A'ja Wilson ends suspense, chooses South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) A'ja Wilson, considered one of the nation's top women's basketball recruits, announced Wednesday she will play for South Carolina.
Wilson told a national television audience that she had decided to stay close to home, rejecting overtures from national champion Connecticut, North Carolina and Tennessee. The announcement ended nearly one year of speculation.
''It's just really a great program and it's like I'm wearing this shirt, there's no place like home,'' Wilson said. ''They're on the rise and I would love to be a part of it.''
Wilson said the hardest part of the process was telling the coaches at the other schools of her decision.
The Gamecocks won 29 games last season, and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, Coach Dawn Staley's team reached the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years. South Carolina lost one senior from that team and Wilson's choice means the Gamecocks have signed four players ranked in the top 35 recruits.
''Coach Staley has done such a great job turning the program around so really I thought this was my best fit,'' Wilson said.
Joining Wilson for the start of fall practice will be fellow McDonald's All-Americans forward Jatarie White and point guard Bianca Cuevas. Also on the list is fellow Columbia native guard Kaydra Duckett, The final commitment is guard Doniyah Cliney.
Soon after Wilson made the announcement, Staley tweeted, ''BOOM.'' Wilson called Staley earlier in the day to let her know she would be joining the program in the fall. Wilson said once she did that, she could hardly get a word in.
''She screamed and I hear everybody else screaming. I couldn't talk or get anything else out. So I was like I have to go now. She is a funny lady,'' Wilson said.
Staley released a statement through the university after Wilson sent her letter-of-intent.
''I am overjoyed with A'ja and her family joining our Gamecock family,'' Staley said. ''She represents South Carolina on so many levels, and we're so glad the entire state will see her career unfold on our campus. It truly is a great day to be a Gamecock, and there's no place like home.''
Wilson has a unique mix of inside and outside talent. She grew from 5-foot-9 as a freshman to 6-5 as a senior but still possesses guard skills. She is just as adept at running the point and shooting 3-pointers as she is in going inside to the rim.
''It's been bittersweet. It's been enjoyable but of course you have your times when you're like I can't wait for this to be over,'' Wilson said of the recruiting process. ''My parents helped me out and that's when they came in the most. It's been a nice run for me and I hate that it's over. It's been a great ride.''