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A'ja Wilson Making Big Impact for USA in Second World Cup

  • Author:
    Owen Kaelble, IUPUI
  • Date:
    Sep 29, 2022

    It was a high-stakes quarterfinal World Cup matchup, a game with 20 fouls called in the first half alone, and the USA was challenged by a physical Serbia defense. But in the end it was more of the same for A’ja Wilson on the hardwood. The USA Basketball veteran had 15 points, eight rebounds, one steal and two blocks as a big part of a hard-earned 88-55 win for the USA.

    After a back-and-forth first quarter, the U.S. locked down on defense and held Serbia to only seven points in the third quarter and 22 in the second half. In total, the USA shot 23 free throws, an example of the physicality of the game, and was able to find offensive and defensive rhythm at the right time.

    “I think we needed this,” said Wilson. “I think we needed that first quarter to kind of wake us up a little bit because I think that’s what we’re gonna see. It’s gonna get tougher from here on out so I think it’s a good game for us to have.”

    The stats in the tournament continue to tell the story for Wilson. Going into the Serbia matchup, Wilson was tied for first in scoring average (18.0 ppg) in the World Cup along with Puerto Rico’s Arella Guirantes and led all players in field goal percentage (.727% FG) and was third in steals (2.3 spg).

    Wilson’s success is the continuation of a transformation that both coach Cheryl Reeve and her USA and Las Vegas Aces teammate Kelsey Plum say goes all the way back to the WNBA offseason after the 2021 season.

    “In the offseason, I’m friendly with former (Las Vegas Aces) coach Bill Laimbeer and he had a conversation with me about how determined she was to win a championship in the WNBA, the work she was going to put into her game,” Reeve said of Wilson. “And so, certainly saw that as WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and MVP. And then she kind of came here with great momentum and continues to do the things that make her so great in the WNBA.”

    Off the court, according to Plum, Wilson likes to joke around and have fun. But that changes when it’s game time.

    “She’s got tremendous hands, catches everything in there,” Plum said. “She has a great feel. She’s a competitor and I don’t think people (realize that) because she’s so funny and laid back and stuff but she wants the ball and she’s tough. And so…her transforming her body and how strong she is, she’s able to get whatever she wants.”

    The USA awaits a semifinal matchup with Canada on Friday at 5 p.m. Sydney time/3 a.m. ET. 

    Owen Kaelble is a contributor to USAB.com as part of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI.

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