If there was any doubt that A’ja Wilson was one of the best players in the world, her status was confirmed at the Tokyo Olympics.
Averaging a team-high 16.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots, Wilson helped the United States capture its seventh straight gold medal. In the 90-75 romp of Japan for the gold, she contributed 19 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots.
Her reputation burnished, Wilson aims to lead the Las Vegas Aces to their first WNBA title. Their season resumes Sunday at home when they take on the Washington Mystics.
Wilson’s success during the Olympics might have been helped by a reunion with her college coach, Dawn Staley. The duo have remained close since powering South Carolina to its first NCAA title in 2016-17.
“I didn’t have to hold everything back, I could just play,” Wilson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal of her time playing for Staley. “She taught me, ‘Don’t blend. Don’t be average, because that gets you nowhere.'”
Wilson has not been average this year, recording 19.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game to help the Aces to a 15-6 record, just a game behind league-leading
Washington (8-10) knows all too well the power of Wilson. When the teams met on June 5 in the District of Columbia, Wilson put together a 15-point, 15-rebound performance in Las Vegas’ 96-93 win.
Three Aces scored at least 20 points that night, led by Liz Cambage’s 24 to go along with 11 rebounds. Jackie Young, who won gold as a member of the U.S. 3-on-3 team, kicked in 22 on just 15 shot attempts, and Riquana Williams scored 20.
The Mystics have been carried by another gold medal winner, Tina Charles, the league’s leading scorer at 26.3 points per game. Charles was held to 16 points on 7 of 18 shooting back in June.
This is the first of successive games between the teams. They will reconvene in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
–Field Level Media