Gamecock women's basketball legend A'ja Wilson said she was "in awe" of her statue the first time she saw it in the sculptor's studio.
"When I actually saw it, I was like, 'Wow that's my facial expression, that's my hair, and it's just truly amazing,'" Wilson said.
The statue of Wilson, which was honored in a ceremony Monday morning, sits outside Colonial Life Arena and was installed late last week.
Wilson is the most decorated student athlete of any sport at South Carolina. She was the first player to receive national player of the year unanimously in 2017-2018, won SEC Player of the Year three times and was the leading scorer on the 2016-2017 National Championship team.
After her college career ended, she was drafted first overall to the Las Vegas Aces in the 2018 WNBA draft, winning rookie of the year that same year and MVP this past season in 2020.
After the unveiling ceremony, Wilson and sculptor Julie Rotblatt-Amrany spoke with the media.
Rotblatt-Amrany said it was an honor to be chosen by the university to make the statue, and the process of creating the statue was "fulfilling" for her.
After winning the competition for the opportunity to create the statue, Rotblatt-Amrany said she was "very thrilled that it was a woman athlete," because most of the statues her studio made in the past have been of male subjects.
"I'm hoping to get a lot more females in the future because you want to have role models" for young women and especially young Black women, Rotblatt-Amrany said.
When Wilson took the podium, she said it was an honor to have the statue unveiled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, adding that in her speech she told a story about how her grandmother couldn't even walk on the University of South Carolina's campus.
"If she was here today, to see her whole granddaughter has a statue where she once could not walk," Wilson said.
When former President Harris Pastides announced the statue would be commissioned at Wilson's graduation, Wilson said she couldn't believe it, but when she saw the mold of the statue, she realized "this is really coming to life, this is about to be real." She added she "still can't believe it" even after seeing it completed.
Wilson joked about the statue, saying she was "just pleased with the jersey retirement," and that having a statue dedicated to her this early in her career "is something just amazing... It's truly something special and I feel loved."
"Hopefully... generations from now people can come back and see the legacy that not only I've made, but my teammates and this university has done as well," Wilson said.