Saniya Rivers to transfer from South Carolina Gamecocks women's basketball team

Freshman Saniya Rivers will transfer from the South Carolina women's basketball team, she said Thursday on social media.

Rivers is the third transfer out of Columbia -- Eniya Russell and Elysa Wesolek also have said they are leaving -- since the Gamecocks captured the 2022 national title earlier this month, but her exit is the most surprising.

A 6-foot-1 guard from Wilmington, N.C., Rivers was the No. 3 prospect in her class, per ESPN HoopGurlz, and the 2020-21 Gatorade National Player of the Year as a high school senior.

South Carolina boasted ESPN's top-ranked recruiting class in 2021 behind the commitments of Rivers, Bree Hall (No. 14 prospect), Sania Feagin (No. 4) and Raven Johnson (No. 2). (Johnson missed all but two games this past season due to a knee injury.)

Rivers played the third-most of any South Carolina reserves, averaging 2.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in 13.0 minutes in 27 appearances. She played meaningful minutes in the Gamecocks' national semifinal win over Louisville, coming away with three points, four assists, and two steals in 20 minutes.

"Thanks to Coach Staley and the rest of the coaching staff and program for affording me with the opportunity to win a national championship in my freshman year with this team. It has truly been an experience of a lifetime," Rivers wrote on social media. "With that being said, I will be entering my name into the transfer portal with 3 years of eligibility remaining to further pursue my academic and athletic career goals."

In addition to South Carolina, Rivers listed her top 12 schools during her recruitment as UConn, Florida State, Indiana, Notre Dame, Maryland, Duke, NC State, North Carolina, UNC Wilmington, North Carolina A&T and Tennessee.

Despite the departures, the Gamecocks will return four of their five starters from last season -- 2021-22 national player of the year Aliyah Boston, Victaria Saxton, Brea Beal and Zia Cooke - as well as key reserves Kamilla Cardoso and Laeticia Amihere. They also brought in Georgia Tech transfer Kierra Fletcher.

Starting point guard Destanni Henderson, whose career-high 26 points and defense propelled the Gamecocks over UConn in the national title game, was drafted by the WNBA's Indiana Fever earlier this week.