PHOENIX, Ariz. — South Carolina basketball had two teams in the Final Four this year, but the reasons why Columbia, S.C., mayor Stephen Benjamin is thankful for the programs goes far beyond their on-court achievements.
“Dawn Staley is the ultimate community servant,” Benjamin said. “Whenever I have called on her to serve this community and I know it is the same for the sheriff, it is always there. She is the consummate community servant and she recognizes that she has been blessed with certain talents and resources. She is always giving those back to the community. She is a princess. We are just thankful to have her in Columbia, South Carolina.”
Staley founded a program called INNERSOLE, which provides new sneakers to homeless children or children in need. Staley, who is in her ninth year at South Carolina, was awarded with the Order of the Palmetto by former Gov. Nikki Haley for her work in the community. The Order of the Palmetto is the highest civilian honor given by the governor to people who have been of significant service to the state.
Staley’s South Carolina team won the 2017 Women’s NCAA Tournament. Martin’s Gamecocks were a surprise team in the men’s tournament, reaching the Final Four.
In the fall, Martin founded Martin’s Math Club to encourage students that learning math matters in life beyond just the classroom.
“Frank is a dear personal friend and neighbor,” Benjamin said. “He is just a class act. He is a good, genuine decent man who loves these young men he coaches. I think that Columbia is just thankful to have him.”
Columbia will honor both the men’s and women’s basketball teams for their achievements this season with a parade on Sunday, with Benjamin calling the city “the basketball capital of the United States” in recent weeks.
“Nothing but great things ahead for the Gamecocks,” Benjamin said.