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Laeticia Amihere: South Carolina’s not-so-secret weapon

South Carolina will be challenged almost nightly during conference play. Laeticia Amihere will be a difference maker for them against top teams.

South Carolina tips off conference play this week. The Gamecocks come into SEC play as the team to beat, a designation they have carried for 27 consecutive weeks and show no signs of letting go of anytime soon.

The SEC could be challenging for the reigning national champs, though. Ten teams enter conference play with double digit wins, and no team is below .500. Many of these teams have chips on their shoulders and things to prove. Beating South Carolina is likely high on their lists of goals for the season.

Only a handful of teams in the country can match the Gamecocks on paper, though. The only one that may come close in the SEC is LSU, led by Angel Reese, Flau’jae Johnson, and head coach Kim Mulkey. Other teams will have to play nearly perfect to have a chance against Dawn Staley’s squad.

Even with the talent difference, every game will be a test for the Gamecocks. Teams are going to throw everything they have at them. They’ll try to double team Aliyah Boston. They’ll do whatever they can to prevent Zia Cooke from catching fire. They’ll make Brea Beal prove herself as a shooter.

And sometimes, these plans will work. Sometimes, South Carolina will need a big boost from their role players.

Fortunately for them, they have a player on their bench that can provide anything they need any given night. A player that will be a big x-factor for SC this year, and that no team will have a perfect match for.

Laeticia Amihere has figured herself out, and is making it hard for other teams to do the same

Laeticia Amihere is one of the most unique talents in college basketball right now. The 6-foot-4 senior has played every position during her time at South Carolina, and has thrived at every one. She made a name for herself with national fans last year by playing point guard when Destanni Henderson was injured.

It took Amihere some time to settle in to the college game. But now, in her senior season, she is playing her best ball to date. In 11 games played this season, Amihere is posting career highs in points (7.4 per game) and assists (1.8 per game). She is also having her most efficient season, shooting a career best 54.1 percent from the field and  66.7 percent from the free throw line. Add in 1.5 blocks and a steal per game and it’s easy to see how fascinating a player Amihere is.

The numbers don’t necessarily pop out of the page on a stacked team, but this season has seen Amihere at her most consistent and comfortable. Part of her success stems from motivation brought on by tragedy — Amihere lost her brother and grandmother this year — and embracing her positionless fit. Playing with the Canadian national team helped Amihere tremendously, too.

In years past, there had been instances where Amihere didn’t seem to know where she fit on the court. Now, she fits anywhere and everywhere, seamlessly. Embracing her own versatility has allowed Dawn Staley to use her in a variety of situations without concern or doubt. She has been one of Staley’s most consistent players this season.

Laeticia Amihere: The film is even more impressive than the numbers

When discussing a player like Amihere, the numbers alone rarely do them justice in terms of displaying their talents. Players that impact the game in such a variety of ways typically don’t post big numbers, but always stick out on film.

Amihere and Staley is a perfect marriage of player and coach, too. The strongest areas of Amihere’s game match up with Staley’s areas of emphasis for her team.

Per Synergy, South Carolina has 258 transition possessions this year, and they score 1.016 points per possession. Amihere has 27 such possessions with an even better 1.185 points per. 19 of her possessions have come as the ballhandler, an impressive number for a player of her height. She looks to push the pace every chance she gets, with many of those opportunities coming after defensive boards, blocks, or steals like this one.

She also thrives as a playmaker in transition, using her impressive court vision to find teammates running with her. Amihere masterfully reads the defense to find the open shooter as Stanford focuses on the paint on this play.

In the half-court, Amihere has shown the ability to coexist in South Carolina’s bully ball lineup, largely due to her ability to throw entry passes to their bigs, who are always the first option. Sometimes, it looks rather normal:

Sometimes, it happens in a way that only Amihere can make happen:

Driving, drawing, and dishing over the top is not an easy sequence to complete. There aren’t many players that can do that as cleanly as Amihere does. There are even fewer that can do it at her size. Amihere gets after it on the offensive glass, using her length and athleticism to overwhelm, well, pretty much every player matched up against her.

South Carolina is the best offensive rebounding team in the country, per Synergy. They get put backs on 13.8 percent of their possessions, and score 1.126 points from them. While Amihere has only accounted for seven of these possessions, she scores 1.143 points per possession when she gets there. More often than not, her offensive boards lead to resets, but when she’s able, she goes back up through, around, or over whoever is in her way.

Sometimes, entire teams can’t stop her on the offensive glass.

Defensively, Amihere can do it all. She provides the ultimate versatility, constantly switching matchups. Staley rarely uses a zone, meaning each player on the court must be ready to stop their opponent with minimal help. Most 6-foot-4 players would struggle with smaller guards or quicker forwards, but Amihere does not.

Her defensive abilities are important for a team with such a dominant defensive identity. She adds an extra layer of switchability and length to a team that already has incredible amounts of both.

Wherever South Carolina ends up this year, Laeticia Amihere will be a huge part in getting them there. The SEC looks like a gauntlet, and the NCAA Tournament will be even harder. Regardless, no team can match what she brings, and South Carolina will need it every night. Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke will (rightfully) have the biggest spotlight, but Amihere will still shine to everyone watching.

Denise T. Jones

Denise T. Jones is a passionate sports enthusiast with a knack for capturing the electrifying essence of the sporting world. As a dedicated sports news writer for AccessTV.co, Denise brings her unparalleled love for sports and her adept storytelling skills to deliver captivating and insightful content to readers worldwide. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of various sports disciplines, Denise ensures that her articles provide comprehensive coverage of the latest events, matches, and developments in the sports realm. Whether it's the thrill of the game-winning goal, the drama of a nail-biting finish, or the heartwarming stories of triumph against all odds, Denise encapsulates it all with eloquence and precision. Denise's journey in sports journalism has been marked by her unwavering commitment to accuracy, integrity, and excellence. Her ability to blend statistical analysis with compelling narratives sets her apart as a trusted voice in the industry. From the adrenaline-pumping action on the field to the strategic maneuvers off it, Denise brings every aspect of the sporting world to life through her writing. With a finger on the pulse of the sports scene, Denise T. Jones continues to inspire and inform readers with her dynamic and engaging sports coverage on AccessTV.co.

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