After a stellar college career, A’ja Wilson is first pick in 2018 WNBA Draft, already thinking about ways to improve her game
While it was no surprise that Las Vegas Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer selected A’ja Wilson with the team’s first pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft Thursday night, it was still an exciting moment for fans as the star center from South Carolina has not seen action since the Gamecocks were ousted from the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament on March 26.
In her final performance as a Gamecock, Wilson led all scorers in the contest against UConn with 27 points plus eight rebounds, finishing her collegiate tenure as South Carolina’s all-time leader in points with 2,369.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better addition to our franchise than A’ja Wilson,” Laimbeer said. “Her skill set is extraordinary. Her size, mobility, passing skills, defensive presence…you name it, she’s got it. A’ja has a desire to be the best player in the world, and we will work on her game to accomplish her goal.”
The 6-5 center swept every single player of the Year honor and won the Wade Trophy, the Wooden Award and the Lisa Leslie Award.
With her No. 1 selectin in the draft, Wilson became the Gamecocks’ first WNBA top pick and just the third Gamecock in any sport to be the first pick in a professional draft.
“It’s such a great feeling,” Wilson said on being the top pick. “It means a lot to me to just kind of cap off my collegiate career with this. This is a great class. Just to be at the top, [it] really makes my heart warm. I’m pretty sure you could see my heart pounding through my jumpsuit when [Lisa Borders] was announcing [my name]. This is a great feeling. The nerves are gone now. It’s truly a blessing.”
She is looking forward to playing against a former teammate of hers, Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray.
“I’m looking forward to playing against her. I probably won’t guard her if that’s technically a matchup. That’s my roommate and my best friend. I’m just going to love to see her in the league.”
Even with the hype of the WNBA draft at the forefront of her mind, Wilson is also focused on what she can do to expand her game to help her succeed as a pro. What does she think she needs to work on?
“Become very consistent with my outside jumpshot. I think people are really going to try to play me for the drive. They’re going to scout me like crazy. With me, it would just have to be being consistent and stuff like that.”
In the midst of celebrating, the Hopkins, S.C., native received a congratulatory message from her favorite player, Blake Griffin, after her selection.
The Aces will play two preseason games. First up on Sunday, May 6, the Aces host the Chinese National Team at Mandalay Bay Events Center at 5 p.m. ET. On Sunday, May 13, Las Vegas travels to Dallas to take on the Wings at College Park Center in Arlington. Tip time is 2 p.m. CT. The Aces begin the regular season on Sunday, May 20 at the Connecticut Sun at 1 p.m. ET. Las Vegas’ home opener is Sunday, May 27 at 5 p.m. ET.
- Nine Gamecocks all-time have been selected in the WNBA Draft, including five during head coach Dawn Staley’s tenure with the 2017 draft class of Alaina Coates (No. 2, Chicago Sky), Allisha Gray (No. 4, Dallas Wings) and Kaela Davis (No. 10, Dallas Wings) joining Aleighsa Welch (2015) and Tiffany Mitchell (2016).
- South Carolina now has seven first-round picks all-time with Mitchell (No. 9, Indiana), Jocelyn Penn (2003, No. 9, Charlotte) and Shaunzinski Gortman (2002, No. 9, Charlotte).
- Since Wilson joined the Gamecocks for the 2014-15 season, South Carolina posted a 129-16 record. That mark includes a 57-7 slate in SEC action to account for three SEC regular-season championships and one second-place finish, and a 44-13 record against nationally ranked opponents.
- Wilson was South Carolina’s first four-time All-American, including three seasons as a first-team selection, and four-time First-Team All-SEC choice, she is also the first three-time SEC Player of the Year in conference history.
- Wilson is the sixth SEC player taken at the top of the WNBA Draft and the first since Candace Parker (Tennessee) in 2008.
A’ja Wilson’s College Career Awards
- 2018 National Player of the Year (USA Today, espnW, Associated Press, USBWA, Basketball Times
- 2018 Citizen Naismith Trophy
- 2018 Wooden Award
- 2018 Wade Trophy
- 2018 Lisa Leslie Award
- 3x SEC Player of the Year – First in league history
- 4x First-Team All-SEC – Eighth in league history
- USA Basketball National Team Pool
- 4x All-American – three-time consensus first-team selection
- 2x SEC Tournament MVP (2017, 2018)
- 2017 NCAA Final Four MOP
- 2017 USA Basketball U23 National Team
- 2015 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year
- 2015 FIBA U19 World Cup Team – Gold Medal, Tournament MVP
- 2014 FIBA U18 Americas Cup Team – Gold Medal, Tournament MVP
- 2013 FIBA U19 World Cup Team – Gold Medal