Joyce Edwards hasn’t even suited up for the South Carolina Gamecocks yet, but she already knows what she wants to achieve at the next level. The Camden (SC) High School star—and the No. 2-ranked player in the class of 2024—is a versatile, 6-2 forward who can knock down shots, finish at the rim, block shots on the defensive end and put up big time numbers. In the state championship game, she had a monster double-double of 27 points and 20 rebounds, as well as 6 blocks, to help lead the Bulldogs to their second consecutive 3-A state title.

But for Edwards, this is just the beginning. 

“When I go to South Carolina, my main goal is to just get on the floor, be a defensive player—because you can’t get on the floor without defense—and then sculpting my offense to be what the team needs,” she says. “I’m not coming in looking to be, like, the star player and none of that. I’m just trying to come in and do what the team needs and fit into my role.” 

She’s set to join a program that’s synonymous with winning. By the time we go to press, South Carolina has just posted back-to-back undefeated regular seasons, won its second SEC Tournament championship in a row, and is gearing up for March Madness as the No. 1 seed. It’s that prestige—as well as the legacy of Dawn Staley, now in her 16th season since taking over the program in ’08—that led Edwards to commit to the Gamecocks in the first place. After narrowing down her top three schools to SC, LSU and Clemson, Edwards was contemplating signing later in the signing period, and it was Dawn who she felt truly respected her decision.

“The way Dawn responded was completely different from everybody else. She was like, OK, why do you feel this way? I feel like it was really just the coaching. What Dawn said just hit me a little bit different than every other coach.” 

Over the years, Dawn has molded future WNBA legends, from the 2023 WNBA Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston to A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA champion and the 2023 Finals MVP, whom Edwards had a chance to meet when South Carolina beat Maryland this past November. Wilson even gave her some advice.

“[She] was talking about how when she came into South Carolina, and they had her starting,” Edwards recalls of their conversation, “and she came out the next game and did whatever she had to do. I feel like her transition from being more of a role player at SC to her having to be that more dominant player in the paint and take them to the national championship. Just the whole process and her mentality throughout and the progression she had through that, that’s one of the biggest things that I took away from it.” 

Edwards sees similarities in their games, too, and says her dad often compares her to Wilson. “Obviously, she’s left-handed, but she has the middy in the bag. She can drive, she can face up, she posts up. All those things that she does—obviously, I’m not doing it [at] as high a level as her—but I’m doing a lot of similar things at my age.” 

As she wraps up her senior year at Camden—Edwards also plays soccer, which she says has helped with her conditioning and footwork on the court—she’s already looking forward to the opportunities that await just 40 minutes away in Columbia. 

“I feel like for some players, it could definitely be intimidating,” she says. “But then I just remember that I play my best when I’m going against and playing with great players in practice and stuff like that. I feel like at South Carolina, with the competition I’ll be playing against in practice, like, these are WNBA legends. These people are about to go to the League and do great things. Going up against them in practice will just make me better, and hopefully when I show up in a game, I think I’ll be really prepared.”  

Deyscha Smith is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow her on Instagram and X, @deyschasmith.

Portraits by Kai McNeil. Follow him on Instagram, @thekaimac.


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