We've seen so much of A'ja Wilson over the years. She starred at Heathwood Hall and the Hopkins native went on to become a megastar for South Carolina. We always got to see the out-going, bubbly personality and infectious smile but there was something A'ja didn't want people to see.
Shortly after advancing to the Elite 8 the senior forward revealed to the world that she has dyslexia.
A'ja released an essay through the Player’s Tribune detailing her struggles with reading, finding out she had the learning disability as teenager and trying to hide it.
Over time she received the resources needed to aid her and she began to conquer her dyslexia. As she matured and grew more confident she realized, with her college career coming to an end, it was the right time for people to know about something she was once ashamed of.
"It’s lifted a lot of weight over my shoulders for people to understand and I think it’s a great feeling because it shows people that I am still human," A'ja said during Sunday's press conference. "I think people kind of tend to get caught up in the basketball A’ja and not understand that there’s a whole other side that they haven’t seen or met before. So I think it’s great feeling for people to know understand it’s real. It’s real such as a mental illness, such as learning disability, it’s real out here."
Her secret is now being openly used to positively effect others.
"To show that side of me to have people kind of see a different look and to understand there’s always a different side to student athletes. I think it’s something good and I see the tweets of people saying they go through it as well so it’s good to know you’re not alone in it."
In her Player’s Tribune piece A’ja said USC head coach Dawn Staley is like a second mother to her. Dawn has helped her conquer her fears and apprehensions about living with dyslexia and getting her out of her comfort zone to combat the learning disability.
The pair are very close and you can spot them having talks right after games discussing what just transpired on the court, how A'ja can improve or just having a good laugh. As a coach Dawn has done everything to make sure A’ja doesn't feel left out and gets all the information she needs to play at a high level.
"A'ja is so true to herself that if she doesn't understand something she will let you know. If I’m writing something on the board sometimes I just go over and over some of the stuff-I mean you have to take your time and make sure she has it," Dawn said. "If she doesn't she’ll let you know and if we have to scrap a play-we’ll scrap a play. She’s a big part of what we do and even if she wasn't we would take our time to make sure they understand. If you have one weak link you know people will take advantage of that. But A’ja is so true to herself that if she doesn’t understand something she’ll let anyone know."
A’ja is already regarded as the best player in the history of the USC women’s program and her courage to her battle with dyslexia really shows that how much of a leader she is on and off the court.