Kamilla Cardoso Named Most Outstanding Player Following NCAA Women’s Tournament Performance

Kamilla Cardoso has ended an outstanding NCAA women’s tournament and her college career with a special honor.

After leading the South Carolina Gamecocks to an 87-85 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes to help her team become the10th team to ever finish a season undefeated while giving the team its third NCAA championship in program history, the 22-year-old Brazilian college basketball star was awarded the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.

Kamilla Cardoso, The All-America player helped create a wonderful ending to a unique collegiate career with 15 points and 17 rebounds.

The Montes Claros, Brazil native wasn’t given anything during her time at South Carolina, it was earned.

The Gamecocks weren’t the most respected undefeated team, but people knew about how good this team was, and what the 6-foot-7 Cardoso brought to the game.

“They’ve got so many really good shooters that you can’t sit down on (Kamilla) Cardoso and collapse on her, because they got a lot of people that can knock down threes around her,” NC State coach Wes Moore said ahead of the Final Four. “Even as great a player as (Cardoso) is, you’ve also got to be concerned about the others.”

Cardoso dominated NC State with 22 points and 11 boards while making 10 of her 12 field goal attempts.

Kamilla Cardoso,Next up was Iowa’s coach Lisa Bluder, who spoke on how good Cardoso had been the day before the championship game.

“You know, Kamilla (Cardoso)’s been playing so well, (she) just runs the floor beautifully, rebounds incredibly, (and is) shooting the ball well,” Bluder said. “One person can’t stop her. There’s no way. I don’t know if two or three can stop her, to be quite honest. So I’m not going to give that up just to one person to have to try to handle that.”

But no one better than her own coach, Dawn Staley, had spoken on the second-half adjustment made in the semifinal win over NC State and alluded to her team needing to give Cardoso the ball if they are unsure of their next decision.

“If you want to score, have a plan. If you don’t, pass the ball. Give it to Kamilla, give her an easy look, knock down a 3 here or there when you’re open — very, very simple,” Staley said.

Her teammates would do so early on Sunday against Iowa, but it wasn’t gelling at first.

Cardoso’s performance in the first quarter could’ve been better. She still gave the rebounding presence needed with six rebounds in the period, but missed layups she’d usually make, and missed four of her first six field goal attempts.

It also didn’t help that Iowa went on a 10-0 run to start the game. And Caitlin Clark had already gotten going with 18 of her team’s 27 points in the period, breaking her own record for most points in a quarter in a national championship game.

If the Gamecocks were to finish on top, Cardoso had to mark her territory in the paint. And for the rest of the game, she did.

The Gamecocks started the second period on a 7-0 run, capped off by Cardoso completing a three-point play after she banked in the layup while fouled by Hannah Stuelke.

Cardoso grabbed seven points and made one block in the quarter, only missing one of her four field goal attempts.

“I think (I was) just trying to get the post-ups, and my teammates (were) finding me and giving me the ball, even though I didn’t shoot really good tonight,” Cardoso said. “I think just by — we just move the ball really good, and they were able to find me while I was open.”

The better Cardoso played, the better the Gamecocks played in holding the game in a chokehold.

She helped put the game away in the fourth, from blocking Addison O’Grady layup when Iowa tried to make a late game push, to out-rebounding (seven) Iowa’s whole team (four) in the last quarter.

With a little over 2:30 left in the game, Cardoso was fighting for position with O’Grady down low. Raven Johnson’s shot was a miss, and Cardoso’s position moved O’Grady back, and after Iowa’s Sydney Affolter jumped to fight for the ball with Cardoso, she fell to the ground and Cardoso simply banked in the layup to put the Gamecocks up eight.

Cardoso finished the game with 15 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks.

“It was amazing. I feel like I just wanted to get out there in this tournament and just play really well for my teammates, for my coaches, and to win the championship,” Cardoso said. “So I think that’s what I did.”

What makes this win for Cardoso even sweeter was her grind to becoming the Gamecocks’ best player. All three seniors on the roster this year were transfers, and Cardoso was the only returning player.

After winning Atlantic Coast Conference co-Defensive Player of the Year during her freshman year at Syracuse, Cardoso decided to transfer to South Carolina ahead of the 2021-22 season.

She had started 23 games for the Orange as a freshman and was starting from scratch as she competed with South Carolina’s “Freshies” class.

The “Freshies” were five players who came in together in 2019 and complied a record of 129-8 going into the 2023 Final Four. This included three of the 2023 WNBA Draft’s top 10 picks, featuring the No. 1 overall selection in Aliyah Boston.

Despite being the tallest player on the roster since her arrival, she stayed the path and waited her turn, never starting a game for the Gamecocks until her senior year.

Last season as a junior she averaged 9.8 points and 8.5 boards in 18.8 minutes a game, and of course played in the Gamecocks’ Final Four loss to Iowa.

Fast forward to her senior year and coach Staley gave the native Brazilian a chance to lead this team.

“I feel like, especially me, I’m international, and I don’t have my family here (in America). She’s just like a family for me, a family away from home, and I’m just so thankful to have her as a coach,” Cardoso said while crying.

Cardoso led the team this season in points (14.4) and rebounds (9.7) per game, along with tying for 13th in the nation in blocks (2.5). She averaged 18.5 points, 14.0 boards and 2.5 blocks in the Final Four games.

But most importantly, she capped off a unique college career with a second national championship and a Most Outstanding Player award, and cemented herself as one of the best players ever to come out of the South Carolina program.

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