March 27, 2017
COLUMBIA, S.C. – For the second-straight season, South Carolina junior forward A’ja Wilson earned a spot among the five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award Presented by Wendy’s, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced on ESPNU Monday. One of the nation’s most consistent and dynamic forwards, the 6-foot-5 Hopkins, S.C., product is now a finalist for all three primary national player of the year awards this season.
Already a two-time SEC Player of the Year selection, Wilson has performed best when her team has needed her most. She averages 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocked shots in 10 games against ranked opponents this season. Three of the Gamecocks’ six postseason games have been within five points heading into the final quarter, and Wilson has powered them home every time. Leading by three in the SEC Tournament semifinals against Kentucky, South Carolina delivered a 12-point victory behind Wilson’s 10 points, two rebounds and one block in the final 10 minutes. In the title game, the Gamecocks trailed #6/7 Mississippi State by five heading into the fourth quarter, and the two-time All-American drove home the 10-point win with seven points, eight rebounds and two blocks in the period. With a trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 on the line and her team trailing Arizona State by two entering the final quarter, Wilson again delivered with an offensive putback inside the final minute giving the Gamecocks the lead and the game-winning free throws with 15 seconds to play closing out her seven-point, four-rebound, two-block fourth quarter effort.
On the season, Wilson is second in the SEC in scoring at 17.9 points per game on 59.0 percent shooting, which ranks 15th in the nation. She has a career-high 13 20-point outings this season and nine double-doubles. The three-time All-SEC First-Team selection has been the team’s top scorer 20 times this season and has scored in double figures 30 times in the Gamecocks’ 34 outings.
No. 3/4 South Carolina is back in action in the NCAA Tournament tonight against No. 10/13 Florida State in the Elite Eight. Tipoff from Stockton, Calif., is at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
2017 Wooden Award Finalists
Forward Napheesa Collier, UConn
Guard Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State
Guard Kelsey Plum, Washington
Guard/Forward Katie Lou Samuelson, UConn
Forward A’ja Wilson, South Carolina