- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina coach Dawn Staley’s loaded offseason just got even busier.

Already leading the U.S. under-18 team this summer, Staley also was recently named assistant coach for the national team heading to the World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey in late September and early October.

When those games wrap up, she will return to campus and pick up fall workouts that start while she’s gone.

“I think I’ve finally got the schedule straight,” Staley said this week.

It all starts later this month when Staley heads to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a tryout camp, where 28 of the country’s best 18-and-under players (including Staley signee and top prospect A’ja Wilson) vie for a spot on the 12-person roster.

The team will reconvene for training camp in Colorado in late July and take part in the FIBA Americas competition that runs from August 6-10. Should the U.S. finish among the top four in the eight-team field, it will qualify for the world under-19 championships next year.

After the August competition, Staley will greet her Gamecock returnees from last year’s Southeastern Conference regular season championship team. Then she’ll be off again with the national team coached by Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma to pick the players who’ll chase that FIBA championship.

There’s a national selection camp at the U.S. Naval Academy in mid-September before an as yet to be finalized training camp. The defending world champions begin play against China on Sept. 27.

Staley was surprised and honored a couple of weeks back when Auriemma talked to her about joining the staff. She’s had a long history with USA Basketball, a fierce point guard helping the national team to Olympic gold in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

In Athens, Staley was honored as the United States’ flag bearer for the opening ceremonies, a memory she cherishes as much as any accomplishment of her hall of fame career as a player and coach.

Staley was also part of coach Anne Donovan’s staff at the 2008 Olympics, guiding that club to another gold medal.

“You find the strength and the willingness to be a part of USA basketball. It’s been a part of my life for more than half of my life,” Staley says. “Any time that impression is left on you and you get an opportunity to participate, you have to do it. It’s something that you don’t mind sacrificing for your country.”

Staley is looking to repeat last season’s landmark results at South Carolina. The Gamecocks won 29 games, second most in school history, won their first SEC crown and earned their first No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Tiffany Mitchell is the returning SEC player of the year and Alaina Coates was the league’s freshman of the year and co-sixth player of the year. The 6-foot-5 Wilson heads a recruiting class that includes three McDonald’s All-Americans. Staley has already talked to assistants Lisa Boyer, Nikki McCray and Darius Taylor. Boyer and McCray have been with the Gamecocks since Staley arrived in 2008. Taylor joined two years later.

“Our staff knows what to expect and what we need to implement,” Staley said. “We’re in very sure hands with our staff.”

Staley’s addition to the national team means, barring unforeseen circumstances, she’ll be on the bench at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Staley’s grateful that Auriemma thought enough of her coaching style to bring her on board. Auriemma’s not universally loved in the women’s game, but Staley likes his toughness and intensity at building championship teams.

“You’ve got to respect what he’s been able to do.” Staley said, “and I’m looking forward to learning from him.”

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