S. Carolina gets 1st All-American

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- South Carolina guard Tiffany Mitchell wasn't quite aware of how prestigious the WBCA Coaches' All-America team was until she looked around her Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.

"This is the real deal," Mitchell said at the announcement of this year's WBCA team. "It's kind of hitting me now."

The 10-member team dates to 1975, and this year half of the honorees represent the two undefeated squads who are competing in the Women's Final Four. UConn's Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, and Breanna Stewart joined Notre Dame's Kayla McBride and Jewell Loyd as honorees. The Huskies are 38-0, the Irish 36-0.

Other Final Four participants on this WBCA team are Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike and Maryland's Alyssa Thomas. The others honored were Baylor's Odyssey Sims, Nebraska's Jordan Hooper, and Mitchell.

Stewart, Loyd and Mitchell are all sophomores, the rest of the All-Americans are seniors.

"I'm kind of taking it all in; I'm a little overwhelmed with all these seniors around," Mitchell said. "For the coaches to notice me this season and see the work I've put in, it's a big deal to me. And it's motivation to me to get back here the next two years."

Mitchell hopes she'll have her team with her at the Final Four next season in Tampa, Fla. The Gamecocks were the No. 1 seed in the Stanford region, but lost in the Sweet 16 to North Carolina. The Gamecocks won the SEC regular-season title outright for the first time this year, and Mitchell is the first South Carolina player ever picked to the WBCA's All-America team.

So it was a breakthrough season for coach Dawn Staley's program. Mitchell said it was also a learning experience that the Gamecocks -- who bring back all their starters and top reserves -- can use for next year.

Going into the 2013 offseason, South Carolina was trying to figure out how to replace its senior losses. But with all key players back, the Gamecocks will have a different mindset preparing for next season.

"We know what to expect now," Mitchell said. "But the competition is only going to get better. People are going to play their best against us now. There will be more a target on our backs the whole season."

If there's one team that is always used to facing that, it's UConn. The defending national champion and overall No. 1 seed, UConn has had its players be a staple of the WBCA honors.

In all, 18 Huskies have been selected to the WBCA All-America team 31 times. Both Dolson (2013) and Hartley (2012) were past honorees.

It's the third time that the WBCA team has included three UConn players. It happened in 2002 with Sue Bird, Swin Cash, and Diana Taurasi. And in 2009, with Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery, and Maya Moore.