COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Growing up, A'ja Wilson had a lot of dreams.
From becoming an author and an illustrator to becoming a football player, Wilson's dreams varied when it came down to what she wanted to be when she grew up. But Wilson never imagined in her wildest dreams that she'd come away with so many accolades including the Naismith Trophy for being the women's college basketball player of the year.
"This is amazing," Wilson said about the Naismith Trophy presentation at Colonial Life Arena Monday afternoon. "When I saw the graphic and the flyer go up on Twitter, I was like 'Wow! All of this is for me?' So, it's a blessing just to kind of bring the state together one last time in front of Colonial Life before I graduate. It's a great thing."
Needless to say, Wilson's choice to play basketball worked out just fine. Part of that can be attributed to the players she watched and admired growing up. For the consensus national player of the year, former Los Angeles Sparks star Lisa Leslie and current Sparks star Candace Parker were the ones who set the bar for her.
"I actually got both of their jerseys," Wilson said. "Those were the two women I really looked up to. I loved the way, not just how they played, but the way they carried themselves. Candace Parker at Tennessee, I loved her. She just was always her own person from the baby hair to the sweatpants to the dunking and Lisa Leslie was the same way. She's a girly girl on the court, the way she carried herself, and she also had a lot of oomph to her game. Those two women were my role models growing up.
Parker and Wilson could have something in common following Thursday's WNBA Draft. The two college basketball icons could be the first overall pick in the WNBA Draft. Wilson, however, will likely be the first overall pick for the Las Vegas Aces this year. Having the honor to be the first player to be selected in the draft would mean a great deal to the three-time SEC Player of the Year.
"I think that would just kind of be the cherry on top of everything," Wilson said. "All your hard work has really paid off. That's something that I've probably dreamed about as a young girl – not only being the number one high school player or the number one collegiate player but now being the number one player in the draft.
"We play in a league in the NCAA that is filled with great players. I mean phenomenal women. Just to kind of be listed as the top, it's crazy to think about. So, it would just be a blessing. I don't know what's going to go through my head while I'm up there. Probably I hope I don't trip. Other than that, I think I would just take it all in."
Of course, the draft is one of several events that has been on Wilson's calendar. The other big event happens on May 12. That's the day Wilson graduates from USC.
"That is the top of the top," Wilson said. "I really just want to graduate and get my diploma and walk across the stage and take it all in. I think that's going to be kind of the icing on the cake. I came here not just to win and to play basketball but to graduate in a great program like our journalism program. It's great."