Te-Hina Paopao to return to South Carolina for final year

Senior guard Te-Hina Paopao will return to South Carolina for her fifth and final season of college eligibility, she announced on social media Monday.

Paopao, who averages 11.5 points per game for the undefeated Gamecocks, has flourished under coach Dawn Staley in her first season with the team after spending her first three at Oregon. She has emerged as the top 3-point shooter in women's Division I basketball, making a career-high 48.6% of her shots from beyond the arc through 28 games.

Paopao's shooting and poise as a veteran leader have been a massive boon this season for South Carolina, an even more dominant team on both ends this season compared to last, when they boasted five eventual WNBA Draft picks.

The NCAA granted players who participated in the 2020-21 season a fifth year of collegiate eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Gamecocks, winners of the 2017 and 2022 national titles, are the only remaining undefeated team in all of Division I basketball and just completed their second straight regular season without a loss.

All three of the Gamecocks' seniors can return in 2024-25, including projected early-Round 1 WNBA pick Kamilla Cardoso. Even if Cardoso goes pro, with South Carolina's depth and talent and now the return of Paopao, the Gamecocks could very well be early favorites to win the 2025 title as well.

Their young core includes junior Bree Hall, sophomores Raven Johnson, Ashlyn Watkins and Chloe Kitts, as well as freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley.