Watch for the Women of Troy


Decades ago, the Women of Troy reached the pinnacle of women’s college basketball, winning back-to-back NCAA championships in 1983 and 1984.

Along with those two championships, USC captured five Pac-10 conference titles and appeared in four Final Fours, while also laying claim to some of the best women’s basketball players in the world in Cheryl Miller, Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson and Cynthia Cooper.

Miller (the older sister of former NBA star Reggie Miller) certainly got her fair share of the family’s basketball genes, as she finished her USC career as the all-time lead scorer and rebounder.

Before becoming an Olympic and WNBA star, Leslie set Pac-10 conference records for scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.

Thompson was a three-time All-American at USC and the first-ever player drafted by the WNBA and is currently the WNBA’s leading scorer.

Cooper ranks eighth all-time on USC’s scoring list and fifth in assists, and helped lead the WNBA’s Houston Comets to four consecutive titles.

Although it might be difficult to live up to the accolades of its predecessors, the USC women’s basketball team did not get the short end of the stick when it comes to talent and the program is on the rise once again.

The Women of Troy (15-8, 7-5) have showed glimpses of their potential, beating then-No. 22 Gonzaga in their home opener, then-No. 17 Georgia and taking then-No. 4 Xavier to the wire on the road.

More importantly, they’ve defended their home court, as they currently boast an 8-2 record at the Galen Center.

With just six games remaining in conference play and the Pac-10 tournament waiting after the regular season ends, the Women of Troy have a realistic shot at getting to 20 wins, which is the measuring stick for teams looking to punch their ticket to the Big Dance (according to ESPN, USC is currently slated to be a No. 8 seed).

Though a lot of people might not know about the success of the women’s basketball team this year, the Women of Troy have quietly put together a solid showing under second-year USC coach Michael Cooper.

Junior guards Briana Gilbreath and Ashley Corral both entered as freshman in 2008, and now both hold places in the USC record books.

Both also recently surpassed the 1,000-point scoring mark for their careers, becoming the 22nd and 23rd players respectively in USC history, to reach that feat. Corral also became the Women of Troy’s all-time three-point leader.

If not plagued by injuries during her time at USC, redshirt senior guard Jacki Gemelos might very well have put together a career similar to that of some of the greats before her. Heralded as the nation’s No. 1 recruit out of Stockton, Calif., in 2006, her court instincts, ball-handling ability and shooting stroke make her one of the most complete players on the team.

And now, healthy for the first time in her career, Gemelos is averaging just under 12 points per game.

Senior center Kari LaPlante holds down the middle for USC, providing an interior presence that earned her a Pac-10 All-Defensive honorable mention last season.

Sophomore forward Christina Marinacci earned a Pac-10 All-Freshman honorable mention last season and has proven to be a reliable source both starting or coming off the bench.

And to bolster the front line, Cooper brought in freshman forward Cassie Harberts, ranked the No. 2 power forward in the nation out of high school. Harberts is currently the only USC player to start in every contest this year, and has recorded two double-doubles in her young career.

Even former All-American guard Stefanie Gilbreath is finally healthy and has been a welcome addition to the Women of Troy this season.

With a total of six All-Americans on its roster, USC is certainly not lacking in talent, and with a core group that has been together for a couple years, a run to the NCAA tournament this year and consistently into the future is not a far-fetched idea.

Adding to an already talent-laden roster, Cooper has also managed to pull in two ESPN 100 recruits and McDonald’s All-Americans in Alexyz Vaioletama (Fountain Valley, Calif.) and Ariya Crook-Williams (Long Beach, Calif.) for the 2011 season.

Like the all-time greats before them who paved a path of success, the future for USC looks bright.

For a program so used to success, it’s about time that the Women of Troy are back on the rise.

Although we all know their male counterparts have struggled with consistency issues this year and have almost entirely eliminated their chances of dancing in March this season, the Women of Troy might be the ones representing the cardinal and gold at the Big Dance this year and beyond.

Here’s hoping they make it.

“In The Zone” runs Thursdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Trevor at trevor.wong@usc.edu.