COLUMBIA, SC — For one final time USC fans got to see A'ja Wilson at the CLA as she received the Citizen Naismith Trophy on Monday night. She has been in the garnet and black for four years but soon we'll see her put on another jersey.
A'ja is cemented in the USC record books, she won a national title, is the undisputed player of the year and she will go down as one of, if not, the greatest Gamecock of the all-time. What's next for the GOAT?The WNBA.
In a short time A'ja will be a rookie again. The WNBA draft is this Thursday in New York and A'ja is projected to be the number one overall to the Las Vegas Aces. The Aces are led by head coach and President Bill Laimbeer.
When she received her Naismith trophy A'ja became the 8th woman to win the award in high school and in college. Laimbeer is quite aware of his potential first pick's accolades. He compared A'ja to WNBA star Tina Charles but he does feel that A'ja has to add strength, consistency and more versatility to her game. After adding to her trophy collection to end her college career she talked about what she expects to do at the next level.
"Just trying to expand my game and be more consistent from the outside. I think everyone knows I'm pretty well in the paint so now I'm going to the pro level. The scout level here they're going to scout you. They're going to know your go-tos and they're going to know everything like the back of their hand. So I think my biggest thing is focusing on the counter move of it all," A'ja said. "How can I still be productive and be me but not necessarily doing my go-to things. I think that's how I want to expand my game and think Coach Bill will help me."
Fortunately for A'ja she has former teammates like Rookie of the Year Allisha Gray of the Dallas Wings, All-Rookie team pick Kaela Davis, also of Dallas and Indiana Fever guard Tiffany Mitchell who have experience and achieved as young pro players in the league.
A'ja also has a head coach in Dawn Staley who is a Hall Of Famer that had a great career in the WNBA and in the Olympics. Dawn has seen and done it all and knows exactly what A'ja needs to do in order to expand her game and be successful as pro and carry what she learned from college to the WNBA.
"I'm going continue to be me and continue to try to give her little tid-bits on how to perfect the pro game because it's evolving. You're going to see her play her rookie year but come her sophomore year in the league she's got to bring something different. She can't be the same player," Dawn said.
" I think that is probably the biggest difference in Allisha (Gray) being Rookie Of the Year. You got to bring something different. You got to listen to the veterans and then you got to play your game and once they do that they will not blend in and they will stand out."
Coach Staley always believes that A'ja is prepared to make an immediate impact at the next level because of her development at South Carolina.
"I just think A'ja is mentally strong enough to handle anything that's thrown at her out there on the basketball court because of the things that we put her through over the past four years and continue to do so. It just doesn't stop just because she's not here."
The WNBA Draft is this Thursday night in New York.