COLUMBIA — Give Dawn Staley credit — she can even recruit ’em back to South Carolina.
Bianca Cuevas-Moore will be returning to the Gamecocks for her senior year after all, the Gamecocks announced on Friday. The fifth-year guard, who sat out last season due to a knee injury and announced on April 11 that she had signed with West Virginia, changed her mind.
“Bianca and I have had our ups and downs, but my love for her has never wavered,” Staley said in a statement, also referring to Cuevas-Moore as her “kryptonite.” “She is a fan favorite and a favorite of mine, and her return to our program is a reflection of her love for South Carolina, her teammates and her coaches.”
The mercurial guard, known for her speed, ability to perform when the Gamecocks really need it and her New York-bred temper, was a vital part of USC’s run to the 2017 national championship. When Alaina Coates hurt her ankle and was later declared out for the tournament, Staley went to her “speed” lineup, with Cuevas-Moore playing beside the point guard who took her starting spot (Ty Harris) as USC mixed two points, two shooting wings (Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis) and forward A’ja Wilson to present a lethal scoring punch.
Cuevas-Moore was hurt before last season started, but there was a chance for her to return until she suffered a setback and was declared out for the year. She had surgery in February, which made it curious that she would be ready to play another year no matter where it was, but then West Virginia announced it had signed her for her fifth season.
Five weeks later, that changed. Staley announced that she had another “birdie” flying into her nest on Thursday, her usual code for getting a recruit. She also teased that it wasn’t who USC might think, like some of the transfers the Gamecocks are still in line to get.
The announcement came at the end of the day Friday. Cuevas-Moore is the seventh guard among 13 current players for next year, with two scholarships open. That includes rising fifth-year forward Alexis Jennings, who exclusively told The Post and Courier last week that she still didn’t know if she would return to USC for her final season.
Cuevas-Moore’s scoring average is a mere 6.9 points over three seasons, but USC doesn’t get to the 2015 Final Four without her heroics against Florida State in the regional final. She also stabilized a roster in flux in 2017.