Dawn Staley’s Cheyney jersey ‘means a lot’ to coach Alishia Mosley’s team

Cheyney University women’s basketball coach Alishia Mosley was doing some housework Sunday afternoon when she heard the phone ring.

A friend texted Mosley to turn on the TV. Dawn Staley, the legendary head coach of undefeated South Carolina, was wearing a Cheyney jersey on the sideline during the Gamecocks’ second-round NCAA tournament victory over South Florida.

“I’m thinking, ‘What?‘” Mosley told Yahoo Sports. “I put the game on my phone and zoomed in a little. I’m like, ‘OK, Dawn is killing it at Cheyney University!’”

Cheyney, the nation’s oldest HBCU, is located just over 30 miles west of Staley’s hometown of Philadelphia. Its former gymnasium was once home to dominant women’s and men’s basketball teams led by coaches C. Vivian Stringer and John Chaney.

In 1982, Stringer’s team participated in the first NCAA women’s tournament, advancing all the way to the national title game before falling to top-ranked Louisiana Tech. Cheyney is still the only HBCU to reach either the Women’s or Men’s Final Four, let alone the title game.

The blue and white #44 Cheyney jersey that Staley wore Sunday belonged to Yolanda Laney, mother of New York Liberty standout Betnijah Laney and one of the stars of the 1982 Cheyney team. Yolanda Laney coached Staley in a Philadelphia youth league and became close with her, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer story from last year.

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley wears a Cheyney University jersey during the Gamecocks’ second-round NCAA Women’s Tournament victory over South Florida on March 19, 2023, in Columbia, South Carolina. (Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports)

While Staley may have worn the jersey as a tribute to her friend and a tribute to a forgotten piece of Philadelphia basketball history, the gesture also meant a lot to Cheyney’s current players and coaches. Mosley said he texted all of his recruits Sunday afternoon and said, “Are you watching the game? Do you see what Dawn is wearing?

“It means a lot,” Mosley said. “When you get to the level she is at, you have the opportunity to shine a light on people who need it. I feel like she is illuminating us now.”

That beam of light is especially meaningful for Cheyney because of what his athletic department has endured. In 2018, the cash-strapped university withdrew from its league, relinquished its NCAA Division II status, and suspended many of its athletic programs. Women’s basketball survived the initial cutback, only to go on hiatus for a full two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mosley, a North Carolina native, came to Cheyney last March after serving as an assistant men’s and women’s coach at Division II Lincoln University. The Cheyney story appealed to Mosley, as did the opportunity to direct his own show for the first time.

While Cheyney went 2-10 in Mosley’s rookie season playing a collection of Division III and community college opponents, the first-year coach envisions restoring the program back to its former heights. Mosley encourages Philadelphia-area recruits who visit Cheney to look at the banners on the rafters and the trophy cases filled with memorabilia.

“That’s a big part of our recruiting strategy,” Mosley said. “All I’m trying to do right now is raise awareness of what Cheyney was and what he can be.”

There’s no better way to bring attention to Cheyney’s glorious past than Staley did on Sunday. Mosley said players and recruits were surprised to see someone of Staley’s stature wearing the blue and white Cheyney.

“How many other coaches would wear another school’s jersey while playing in the NCAA Tournament?” Mosley said. “I appreciate her for keeping our history alive.”

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