Elysa Wesolek beamed with pride as she and about 70 other South Carolina student-athletes gathered for the senior annual ring ceremony. She posed with fellow Gamecock women’s basketball graduates Laeticia Amihere and Victaria Saxton for a photo in their caps and gowns.
Amihere and Saxton will both return for another season with head coach Dawn Staley’s reigning national champion squad — Amihere graduated a year early, and Saxton took the extra year afforded to her by the NCAA’s relief policy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wesolek plans to take the extra eligibility, too, but her academic goals have placed her on a different path than the one at USC.
Wesolek, who majored in public health at South Carolina, is looking to complete a master’s program in nutrition, something USC doesn’t offer. She said that factored into her decision to enter her name into the transfer portal after the 2021-22 season’s conclusion.
“I wasn’t ready to hang up the jersey yet,” Wesolek told The State. “I think one more year will do me good.”
The 6-foot-1 forward from Charleston came off the bench in all four of her seasons at USC, averaging 3.4 minutes across 21 appearances last year.
Wesolek scored a career high 10 points as a freshman in a rout of ETSU and stayed around to earn a national championship as a senior. One month after the NCAA tournament victory, she said it still didn’t feel real.
“Mixed feelings and emotions about (winning the championship),” she said. “Just at a loss for words still.”
Now graduating, Wesolek said she is still in celebration mode, walking around thinking Oh, I’m a national champ.
Once committed to play basketball for Western Kentucky, the espnW three-star prospect was swayed to stay closer to home and play for Staley’s team.
Wesolek said she still has a great connection with Staley after the season concluded, and she doesn’t expect that to change once she goes to another school.
“To this day, she’ll still contact me, ask me anything or tell me anything,” Wesolek said. “Love her. It’s one of those relationships where it’s gonna last forever.”
Wesolek’s toughest goodbye will be her best friend LeLe Grissett, who exhausted all of her eligibility after coming back to South Carolina women’s basketball for her fifth year this season.
“We’re always hanging out with each other,” Wesolek said. “I don’t have to talk to her every single day, but (we) just pick up the phone like, ‘Oh, hey, how are you doing? What’s up?’ She’s always gonna be there.”
As for now, Wesolek said she is working out and figuring out where her next opportunity will lead her. But until then, Wesolek’s goals for her final season of college basketball are outlined.
“Whatever conference I go to, wherever that may be, just being first team — or even potentially player of the year of that conference,” she said.