Dawn Staley couldn’t discuss who was in the crowd because of NCAA rules, but the worst-kept secret in town on Sunday was that top national recruit A’ja Wilson was attending the game as part of her fourth and final official visit. Wilson hasn’t been a stranger anyway, attending Thursday’s game hosting Ole Miss and coming to a few other games over the past year, but this time, it was an audition for the rest of South Carolina.
The Gamecocks and their fans did well.
With the neon T-shirts screaming “There’s no place like home” and one student bringing along his own personal “big head” cutout of Wilson, Wilson was bombarded with a sensory overload. Sitting behind the bench as USC played its best first half of the season and rose into undisputed first place in the SEC, Wilson broadly smiled when the student section twice broke into chants of “We want A’ja!”
It will be difficult to pull Wilson away from the other national powers that desire her – UConn, Tennessee and North Carolina can show Wilson trophies that stretch for miles – but Sunday was a big final push for Wilson. With Colonial Life Arena rocking, Wilson saw a team that’s rising despite its accolades – while the others are elite, no question, the day is soon approaching where USC joins them.
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No trophies? No problem. Wilson can help land the first one in Columbia.
Perhaps that’s the biggest pull of all.