THERE ARE ALWAYS RUMORS AND LAST-MINUTE THOUGHTS.
In this case, there is only mystery.
Top-ranked national recruit A’ja Wilson will announce her college decision Wednesday and, as of Tuesday night, nobody had a clear handle on where she is going. Wilson never has named a favorite throughout her recruitment process and that stood true on Tuesday.
“I am thinking a lot about one school, but I haven’t informed anyone,” Wilson said. “This time tomorrow, I’ll have the school. I’m really thinking and praying about it a lot.”
It makes Wednesday’s ceremony at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School one of the most anticipated recruiting decisions in recent memory, since no school has emerged as the team to beat and Wilson has kept what she’s thinking to herself. ESPNU will be on hand to broadcast parts of the ceremony; the network will start at 3 p.m., cut back to the studio and around 3:20-3:30, cut back live to the school, where Wilson will pick.
The finalists are national champion UConn, SEC heavyweight Tennessee, a talent-rich North Carolina team and the hometown school also stocked for the future, South Carolina. According to Wilson’s father, Roscoe Wilson, there will be no elaborate or dramatic choice; the cameras will zoom in, the on-air talent will ask and she’ll name a school.
Which one still has everybody guessing.
“We haven’t asked her,” Roscoe Wilson said. “If she has, she hasn’t let on to us. We know that, at some point before Wednesday, we’re going to talk. I just think that’s the way she wants to do it.”
One of her closest friends, Dreher High guard and USC signee Kaydra Duckett, likewise said that she has no idea where Wilson is going. Despite Duckett’s friendly jibes and serious conversations with Wilson about joining her in what’s already a star-studded Gamecock recruiting class, Wilson has kept her privacy about what she’s going to do.
“I think the biggest thing is, no matter how bad I want her to come to USC, she has to make a decision she feels comfortable with,” Duckett said. “She’s handling it well. She hasn’t discussed it with me, but I know that she’ll make the right decision for her at the end of the day.”
No college coaches had been informed of a decision on Tuesday, nor are expected to be at the ceremony today.
Whatever school she picks, the process is drawing to a close. Since she was anointed the top prospect of the recruiting class, Wilson has faced an everyday barrage of phone calls, texts, Tweets and Facebook messages from coaches, past and present players and fans.
“Once it calms down, I think it will be a lot better for me and my family,” she said. “A lot of weight is going to be lifted off my shoulders.”
Wilson and her parents have managed to come through it well, not worn to a frazzle and making sure she still had time to be a normal 17-year-old girl. Roscoe Wilson said that some aspects of life won’t change – after today, Wilson will still improve her game.
“We’ll work with the trainer until she goes to school, then that school and that staff will take care of her,” he said. “That she’s had a chance to watch these schools in the NCAA tournament helps a lot. I feel confident that we’ve taught her over the years, in her decision-making, how it’s going to be. What’s going to be the most help to her when she leaves basketball?”
It will be a relief on the family to not travel for a while. The Wilsons have gone to Colorado, Atlanta, Chicago and Russia in the past year.
“My God, yes,” Roscoe said. “The phone bills, the traveling, we went to Chicago, Atlanta, just for awards. It can be costly. But we were going to make our way to see her.”
Wilson is relieved the phone won’t be constantly ringing, although she has handled the past year better than many top recruits. Forever smiling, with a joyous disposition, Wilson has hurdled the attention.
It ends today. While she’ll, certainly, receive attention in college, it will be regulated, not the wild west of recruiting.
“Amazing,” she said of one word to describe the past year. “It’s really been amazing.”
WHO: A’ja Wilson, the top-ranked girls basketball recruit in the nation
WHAT: She announces her college choice between USC, UNC, UConn and Tennessee
WHEN: 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Heathwood Hall Athletic Center