A’ja Wilson, the best player in the history of South Carolina women’s basketball, was picked first in the 2018 WNBA Draft on Thursday night.
The 6-foot-5 Wilson, who was the consensus Player of the Year in women’s college basketball this season, was drafted No. 1 overall by the Las Vegas Aces.
A four-time All-SEC selection, Wilson averaged 22.6 points and 11.8 rebounds as a senior, a year after she helped lead the Gamecocks to a national championship. She also blocked 105 shots in the 2017-18 season.
Wilson is now off to a career with a franchise that’s been around since the WNBA’s inaugural season in 1997. After starting in Utah, the franchise moved to San Antonio before the 2003 season. It has relocated to Las Vegas for the 2018 season.
Former Detroit Pistons forward Bill Laimbeer is entering his first season as Aces coach. He won three WNBA titles while coaching in Detroit from 2002-09 before spending a couple of seasons as an assistant in the NBA. Laimbeer returned to the WNBA, to coach New York from 2013-17.
“You don’t get many players that can drive like [Wilson] can. She can attack the basket, and with one dribble, cover a tremendous amount of ground,” he said. “It says something when you have a player of that size take the ball out of bounds all the time, where the trust factor is there for her to make the right pass. She’s also the player who comes back to get the ball and the outlet pass whether it’s to press break or get the ball in, because she’s going to make the right decisions.
“Those are the intangibles you look for in a player, and also her shot. She shoots from an elevated position above her head, so you don’t have to worry about shot blocking. Overall, those are the intangibles that set her apart from a lot of other big players in our league. I think, in our league, her biggest thing is just going to be she can scare a lot of people who are guarding her because she’s able to take the ball to the basket off the drive.”