COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina Athletics installed a statue of women’s basketball great A’ja Wilson this week in front of Colonial Life Arena, celebrating the legendary career of the Hopkins, S.C., native who led the Gamecocks to the 2017 NCAA National Championship, 2015 NCAA Final Four, three SEC regular-season championships and four SEC Tournament titles.
“A’ja Wilson’s accomplishments, on and off the basketball court, make this statue so deserving,” South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner said. “She is an outstanding representative of Gamecock Athletics and our University. I am delighted that we can celebrate her in this manner. Thank you to everyone who helped get this done, including our great donors.”
“My grandmother couldn’t even walk on this campus; she had to walk around [it]. If she was here today to see her granddaughter has a statue where she once could not walk … it goes to show how you just plant seeds, and that’s what it’s all about.” A’ja Wilson
Made possible by private donations from the late Dodie Anderson, Darius Rucker and Dawn Staley, the bronze statue stands over 11 feet tall and sits atop a four-foot granite base. The figure was sculpted by Julie Rotblatt-Amrany of The Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany in Highwood, Ill., which has done many athletic statues, including Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen. The Wilson statue has been in development for nearly a year, and installation began on Thu., Jan. 14.
Wilson’s statue is one of just three on the University of South Carolina campus that represents a specific individual. The first woman of the group, she joins Richard T. Greener, the first African American faculty member at the University, and Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers.
Even before Wilson graduated from the University and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft by the Las Vegas Aces, the idea of the statue was mentioned. With her Gamecock career including the program’s highest team achievements as well as her individual accolades, the project took hold quickly.
“A’ja was a powerful force in our program, our campus and our community through everything that she accomplished on the court and the person she was off it,” Staley said. “This statue in front of this arena is an equally powerful force. Every young person, and especially young black girls, can see what is possible through hard work, passion and dedication.”
Wilson capped her four-year career (2015-18) by becoming the program’s first National Player of the Year, capturing the title from every entity that bestows it annually. She was South Carolina’s first four-time All-American, earning first-team status in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and its first four-time First-Team All-SEC selection. Wilson was the first three-time SEC Player of the Year in league history (2016, 2017, 2018), and was the inaugural winner of the Lisa Leslie Award in 2018.
In the WNBA, Wilson made an immediate impact, capturing Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors in her first season (2018). Two years later, she was named WNBA MVP (2020).
Throughout her basketball career, Wilson has been a mainstay within USA Basketball, helping the United States to gold medals in the 2013 FIBA U19 World Cup, 2014 FIBA U18 Americas Cup, 2015 FIBA U19 World Cup and 2018 FIBA World Cup. She is currently in the USA Basketball National Team pool, from which the 2021 Olympic Team will be selected.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there was a small, invitation-only event to celebrate Wilson and the statue.