A’ja Wilson ‘blessed and honored’ with WNBA Draft experience
Sin City, here she comes.
Former South Carolina women's basketball star A'ja Wilson was selected No. 1 overall in the WNBA draft by the Las Vegas Aces on Thursday, joining the pro ranks after four record-breaking years at the collegiate level.
Wilson entered Thursday's draft as the consensus No. 1 pick, and Aces head coach and president of basketball operations Bill Laimbeer said in a phone interview Thursday night that he knew he would select Wilson four months ago. A little after 7 p.m., he made it official at Nike New York Headquarters in Manhattan.
"What happens in Sin City stays in Sin City," Wilson said with a grin after being drafted by Las Vegas.
"This is something that you just dream about," she added later. "You never can prep yourself for situations like this, and it's been a great feeling, it's been a blessing, I am blessed and honored to be in this situation with such a great group of girls, and I had a lot of fun this weekend."
Dawn Staley and other members of USC's coaching staff were also present as Wilson became the Gamecocks' first No. 1 overall pick. She will join former teammates Tiffany Mitchell, Alaina Coates, Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis in the WNBA.
She is the program's first No. 1 draft pick and third overall for the school. The other two were in football: George Rogers was selected No. 1 in 1981 by the New Orleans Saints, and Jadeveon Clowney was drafted first in 2015 by the Houston Texans.
"It's such a great feeling, to cap off my whole collegiate career with this, and this is a great class, and just to be at the top makes my heart warm," Wilson said. "I feel like you could see my heart thumping out of my jumpsuit when they were on the stage (announcing the pick)."
Wilson will return to Columbia on Saturday for a farewell tour, signing autographs and greeting fans at ColaKicks, Wild Wing Cafe and other locations. After that, she travels to Las Vegas on Monday for her introductory news conference.
Her first preseason game with the Aces will come on May 6 against the Chinese national team, and her first regular-season contest is on May 20, at the Connecticut Sun. Expect her to contribute right away, because, as Laimbeer bluntly put it: "You don't take the No. 1 pick off the bench."
"You gotta come in and be effective as soon as possible, and that's something I got to be ready for," Wilson said of her own expectations. "I got to get my body right, I got to get my mind right, because this is a whole different league. (Laimbeer's) expecting me to do the things in college that made him want me."
Wilson also said she is looking forward to growing the game off the court in the team's first season in Las Vegas, as well as engaging with a new fanbase.
"You're not going to know what goes down in Sin City until you get there and watch the Aces play, and I'm not saying anything about the game until you watch us play," she jokingly promised.
WNBA Draft 2018 selections
1. Las Vegas, A'ja Wilson, C, South Carolina
2. Indiana, Kelsey Mitchell, G, Ohio State
3. Chicago (from Atlanta), Diamond DeShields, G, Tennessee/Turkey
4. Chicago, Gabby Williams, F, UConn
5. Seattle, Jordin Canada, G, UCLA
6. Dallas, Azura Stevens, F, UConn
7. Washington, Ariel Atkins, G, Texas
8. Indiana (from Phoenix), Victoria Vivians, G, Mississippi State
9. Connecticut, Lexie Brown, G, Duke
10. New York, Kia Nurse, G, UConn
11. Los Angeles, Maria Vadeeva, C, Russia
12. Phoenix (from Minnesota), Marie Gulich, C, Oregon State
13. Las Vegas, Jamie Nared, G/F, Tennessee
14. Indiana, Stephanie Mavunga, F, Ohio State
15. Atlanta (from Connecticut), Monique Billings, F, UCLA
16. Atlanta (from Chicago), Kristy Wallace, G, Baylor
17. Minnesota (from Seattle), Ji-Su Park, C, South Korea
18. Dallas, Loryn Goodwin, G, Oklahoma State
19. Washington, Myisha Hines-Allen, F, Louisville
20. Phoenix, Tyler Scaife, G, Rutgers
21. Phoenix (from Connecticut), Raisa Musina, F, Russia
22. New York, Mercedes Russell, C, Tennessee
23. Los Angeles, Shakayla Thomas, F, Florida State
24. Minnesota, Kahlia Lawrence, G, Mercer
25. Las Vegas, Raigyne Moncrief Louis, G, LSU
26. Phoenix (from Indiana through Las Vegas), Imani Wright, G, Florida State
27. Atlanta, Mackenzie Engram, F, Georgia
28. Chicago, Amarah Coleman, G, DePaul
29. Seattle, Teana Muldrow, F, West Virginia
30. Dallas, Natalie Butler, C, George Mason
31. Washington, Rebecca Greenwell, G, Duke
32. Las Vegas (from Phoenix), Jill Barta, F, Gonzaga
33. Connecticut, Milayla Cowling, F, California
34. New York, Leslie Robinson F, Princeton
35. Los Angeles, Julia Reisingerova, C, Czech Republic
36. Minnesota, Carlie Wagner, G, Minnesota