She’s 6-foot-5 and played inside in high school, although she also perfected a deadly jump shot through hours of relentless work during her formative years.
A listing at two-guard during her AAU days prompted the rise to the No. 1 prospect in the country.
So what will A’ja Wilson do at South Carolina? Play on the wing to show off her jumper (last seen draining a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime in the state championship)? Or in the paint, where the big girls play, showing the left-handed skill that made her automatic five feet from the bucket?
“Even if she plays the 3, she's going to get some block action, because she creates so much of an advantage for us,” USC coach Dawn Staley said as practice began. “It's creating advantages for us on the floor.”
Wilson played inside in high school because she was the tallest. She also ran the floor, sometimes brought the ball up and played wing because Heathwood Hall wanted the ball in the hands of its best player.
But as her college career begins, the query is where she fits best. The Gamecocks have the SEC Player of the Year returning at two-guard (Tiffany Mitchell) and the post spots could be filled with first-team All-SEC Aleighsa Welch, senior Elem Ibiam or SEC Freshman of the Year Alaina Coates.
Staley doesn’t see a dilemma; she sees an advantage. Wilson can fill any of those spots and give the Gamecocks a level of depth they’ve never had.
Wilson said in the spring that she wanted no part of playing the block, but she said she had to get her head around the fact that the block wasn’t always in the paint. The game has changed to facing up the defense, being able to put the ball down a time or two, and post players are spreading the floor instead of being compacted in the lane.
So when Staley told her she had to learn both, she said OK.
“The block, I was thinking the 5. The 4's not bad. I played 4 with Team USA. I was very comfortable with it,” Wilson said. “She's going to put me where I'm best. I trust her.”
Wilson might not start right away, as all five starters are returning, but of course she’ll play. She’s too talented not to. And if Staley can get her and the widest bench she’s had at USC in a constant rotation, it will save energy for when the Gamecocks really need it.
Wilson’s energy, like everyone’s, will be vital in March. Expectations from outside and in expect the Gamecocks to be playing late into that month.
“She equates that to only being on the block, being bumped around and being manhandled,” Staley said of Wilson’s initial reservations. “But it's not that. So we'll play her inside, (and) we'll play her on the perimeter.”