It’s a matter of when, not if.
As South Carolina women’s basketball’s all-time leading scorer, the only three-time SEC Player of the Year ever and likely national player of the year, A’ja Wilson will one day have a banner with her name on it in the rafters of Colonial Life Arena when the Gamecocks inevitably retire her jersey.
But when that day will come has become the subject of increasing scrutiny as Wilson’s days in a USC uniform dwindle. At the very most, she only has six games left in her collegiate career if South Carolina can advance through the upcoming NCAA tournament, and fans have started clamoring to know when Wilson will receive the honor that’s gone to only three players in program history.
In fact, people have been asking about Wilson’s potential jersey retirement so much that it came up twice on the “Carolina Calls” radio show Tuesday night with Wilson and assistant coach Fred Chimel.
The first time, a fan asked if Wilson would like to have her banner lined with pearls, a reference to her love of the precious stone and its significance to her.
Before Wilson could answer, Chimel chimed in, saying she deserved not just a banner, but a statue in her honor.
Then Wilson gave her thoughts on the pearl question.
“If we could get a pink banner, that would be so cute,” Wilson said, jokingly. “And just put pearls, like, hanging down from it. And glitter. And cursive. Not like bold letters, but cursive, cute, little curly qs.”
“Bedazzled?” Chimel suggested.
“Yes,” Wilson said. “So when the lights it, it’s like, ‘Wear glasses, please, when you look up.’”
The second time the topic came up, a fan was asking about more generally about the process that went into retiring a jersey at South Carolina. In response, host Brad Muller said the university has received an increased number of similar inquiries as of late and referred anyone interested to a page on the athletics department website that explains the process.
According to that page, for a player’s jersey to be retired, he or she must be nominated and then recommended by the head coach or athletic director. Once that is done, the player’s candidacy is brought to a selection committee comprised of the athletic director, a male and female head coach, a former recipient, a member of the Letterman’s Association and a board member of Intercollegiate Activies Committee of the Board of Trustees.
That committee considers several factors, including whether the athlete is a graduate or in good academic standing and progressing towards graduation. The athlete should also be at least one of the following things:
- University record holder
- A consensus All-American
- A consensus National Player of the Year
- An Olympic medalist while a student at USC
- An All-SEC 1st or 2nd team for 3 years
Wilson is already a record holder, consensus All-American and has been All-SEC for four years, and she is the favorite to be named the national player of the year at the end of this season.
However, before fans start getting ready for a banner-raising in the immediate future, there’s one more rule in place — a five-year waiting period that begins at the end of the player’s final season. So the earliest Wilson’s jersey can be retired will be the spring of 2023.
In other words, she’s got some time to continue designing her banner.