South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley started the weekend by beating an HBCU. She ended the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament by paying homage to Cheyney State.
Staley used the visibility of the tournament to wear a Cheyney State jersey during South Carolina’s 76-45 win over South Florida in Columbia, SC. The Hall of Fame player and coach said the jersey was a gift, connecting her to the program that became the first and only HBCU to play for the Division I national title.
“One of my friends, text me, ask me if I wanted a jersey. They really didn’t even ask me to wear the jersey,” Staley said. “And I was like, of course. I like the jersey. I like what it stands for, I like that it’s Coach (Vivian) Stringer who just had her birthday on March 17th.”
Indeed, Dawn Staley has a personal connection with one of the stars on that legendary Cheyney era.
“Yolanda Laney who wore this — not this jersey — but she’s from Philly,” Staley said, pointing to the jersey. “She actually started leagues for us. Like when I was younger, we played at something called the DBL. She was very much a part of creating that league to give younger players an opportunity to just come together to play in the summertime. So fond memories of that.”
A Philadelphia native, Staley played her college ball at UVA. a decade after Stringer’s Cheyney teams put fear into the hearts of bigger programs. But it’s clear she has respect for what the program accomplished, led by its coach.
“Cheney State was the only HBCU to make it to a Final Four and for them to be led by Coach Stringer who opened doors that now I walked through… I mean it was a truly honor to wear this jersey to represent them.”