotel.
The Hall of Fame coach said Sunday it’s ridiculous the NCAA won’t let teams use the hotel pool or schedule times to sit on the pool deck for some sun or even walk more than a block from their hotel.
His biggest gripe may be the elevator limit. No more than four members of the team are allowed in the elevator at any one time, creating wait times that can last an hour going to and from their rooms.
“It’s four of the same team that just spent the last 45 minutes upstairs together. It’s kind of bizarre, right?” he said. “We were just all at practice together, and now only four of us can go in the elevator at the same time.”
And don’t ask Auriemma about the food. The coach, who missed the first two games of the tournament while isolating at home with COVID-19, can’t judge. He still hasn’t recovered his sense of taste and smell.
WE KNOW HER
Georgia Tech coach Nell Fortner has rejuvenated the Yellow Jackets program and got the team to the Sweet 16 in a building that already has a plaque in the her honor at the Alamodome.
Fortner, 62, was inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame in 2013 for an athletic career that includes being a two-sport star in basketball and volleyball at the University of Texas, and winning a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics as coach of the U.S. team.
Her college coaching career includes stops at Purdue and Auburn before taking the Georgia Tech job in 2019. She also spent several years as a broadcaster. Fortner grew up in nearby New Braunfels, Texas, where she was a Parade All-American in basketball.
Other prominent athletes with plaques near Fortner’s include WNBA player and now NBA assistant coach Becky Hammon (2018); the NBA’s Artis Gilmore (2014), Shaquille O’Neal (2016) and Robert Horry (2017); and pro football player Priest Holmes (2011).
South Carolina ended Georgia Tech’s run Sunday with a 76-65 win.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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