So often in sports, a young talented player will have both hype and expectations thrust upon them. There have been many cases where those expectations are never met and the hype becomes a hollow sentiment. For Aja Wilson, that is not the case. She has gone from high school prodigy to college super star, and is currently on her way to being WNBA Rookie of the Year. No matter how high the expectations are, Wilson seems to surpass them, usually doing so with a big smile on her face. Women’s basketball is always fighting a battle to maintain a standard of relevance, and find its way into the spotlight. In Wilson, the WNBA has a young women with both the talent and personality to help it grow and lead it moving forward.
Aja Wilson: The WNBA’s Newest Superstar
Aja Wilson: A Gamecock Legend
There aren’t many pages in the South Carolina record books where Wilson’s name doesn’t appear. She was a force on the court from the moment she arrived on campus. Coach Dawn Staley was beginning to get her program headed up the ladder in Women’s college basketball. Having a local talent the likes of Wilson allowed her to skip a few rungs on that climb. With her addition to an already talented team, the Lady Gamecocks were instant contenders. Wilson could’ve gone to any school in the country as the nation’s number one recruit. After leading her high school to a state championship as a senior, she chose to stay home and play for the Gamecocks.
As a freshman, Wilson averaged 13.1 points, 6.6 boards and 1.7 blocks per game as she helped South Carolina reach the first Final Four in school history. Each season in Columbia she got more productive, despite becoming the opposing defense’s sole focus. As a junior she led the Gamecocks to a National Title, cementing her place as one of the school’s all-time greats. Winning is what she did best, helping Carolina to three SEC regular season championships and the National Title. She also helped the Gamecocks become the first team to win four straight SEC tournaments. As a senior she continued to raise her level of play. She averaged 22.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.5 blocks per game. Often facing double and even triple teams, she still couldn’t be stopped. At the end of her senior year she was named the National Player of the Year.
Number One Ace
The expansion Las Vegas Aces drafted Wilson with the number one overall pick. Much like in college, she was now expected to be the cornerstone of her franchise. Through 20 games of her rookie season, she has not disappointed. She is second in the league in scoring with 21 points a night, and third with 8.7 rebounds. Wilson had a then career-high 26 points and 12 boards as the Aces secured their first win in franchise history over the Mystics. A week later she had 35 and 13 with 3 blocks in an overtime win over the Fever. She has made the transition from college to pro ball look easy.
Wilson is not just effective because she is taller than most of her opponents. She added to her skill set each season in college, and has developed in to a potent post scorer. Whether she is down on the block or catching the ball on the elbow, she is equally effective. Her mid-range jumper continues to improve, making her all the more difficult to guard. Even at 6’4” she has the agility and footwork to weave around defenders and drive to the basket. Her soft hands and technique allow her to beat the defense when fronted in the post. Her strength and size can be tough to handle, and she is adept at finishing with both hands around the basket. The Aces currently sit at 8-12 on the year, but have won five of their last seven contests.
As stated earlier, Wilson has not only the skill, but the personality to eventually become the face of the WNBA. She is engaging in interviews; a great mix of honest, humble and polite. Being 6’4” with a bright smile makes it hard for a women not to be the center of attention. Wilson doesn’t seem to mind. She is also active on her social media, as younger athletes are now. Whether it’s videos of her dancing with teammates after the National Title victory in college or blushing when watching a video message from her favorite NBA player Blake Griffin, she seems to always be having fun.
Wilson made some national headlines last week when bringing up the pay gap between the WNBA and NBA players after LeBron James signed his $154 million contract with the Lakers. Despite getting some atypical chauvinistic responses, she handled her take on the matter with class. Wilson is already a legend in her home of Columbia, SC. She is now well on her way to becoming one of the best players and brightest personalities in the WNBA.