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South Carolina rolled out its usual five starters on Friday against Norfolk State — and none of them checked into the game without first greeting sophomore forward Sania Feagin.
As starting lineups are announced, USC players form two lines either near the Gamecock bench or in front of the tunnel in Colonial Life Arena. The lively Feagin has stood at the end of the lines all season long to execute their signature, customized handshakes that provide a boost before stepping onto the court.
“I’m a people person, so it’s really easy for me to match people’s energy, or match people’s demeanor,” Feagin said.
It was Feagin’s on-court energy that helped lift South Carolina in a 72-40 win Friday against the Spartans in the team’s NCAA Tournament opener.
Feagin checked in for the first time in the third quarter and scored six unanswered points for the Gamecocks. South Carolina had the lead at the time but was struggling from the field. Feagin finished with nine points in 13 minutes on 4-of-5 shooting.
“Coach (Dawn Staley) always says, ‘When your number’s called, go out there and be ready to do what you know how to do,’ ” Feagin said. “And I felt like I just went out there and did what I knew how to do.”
Feagin’s role on the team is visible, even when she’s not logging minutes.
She is often seen dancing when around her teammates. She’s known for her energetic personality, making her a prime candidate for leading the opening dances.
“If you see me, if you know me, you know that I’ve always been dancing,” Feagin said. ”So no matter what, when I see them dancing, I’m like, ‘Oh, we can do that in a handshake.’ And then we just pick it up and we just do the handshake.”
The signature lineup dance is Feagin’s move with Boston, dubbed the “Irish Jerk.”
The move came about in practice and the two were figuring out what to do. Senior guard Olivia Thompson suggested they emulate the “jerk” dance made famous by the New Boyz in the late 2000s. They then decided to fold their arms and do the move side by side.
“I put my hands (on my arms) and they were like, ‘Literally do that,’ ” Boston said.
For Feagin, creating the handshakes comes naturally. She’s able to get a feel for what her teammates like to do and how to make a fitting routine for them based on what they can do.
“It’s constant energy,” senior guard Brea Beal said. “No matter the day she’s having, no matter the day I’m having, she’s always there. You need that on a team.”
Beal and Feagin do a routine dap before getting into their dance, where they do two quick side steps in different directions.
“I feel like a lot of the dances are motivated by social media,” Beal said. “It’s just a popular dance, and something simple that I could do because I’m not a dancer.”
Feagin was the No. 4 player nationally in the Class of 2021, and was a member of the McDonald’s All-American team.
She’s shown signs of progression in practice. She’s known as a strong scorer among her teammates, and Staley said she took strides in her development from last year to this season.
Staley also said, though, that Feagin knows she needs to add to her defensive abilities on the other side of the ball.
“Domination is a process, and it’s a process that we’ve journeyed with Aliyah,” Staley said. “And it’s sort of the same thing (with Feagin).”
South Carolina will look to Feagin to continue providing a spark both in the locker room and on the court.
The team has three post players on its roster who are seniors, so Feagin’s production will be key moving forward.
“I think she’s definitely finding her voice,” Boston said. “Sania’s just continuing to dominate each day she shows up to practice, and I think it’s showing in the games as well.”