A’ja Wilson dedicates title to home state: ‘This one’s for South Carolina’

(Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

A’ja Wilson hasn’t forgotten where she came from. The Las Vegas Aces star honored her home state of South Carolina after winning her first WNBA title Sunday.

The WNBA MVP was born and raised in South Carolina and attended the University of South Carolina, where she helped put the Gamecocks basketball program on the map. Wilson won an NCAA title under coach Dawn Staley in 2017.

“I’m always representing South Carolina,” Wilson told reporters after the Game 4 win. “I’m South Carolina through and through, and if I can put South Carolina on the map every chance I get, I will.”

Wilson is a bona fide icon in Columbia, the home of the Gamecocks. A statue has been erected in front of Colonial Life Arena in her honor.

“That city has built me and raised me, and I know my grandma and grandpa are somewhere shining down on me because they have heard the prayers and seen me cry and been through those moments,” Wilson said. “Any time I can put South Carolina on the map, I’m going to be there. This one’s for South Carolina. This is for my grandma.”

The 26-year-old has kept South Carolina close to her heart, with former coach Staley remaining a consistent presence in her life.

Staley is equal parts cheerleader and motivator, pushing Wilson when she needs tough love while celebrating her wins. The South Carolina coach even texted Wilson during halftime of Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, telling her former player to get to rebounding.

“We have lots of laughs,” Staley told The New York Times. “I’ve wiped tears. I’ve hugged on her. I’ve loved up on her. I’ve criticized her. We are just authentic, and it just organically happened.”

After winning a national championship and an Olympic gold medal together, Wilson is bringing Staley and South Carolina along for the ride as she hoists her first WNBA championship trophy.