For over 20 years, they were the only two members of South Carolina women’s basketball’s most prestigious club.
Now, they’re welcoming in someone new, and they couldn’t be more excited to have her.
Since 1996, Sheila Foster and Shannon Johnson have topped the Gamecocks’ list of all-time career scorers, the only two in program history with more than 2,000 points. Foster tops the list at 2,266 points, and Johnson is not far behind at 2,230, which is also the school’s record for points in NCAA games.
Earlier this season, senior A’ja Wilson joined the pair in the 2,000-point club on Jan. 11 when she sank an early basket against Auburn. Ever since then, she’s moved closer and closer to passing Johnson and Foster’s career marks and displacing them as the most prolific scorers in USC history.
Against LSU on senior night on Feb. 22, Wilson passed Johnson. While a bout with vertigo cost her a chance to close in on Foster in the regular season finale against Tennessee, she came back in the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn., and passed Foster, making it official on Saturday in the semifinals against Georgia.
Both Johnson and Foster are glowing in their praise of Wilson as both a person and a player. Foster, a 1982 graduate and now a JV coach at Boiling Springs High School near Spartanburg, called Wilson a “scoring machine,” and Johnson, a 1996 graduate and now the head coach at Coker College, said the first time she saw Wilson play in high school, she knew she would be “amazing.”
And as for their scoring records, now surpassed by the 6-foot-5 forward, they don’t seem to mind too much.
“To be able achieve the things I achieved when I was at USC, but then to see a player like that to just come in and just dominate on the college level, she’s just a remarkable athlete. I’m just happy for her, and pulling down my record is just the beginning of everything she’s going to be able to do,” Johnson said.
“You know what? I had it for 35 years. Records are made to be broken,” Foster said before the SEC tournament. “I broke some in my day. And so if she breaks it, I’m ok with that. I had it for 35 years.”
They certainly don’t mind that Wilson is the one doing the record-breaking, as both say they have had cordial and positive interactions with her, despite not being particularly close.
“I remember one of the times after a game, I just walked up to her and said ‘Congratulations on the game.’ She was like, ‘Thanks Shannon, I really appreciate it.’ So she knew ... who I was,” Johnson said.
“She’s a great person. She knows who I am,” Foster added.
Both women added that Wilson had their votes for national player of the year, an honor for which she is currently the heavy favorite.
“I’m not going to say she put South Carolina on the map, but she’s definitely let everybody know the powerhouse South Carolina is, and she’s one of the starting pieces for that to happen, and I know she’s above and beyond the national player of the year,” Johnson said.
Foster, on the other hand, was highly complimentary of Wilson, but as a fellow post player and coach, she couldn’t help but add that “I see a lot more in A’ja that she can do,” especially on the next level, where Wilson is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft.
Still, Foster and Johnson both agreed that Wilson’s status as USC’s all-time leading scorer is far from the last milestone she will reach.
“All the accolades everyone has seen throughout these past four years is just the beginning of what’s she’s going to be able to bring, not only from South Carolina but also from the professional ranks as well,” Johnson said.
Top USC scorers
A’ja Wilson became South Carolina’s career leading scorer Saturday: