Gamecocks bolster point guard plan for K-State with Destanni Henderson healing up

·3 min read
Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.com

A veteran member of the South Carolina women’s basketball team could be out for the Gamecocks’ next matchup against Kansas State. That would leave head coach Dawn Staley with a major piece to fill in Friday night.

Destanni Henderson, USC’s stalwart at point guard who’s played the most minutes of any Gamecock this season, is “day to day” as she nurses an undisclosed injury, Staley said Thursday.

Henderson played 16 minutes in South Carolina’s 79-42 win over North Carolina A&T on Monday and checked out of the game with 0:36 to go in the second quarter. After the game, the senior preseason All-SEC second team selection wore a compression sleeve on her left leg.

Henderson was at South Carolina’s practice Thursday, riding an exercise bike during the portion open for media viewing. Staley offered few details on Henderson’s participation.

“She did some things (in practice),” Staley said Thursday. “She’s here, she’s got her practice stuff on.”

This season, Henderson leads the Gamecocks in assists (36), steals (14) and made 3-point shots (14). She averages 12.5 points per game, third-most on the team.

Henderson’s absence would leave South Carolina thin at the true point guard spot. Freshman Raven Johnson, Henderson’s initial backup and the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2021, suffered a season-ending knee injury in USC’s second game of the year Nov. 12 against South Dakota.

Staley said she would take a committee approach behind Henderson following Johnson’s injury, and the strategy still stands now that Henderson’s status is more uncertain.

Versatile forward Laeticia Amihere along with guards Zia Cooke, Saniya Rivers and Destiny Littleton are Staley’s top candidates in the rotation behind Henderson.

Since Johnson’s injury, Amihere has taken on many of Henderson’s responsibilities when she isn’t on the floor. At 6-foot-4, Amihere’s length can cause problems for opposing point guards. She’s also quick in transition, a factor Staley likes.

“With Laeticia, she’s a go, go, go,” Staley said. “You’ve got to be able to play fast to slow, slow to fast, and understand it. But I like fast, I do, because we’ve got a fast team. She gives us a different dimension than even having (Henderson).”

Staley said the main difference between a true point guard and a player simply able to bring the ball up court is knowledge of when and where. She’s working to teach these roles to the Gamecocks’ point guard committee members while balancing it with what they naturally do best as players.

With a freshman like Rivers, it could be most beneficial at times to let her get comfortable as a wing rather than asking her to run the point, Staley said.

“Rivers is just trying to figure it out,” Staley said. “Sometimes putting her at the point guard position, you lose all the greatness that she brings to the table because she’s thinking about what play to run — ‘How do I just fit in?’ ”

Staley said it’s probable Amihere, Cooke, Rivers and Littleton will all have some playing time at point guard Friday. Whether or not Henderson will be fully available for the matchup against Kansas State is yet to be determined.

Regardless of Henderson’s status, Amihere has played the point guard role before and knows she can step in for the Gamecocks. She said she’s familiar with handling the ball and believes the team is equipped to adapt to any changes.

“I’m just ready to do whatever coach needs me to do for the team,” Amihere said. “It’s definitely a different position for me, but I like my ability to push the ball up the floor.”

Gamecock basketball: What time, what channel?

The Gamecocks (8-0) tip off against Kansas State (7-1) as part of the Big 12-SEC challenge Friday at 7 p.m. in Colonial Life Arena. The game won’t be televised, but will be available for streaming on SEC Network Plus.

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