Summer 2024

No. 1 WNBA pick A'ja Wilson says prayer helped her fight through adversity

The Las Vegas Aces selected A’ja Wilson with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft on Thursday night at Nike Headquarters in New York.

Wilson’s decorated college career was highlighted by leading the South Carolina Gamecocks to the national championship in 2017. In her senior season, she averaged 22.6 points and 11.8 rebounds. She leaves South Carolina as the school’s record-holder for the most points scored in a career with 2,389.

The road to the WNBA wasn’t easy for the 2018 National Player of the Year. Wilson spoke to ESPN about what helped her in her journey to the top pick.

“I will have to say facing adversity,” Wilson said. “There have been times throughout my collegiate career, just basketball career so far, that I really struggled with. And just fighting through those things and having just a great coaching staff and people around me really helped me. And just a lot of prayer. A lot of prayer has kept me humbled and kept me going through it.”

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The perseverance in Wilson’s career could also stem from the work she does off the court. Over the past five years, she spent time with kids fighting cancer at the Palmetto Children’s Hospital in Columbia, S.C. Wilson’s “Team Palmetto Health” campaign will benefit programs and services at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. The center provides the most current treatment protocols and advanced care allowing children to receive the highest level of care close to home.

Wilson will donate a portion of her first WNBA check to the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, according to YouCaring. She wants to continue to use her popularity to help others and be a light to young girls.

“I use my platform to really reach out and touch young girls,” Wilson said to SB Nation. “Let them know they can get the job done. Have fun with it. Enjoy it. This is something we all love and I hope I can make somebody smile on the court or off of it. That’s my main goal.”

Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces will start the 2018 season on May 20 against the Connecticut Sun.

Here are the first-round picks from the 2018 WNBA Draft:

1) Las Vegas Aces: A’ja Wilson, South Carolina
2) Indiana Fever: Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State
3) Chicago Sky: Diamond Deshields, Tennessee
4) Chicago Sky: Gabby Williams, Connecticut
5) Seattle Storm: Jordin Canada, UCLA
6) Dallas Wings: Azura Stevens, Connecticut
7) Washington Mystics: Ariel Atkins, Texas
8) Indiana Fever: Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State
9) Connecticut Sun: Lexie Brown, Duke
10) New York Liberty: Kia Nurse, Connecticut
11) Los Angeles Sparks: Maria Vadeeva, Russia
12) Phoenix Mercury: Marie Gulich, Oregon State

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