South Carolina forward A'ja Wilson celebrates after her team defeated Mississippi State in an NCAA college basketball championship game at the women's Southeastern Conference tournament Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina forward A’ja Wilson is perhaps standing taller than ever after a season in which and the defending national champions struggled.

The 6-foot-5 senior became the first three-time Southeastern Conference player of the year and set South Carolina’s career scoring mark while mentoring the next group of Gamecocks and thriving as the best women’s college basketball player.

Wilson, who was the No. 1 high school recruit, is a leading candidate to be named national player of the year.

“She has embraced her ambassadorship,” college basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli said.

At some point over the next few weeks, Wilson’s impressive college journey will end. She and the Gamecocks are seeded No. 2 in the Albany Regional. They’ll open Friday night at home against No. 15 seed North Carolina A&T.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley knows the emotions will flow as Wilson’s time in Columbia winds down.

“When a player has had that kind of impact on you personally and this program, you get a little emotional because you may not get another player like that ever,” Staley said.

Staley fought like crazy four years ago to keep Wilson, who lived about a half-hour from campus in Hopkins, close to home. She had to fend off the likes of UConn and Tennessee.

Wilson knew as a high school senior she wanted the challenge of helping South Carolina’s rising program achieve milestones it had not before, one she saw fulfilled amid the confetti and cheers after winning the national championship in Dallas last April.

Within days, the several starters on that team were gone. Alaina Coates was a senior and juniors Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray gave up their eligibility for the WNBA. Wilson’s role instantly changed into a teacher as well as main threat on the court.

“Shifting gears is never a hard thing for me,” …read more

Source:: Usatoday – Sports


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