A'ja Wilson is a 6-5 combo guard from Columbia, South Carolina who plays for the Palmetto 76ers AAU program. Her size and athleticism make her one of the most sought after recruits for the class of 2014.
A’Ja Wilson loves cartoons, dancing and is a self professed girly-girl. “I like wearing pearls and I’m addicted to Phineas and Ferb”, says the rising junior from Columbia SC with a big smile.
The cartoon character most college coaches have in their heads for Wilson, though, is a super hero, as the 6-6 wing is one of the most sought after players in the 2014 class. With her combination of size, speed and athleticism, she has the potential to elevate any team to another level.
You want proof? In three pool-play games with the Palmetto 76ers at Basketball on the Bayou, Wilson put up 27, 31 and 18 points -- and she would have had more in the third game but went to the bench with nine minutes remaining after tweaking her knee.
And despite being 6-6. the first thing you notice about Wilson is her ability to run the floor. She can rebound the ball and go coast-to-coast, easily navigating by smaller players who try to slow her down, and once she gets near the basket, she has a beautiful finger roll, a step-through, a jump-hop and a spin move. She’s much more agile than her height would suggest and because she attacks the rim, she also gets to the free-throw line. But scoring isn’t the only upside for Wilson, as she’s a huge shot blocking presence and has shown the ability defend in the paint without fouling.
And if that weren't enough, Wilson has an impressive vertical. She can dunk, even though she hasn't attempted one in a game, and she can catch a lob pass at the rim and score without bringing the ball down into traffic. If she does need to gather herself, she has a nice pump fake -- though there aren't many girls who are going to block a 6-6 player's shot.
During the 76ers game against KC Select White, Wilson and point guard Naomi Moore looked a lot like the Lob City duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers. Four times Wilson scored off a pretty lob pass from Moore (without the dunk of course, but that remains to be developed and it certainly plays out that way in the super hero version).
Wilson says she’s actively working on her upper body strength, which will help her ability to absorb physical contact and finish. She also must extend her shooting range and continue to improve her ball handling, which is already pretty impressive given her size.
Wilson has a great teacher in her father, who is 6-8 and played professionally in Sweden for 10 years. “He has helped me a lot in moving from the post to the wing,” says the young prodigy. “He says it’s all mental. If you’re not mentally strong, then you won’t be physically strong”
This past high school season, Wilson averaged a double-double of 27 points and 14 rebounds to go along with six blocks a game as a sophomore for Heathwood Hall Episcopal School. She helped guide her team to the semifinals of the state independent school 3A tournament and was the independent school player of the year for the second straight season. (South Carolina recruit Asia Dozier, a senior from Spring Valley, was the public school player of the year.)
As for her future, Wilson was tight-lipped about schools she is considering. Her AAU coach, Jerome Dickson, who is also an assistant coach for Heathwood Hall, says she’s had offers from every major program in the country and has already visited a number of ACC and SEC campuses. A’ja says she won’t commit early, and plans to take the recruiting process slowly and make a decision with her family next year.
The real life script Wilson wants to write is to be one of the best, “ I want to go to the highest level you can be, I want to win gold, I want to be an Olympian. That’s my goal.”
There’s nothing comic about that statement, and if Wilson continues to work hard, it can be reality.
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