A’ja Wilson admits that when she was young, playing basketball was the furthest thing from her mind.
Now South Carolina’s star is recognized as one of the best players in women’s college basketball as a member of The Associated Press All-America team that was announced Thursday.
“It’s unbelievable. I came from being a little girl who didn’t want to play the sport of basketball,” the 6-foot-5 junior forward said. “I didn’t want to deal with sweating or basketball running. Now, being one of the top five players in the country with such a great group of girls is pretty unbelievable.”
Wilson is joined on the All-America team by Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell, Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner, Baylor’s Nina Davis and Washington’s Kelsey Plum.
“It would be a lot of fun playing with those girls. I’ve been around them, played with and against them,” Wilson said. “I guarantee we wouldn’t lose a game.”
Wilson received 32 votes from the 33-member national media panel that selects the weekly poll. Mitchell had 31 votes, two more than Turner, a 6-3 junior. Both Wilson and Mitchell were honored as All-Americas last spring.
“It’s great to be recognized for what I’ve done in the past and what people think I can do this year,” Mitchell said. “I’m truly honored by it.”
The Ohio State guard averaged 26.1 points last season, third best in the nation. Plum was just behind her on the scoring list at 25.9 points.
“She’s made everybody in our program better, including me,” said Washington coach Mike Neighbors. “She’s the textbook definition of student-athlete for what she does on and off the court. To be recognized like that, she works at it. It’s not what drives her. We walk through the airport and no one says basketball player. These other players when they walk through, they go basketball player. She works so hard and is so dedicated.”
Turner has struggled with injuries her first two years at Notre Dame. Her being able to stay healthy is one of the biggest keys to Notre Dame this year. The Irish enter the season as No. 1 in the AP poll.
“She hasn’t had a year yet where she’s gone through the whole year,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “It’s a shame she didn’t have the summer to work on her game because of injuries.”
She averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last season while playing in 29 of Notre Dame’s 35 games.
Davis had another stellar season for Baylor, averaging 16.3 points and shooting 55 percent from the field.
“Nina is certainly deserving of this recognition,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “She has had a remarkable career and is deserving of any award that comes her way.”
Davis and Mitchell were both on last season’s preseason All-America team. Joining the pair were UConn seniors Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson. Minnesota senior Rachel Banham rounded out the team.