Gene Sapakoff is the oldest, fastest, hardest-hitting sports journalist in S.C. As columnist at The Post and Courier he covers Clemson, South Carolina and other interesting things. He likes food and has won the prestigious Judson Chapman Award 3 times.

COLUMBIA — Laeticia Amihere can run with the best college athletes.

The South Carolina Gamecocks’ sophomore has been dashing from volunteer chores at Columbia food drives to helping out at the Transition homeless shelter.

She fought through the picks and screens of COVID-19 limitations to write Christmas letters for kids at Children’s Hospital.

Amihere certainly takes teamwork seriously, as she showed while registering voters and leading campus social justice initiatives.

The 6-4 sophomore from Canada isn’t a bad basketball player, either. She is averaging 6.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the No. 7-ranked Gamecocks going into their SEC Tournament opener on March 5 in Greenville.

But Amihere has an off-the-chart heart for kindness and action.

These are some of the best college sports stats in the state: Two full seasons at South Carolina, two times on the prestigious SEC Community Service Team, including the latest honor announced Feb. 24.

“It’s a pretty cool award because it’s service,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “It’s servicing other people, especially during a time when a lot of people need help.”

Amihere is inspirational, personable, encouraging, enlightening, committed, and can dunk.

That’s right. She slammed a basketball through a hoop at age 15. Soon after, the native of Mississauga, Ontario, located just outside Toronto, became one of the top prospects in the high school class of 2019.

The charitable path started much earlier.

‘I’m called to lead’

Amihere’s father and mother, Anthony and Georgette Amihere, are from the neighboring West African countries of Ghana and the Ivory Coast, respectively.

Lending a hand is an Amihere family thing.

Georgette is the point guard.

Her assist list includes arranging African cultural festivals within a diverse Mississauga community in which roughly half the population is non-white and 20 percent has ties to India. She is a special-needs teacher. She runs beauty pageants for plus-sized women.

Thanks, mom.

“When you grow up living that truth,” Laeticia said, “you want to model your life like that.”

Amihere, a graduate of Mississauga’s King’s Christian Collegiate High School, said faith is the other big part of her drive.

“I’m just being a servant,” she said. “I’m called to lead.”

Staley’s social justice efforts have made national news since George Floyd’s death while in the custody of Minneapolis police last May. Amihere appreciates every word, and she does her part.

Leading a campus-wide Zoom call on diversity was one step, lobbying for the university to change some building names another.

Basic awareness, Amihere said, is the key.

Amihere_Laeticia.jpg (copy)

Laeticia Amihere, a 6-4 native of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, just outside Toronto, came to South Carolina as one of the top recruits in women's college basketball in 2019. USC Athletics/Provided

Christmas spirit

A statue of former Gamecocks star A’ja Wilson was unveiled on campus in January. Another sign of progress is Amihere’s two-word answer when asked if there has been much blowback to a Black woman from Canada suggesting changes at an American institution.

“Not really,” she said.

Amihere is the first to say she isn’t the only South Carolina women’s basketball player interested in community service. It’s a caring bunch.

But she’s already looking forward to next Christmas and is figuring out how she can make things a bit better for kids at a hospital or adults at a homeless shelter.

“Growing up, Christmas was so big for me,” she said. “My family wasn't always able to afford the biggest gift. There was always something for us to do and something for us to have under the Christmas tree. Seeing how Christmas shaped me and shaped my family, I know a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to witness that.

“It feels good to know I’ve been a little bit of help.”

Add modesty to the long list of skills Laeticia Amihere displays on and off the basketball court.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff