A’ja Wilson is spending her September playing for USA Basketball, alongside many of the world’s best players as she continues to carve out a role as a go-to scorer.
Nothing new for Wilson at this point, though. She was exactly that for the Aces in her rookie season.
Wilson received all 39 votes from a national panel of journalists and broadcasters and will be presented with her award by league president Lisa Borders at George Washington University on Monday night ahead of Team USA’s exhibition game against Japan. On Saturday, Wilson led the USA to a victory over Canada with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“It means a lot. It really does,” she said in a phone interview. “Especially coming in, rookie of the year was a goal of mine. To pull it out, it’s definitely something special.”
The 6-foot-4-inch Wilson did so by scoring in double figures in all 33 games. She posted rookie highs of 20.7 points and 8 rebounds per game. She also shot 46.2 percent from the field, best among rookies, and set rookie records for free throws made and attempted with 192 and 248, respectively.
Only eight-time WNBA All-Star Seimone Augustus averaged more points in a rookie season than Wilson, who registered three 30-point games, 10 double-doubles and swept the league’s Rookie of the Month Awards.
“Seeing the growth of myself and my team is something special,” Wilson added.
There was little suspense surrounding Wilson’s coronation, considering she was the consensus national player of the year in 2017-18 at South Carolina — and the unanimous choice for the AP’s Rookie of the Year award last month.
The Aces selected her with the No. 1 overall pick in April and she arrived as a foundation piece for a franchise that had just relocated to Las Vegas from San Antonio.
“The hallmark of a great professional basketball player is consistency,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. “That’s what she showed this year, that every night she came out and performed, because she had to. She’s the one everybody counts on … And she did it, as a rookie. That’s just unbelievable.”
Wilson said she’s already looking forward to her second WNBA season, but added that she’s enjoying her time with Team USA.
“It’s a lot more calm for me,” Wilson said. “For me…being here, having a year underneath my belt. I’m definitely more comfortable.”
BY: Sam Gordon