A’ja Wilson is playing in her third year in the WNBA after being drafted No. 1 in the first round of the 2018 draft. This season, the Aces are 14-4 in the Western Conference and coming off an 89-79 win against the Atlanta Dream on Saturday.
Prior to the game on Saturday, the Aces held a virtual press conference over Zoom, where Wilson’s teammate Dearica Hamby and head coach Bill Laimbeer spoke highly of Wilson. Hamby said she has stepped up as a consistent leader.
“One, her consistency; and then, just playing through everything," Hamby said. "The times last, year or maybe the year before, you may have seen her kind of take a backseat if she felt that she wasn’t playing up to her capacity. But I think this year, you see her playing through that; and then, continues to will us to wins and being big in the fourth quarter."
Per game, Wilson averages 20.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and almost two blocks. Laimbeer said Wilson’s statistics play an important role in the Aces' success in addition to her character and how she’s been able to understand the game better throughout her three seasons.
Laimbeer said Wilson has shown a lot of "patience" this year and demonstrates that she not only understands her responsibility on the team, but also rises to the challenge of every game.
“She’s leading. That’s the bottom line. She’s leading this franchise right now, both on and off the court, and everyone knows it,” Laimbeer said. “Her will right now is to compete in every game; she doesn’t take any games off. Her frustration level from the past has gone. She understands her role and responsibility now, and she’s living it every day.”
Wilson said Laimbeer helped her become a leader for the Aces. She said she was put in a position on the team where Laimbeer expected her to rise to the challenge, and it was because of him and the empowering women around her that she has been able to step up.
In the midst of team and personal success, the biggest challenge Wilson had to face, she said, involves balancing things on and off the court. She said she wants to be present with her community going through hardships while still focusing on basketball.
“For me, balancing what’s going on, on the outside, and also being elite in the bubble. I think that’s super tough; you know, you want to be there for your community, you want to be there for those people, and you can’t; but yet, you still have a job that you have to do and you have to have a standard that you have to reach the elite and to play in the WNBA,” Wilson said.
Wilson and the Aces are preparing for their upcoming game against the Indiana Fever on Tuesday at 10 p.m. EST. During her press conference Friday, Wilson gave a message to the University of South Carolina.
“To everyone back home, just, thank you so much for all the support, I feel it all the way here in Florida and all the way out in Vegas. I’m truly grateful to you to go to a university that always has my back, but at the same time we got to do our part, we got to wear our masks and we have to be safe at all times. I know the numbers are crazy, but that’s on us,” Wilson said. "We got to stay safe out there."