WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson is giving back to the community at Columbia

Aja Wilson speaks to the kids at her basketball camp in November 2022

Aja Wilson speaks to the kids at her basketball camp in November 2022

Aja Wilson has seen huge success on the court this year.

I’ve traveled the country – and the world – Winning one prize after another And tournament after tournament.

But over the weekend, Wilson returned to her hometown to give back to her community. Her last stop was Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, where she was recruited to the University of Southern California.

Wilson held a Sunday basketball camp for 3rd through 12th graders in the area. She had a great time with the kids, dancing around and giving the kids fifties while also showing them the basics of the game.

Among the kids at Columbia, Wilson’s reputation outshines her.

“Oh my God, you are aja!” An excited child would tell her.

There aren’t many more well-known characters in the South Carolina capital than Wilson.

She helped the Gamecocks win their first women’s basketball national championship in 2017. She joined South Carolina as a Columbia native and the nation’s #1 recruit out of high school.

Beyond that, There is a statue of her outside Colonial Life Arena.

Wilson said she remembers having role models she admired as a child, but being that figure to children now is “surreal”.

“Those moments are so much bigger to me than hanging up a banner and wearing a ring,” Wilson said. “Those moments are something I cherish.”

Camp athletes were given a pair of Aja Wilson’s signature shoes, the cosmic unity 2. After the players have fought against each other, they line up to receive their box of sneakers.

Wilson stood at the front of the line with clipboards, and the names stand out because they match children’s shoe sizes.

“It’s hard to find basketball shoes that you like, or that you love,” Wilson said. “So just to give me a piece of me, I feel like this is a piece of them they can take home and be like, ‘Wow, these are Aja Wilson. “”

A four-time WNBA All-Star made as many stops in Colombia in the space of a few days.

Through her foundation, Wilson has donated technology resources to Pace Academy and St. John’s Pre-School to help students with dyslexia.

Then she renovated the basketball court at the Park Hyatt – Close to her grandmother’s community – with the help of Mountain Dew Legend and Buffalo Wild Wings partnerships. She said that many of her family came from that area.

She even hosted the Sneaker and Glitter Gala on Saturday, which was held at the University of South Carolina Bastide Alumni Center.

“Columbia home,” Wilson said. “It’s where my heart will always be. I was born and raised here, so giving back and giving back to the community is something I think he took a lot of pride in because he raised me.”

Wilson has received several awards this year on a professional level.

She was awarded her second career WNBA MVP award and first Defensive Player of the Year award. Wilson helped too The Las Vegas Ices won the first championship in franchise historywhich was also a first for any professional team in the city.

A few weeks later, she and the rest of Team USA won gold medals at the FIBA ​​Women’s World Cup. Wilson was named MVP after the team defeated China.

“I haven’t had a little time to really think about it,” Wilson said. “It was a phenomenal year not only for myself but my team, everyone around me. I really can’t put it into words because everything happened so quickly. But it’s something I will definitely think about and say, ‘Wow, this really happened in 2022.’”

The product of Dawn Staley’s tutelage, Wilson still keeps up with how USC is doing.

She calls the Gamecocks’ women’s basketball team “fraternity,” and holds them up high because of the program’s level of success.

“I’m not surprised by anything they do,” Wilson said. “Who they are, that’s how we were made.”

The Columbia basketball scene impresses Wilson. She believes the region retains its share of talented players.

South Carolina managed to add some elite players to its 2023 recruiting class this year, including Milaysia Fulwiley, who attended Keenan High School.

“I think Columbia is just a city where people are like, ‘Uh man, they have a little hoops,’” Wilson said. “But we really do our job here. We mind our business, stay out of the way, but get the job done.”

Wilson lives in Las Vegas, where she hopes to win another WNBA championship with the Aces.

But her long roots in Colombia are keeping her coming back.

“I was raised by this community, and it takes a village to raise a child,” said Wilson. “They did so much for me. So I come back, to enjoy the kids, rebuild the garden, and enjoy the party. It was an exceptional weekend.”

This story was originally published Nov 13, 2022 5:16 PM.

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Jeremiah Holloway covers South Carolina women’s basketball and soccer for the state. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he is from Greensboro, NC and is a basketball fan. Holloway joined the state in August 2022.

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