Former Gamecock Alaina Coates getting into coaching

Alaina Coates at South Carolina’s national championship parade in 2017

Alaina Coates at South Carolina’s national championship parade in 2017

Alaina Coates’ playing career isn’t over yet, but she is preparing for life when it does end.

The former South Carolina women’s basketball standout has her own foundation, the Alaina Coates FAAM Foundation, and is trying her hand in coaching this year at alma mater Dutch Fork High School.

Coates has spent this season as an assistant coach for the Silver Foxes’ girls basketball team, which won a first-round Class 5A playoff game against Goose Creek on Wednesday. Dutch Fork will play Stall in the second round Friday.

“I was a practice player and helped with the team in the past, but (Dutch Fork) coach (Faye) Norris asked me to be an assistant coach, so I jumped at the opportunity,” Coates told The State. “It is kind of cool because I’m a player-coach. At practice, I could be on the floor with them. I do the small things, get the water and reassure them if they are making mistakes. I’m trying to be an asset on the bench.”

During last week’s regular-season game against Lexington, Coates was seen talking to and cheering on players during the game, getting water for the girls in timeouts and providing encouragement.

“It is wonderful because they respond to her well,” Norris said. “She gets out there with them and makes them play hard. She is a good person to have. She doesn’t think it’s above her getting water, doing the little things and doing whatever she can do.”

This year has sparked a passion for possibly coaching down the road, Coates said.

“This is fun and I do see coaching in my future. … I do really enjoy being out there and giving my bits and pieces of wisdom,” Coates said. “I played Division I basketball, play professionally and feel like I have a lot to give. If they are willing to listen and have respect, I respect them. Then we come into the gym and get work done.”

Coates had a decorated career playing for Norris at Dutch Fork. She helped lead the Silver Foxes to back-to-back state championships in 2012 and 2013, including a 29-0 record during her senior season. She was a three-time all-state selection, a McDonald’s All-American and 2013 S.C. Gatorade Player of the Year.

The school retired her jersey a year after she graduated from high school.

Coates went on to play for the University of South Carolina, where she was a four-year standout for Dawn Staley and was on the Gamecocks’ first national championship team in 2017. She missed the team’s tournament run after an injury on senior night.

Coates was an all-Southeastern Conference selection in each of her four years, was a first-team SEC pick over her final two seasons and holds several school records. She still follows the program closely and was at Sunday’s win against LSU.

The Chicago Sky took Coates with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft. She’s battled injuries in her pro career and has played with five different WNBA teams. She played eight games with the Indiana Fever last year and is currently a free agent.

Coates also has played overseas and spent time with the Galatasaray S.K. basketball team in Turkey last season.

“I want to play until I feel satisfied,” Coates said. “I feel I can’t put an age limit on it. As much as I would say, I’m not going to be 40 years old playing basketball. If my body still will let me do what I am doing until I’m 40, I’m going to keep on going. When I feel like stopping, I’m going to stop.”

Coates also stays busy with her foundation, which held a book drive at USC’s game against Florida on Thursday. She’s done several virtual book reading events during February for “I Love to Read Month,” and her foundation is building a miniature library for the Ronald McDonald house in Columbia.

The foundation also awards scholarships, including one in memory of Coates’ late father, Gary, and holds various events throughout the year.

“The foundation caters to the development of our youth, the family unit as a whole and uplift our youth in any way, shape or form,” Coates said.

Lou Bezjak is the High School Sports Prep Coordinator for The (Columbia) State and (Hilton Head) Island Packet. He previously worked at the Florence Morning News and had covered high school sports in South Carolina since 2002. Lou is a two-time South Carolina Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association.
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