COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH/AP) -- South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has something new to entice women's basketball players this fall -- her Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame trophy.
Staley returned Monday from a weekend of celebrations and ceremonies in Springfield, Mass., where she was inducted along with 11 other basketball greats. Staley was humbled by the honor and hopes she's set an example for young women looking to achieve big things in basketball.
"I'm going to be the same. It just adds instant credibility," Staley said.
Staley was honored with Rick Pitino, nine-time NBA All-Star Gary Payton, Guy Lewis, Bernard King, Jerry Tarkanian, Roger Brown, Dr. E.B. Henderson, Russ Granik, Richard Guerin, Oscar Schmidt and Sylvia Hatchell.
"I think any successful person credits the people who helped them along the way and I'm no different," Staley said at a Monday afternoon news conference in Columbia. "I always use basketball as a platform, to change lives, to get in doors I couldn't. But, mainly to help people in need."
Staley backed that up this past summer when she went on a 10-day tour of five African nations with President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, as part of a delegation assembled by the Clinton Foundation to see the progress being made on organization-sponsored projects.
Staley was asked by the WNBA if she'd attend and jumped at the chance. She spent time in Malawi visiting farmers learning how to add protein to their diet and Rwanda as people used water pouches to purify drinking water. She's talked with the Clintons extensively on the visit.
"Obviously, I came from a need-based neighborhood and people helped me along the way," Staley said.
As for basketball, Staley has big plans heading into year six with the Gamecocks, telling the Hall of Fame audience that if her players stick with her at South Carolina they'll be national champions.
The coach has led the Gamecocks to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and believes this honor will attract additional talented players to campus.
"I was just living out my passion," Staley said. "And I think if you live out your passion and you love something ,whatever it is, you're going to find your way to successes you would never believe."