COLUMBIA, S.C. – In addition to South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley leading her first Olympic team next month, Gamecock alumna A’ja Wilson will be part of the team representing the United States, USA Basketball announced on NBC’s TODAY Show. Wilson will be the second Gamecock to represent the U.S. in women’s basketball in an Olympic Games and the fourth to compete in the Olympics in program history.
Staley was named the U.S. National Team coach in March 2017, continuing her decades long experience with USA Basketball by becoming the first Black woman to lead the national team. The U.S. is looking for its seventh-straight Olympic gold medal, claiming the top step in every Olympics since 1996. Staley played on the first three teams in that streak and was an assistant coach on two others (2008, 2016) before taking the reins for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Over her USA Basketball career, which began as an athlete in 1989, Staley has earned 10 international gold medals as a player, four as an assistant coach and six as a head coach. The most recent came just last weekend in the 2021 FIBA AmeriCup in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which saw the U.S. team of top collegiate athletes compete against mostly professional players.
At South Carolina, Staley has led the Gamecocks for 13 seasons, including the most successful stretch in program history. She led South Carolina to three NCAA Final Fours in the last six tournaments, including the 2017 National Championship. Since the 2013-14 season, the Gamecocks have five SEC Regular-Season Championships and have won six of the last seven SEC Tournament titles.
Wilson will make her Olympic debut next month but had donned a USA Basketball uniform since 2013, including the last four years as part of the USA National Team Pool. She has helped the U.S. to four gold medals – 2018 FIBA World Cup, 2015 FIBA U19 World Cup, 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, 2013 FIBA U19 World Cup. Wilson was the 2014 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year and captured MVP honors at both the 2015 FIBA U19 World Cup and the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. The U.S. is 47-0 in the games she has played.
As a Gamecock, Wilson ended her career as the most decorated player in program history. Her awards list is headlined by unanimous National Player of the Year honors in 2018 and 2017 NCAA Final Four MOP honors after leading the Gamecocks to the National Championship. She was the first Gamecock to earn All-America and First-Team All-SEC honors all four years of her career, and she was the first three-time SEC Player of the Year in league history. After graduation in 2018, she became the program’s first WNBA No. 1 Draft pick and went on to earn WNBA Rookie of the Year honors that season and WNBA MVP recognition in 2020.
Other Gamecocks to play in an Olympics are Shannon Johnson (United States, 1996), Ilona Burgrova (Czech Republic, 2012) and Iva Sliskovic (Croatia, 2012).
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games begin on Fri., July 23 with women’s basketball group play opening on Sun., July 25. The U.S. is in Group B, which includes France, Japan and Nigeria, which is the Americans’ first opponent (Tue., July 27, 12:40 a.m. ET). The quarterfinals are set for Aug. 3-4 with the semifinals on Aug. 6 and the medal games set for Aug. 7.
Continue to check GamecocksOnline.com and the team’s social media accounts (@GamecockWBB) for the most up-to-date information on the women’s basketball program.
U.S. 2020 Tokyo Olympic Team
Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics, Texas
Sue Bird, Seattle Storm, UConn
Tina Charles, Washington Mystics, UConn
Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx, UConn
Skylar Diggins-Smith, Phoenix Mercury, Notre Dame
Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx, LSU
Chelsea Gray, Las Vega Aces, Duke
Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury, Baylor
Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm, Notre Dame
Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm, UConn
Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury, UConn
A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces, South Carolina