In A'ja Wilson's final appearance at Colonial Life Arena as an undergraduate, the University of South Carolina ensured her likeness will never be forgotten, announcing it will erect a statue in the women's basketball star's honor.
The announcement was made just after Wilson crossed the stage Saturday at Colonial Life Arena to receive her diploma for a degree in mass communications, sporting a "net-lace."
"We will welcome you back one day to cut the ribbon on that statue," USC President Harris Pastides said in breaking the news to Wilson and the commencement crowd.
The plan is for the statue to be outside Colonial Life Arena, possibly in the plaza directly across from the arena. The timeline to make it a reality remains fuzzy — the plan still has to go through USC's Board of Trustees and needs to clear several layers of approval.
It will be built completely with private money, according to USC.
"I had no idea, it was a total surprise," Wilson said. "I was so caught off guard."
Wilson swept the national player of the year awards this past season, was a three-time All-American and led the USC women to their first national championship in 2017. Last month, she became the program's first No. 1 draft pick in the WNBA, going to the Las Vegas Aces.
At a ceremony outside of Colonial Life Arena on April 9, when Wilson was presented with the Naismith Trophy given to the nation's best player, coach Dawn Staley publicly called for Wilson to get a statue, and later pledged $100,000 of her own money to make it happen. More recently, a South Carolina lawmaker filed a resolution proposing to construct a statue of Wilson on State House grounds.
Athletics director Ray Tanner previously told The State newspaper that he was personally in favor of a statue for Wilson, but that certain procedures would have to be followed first.
Only one South Carolina athlete has had a statue erected on campus or at an athletics facility — football great George Rogers has one outside Williams Brice Stadium, and he has said he thinks Wilson should get one too.
"Yeah, that was crazy, totally not expecting that. Just everything this university has done for me, just thank you, thank you," Wilson said.