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A’ja Wilson Named USA Basketball’s Female Athlete of the Year

  • Author:
    Shawn Smith, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Dec 19, 2022

 

A’ja Wilson has already won just about every possible award this year.

The forward, who turned 26 in August, was already a three-time WNBA All-Star and an Olympic gold medalist before the year began. This year, she was counted on to elevate her play even higher while taking on more of a leadership role with both the Las Vegas Aces and the USA Women’s National Team.

She responded by guiding the Aces to their first WNBA title in September. Along the way, she was selected to her fourth All-Star Game, was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year and won her second WNBA MVP award.

Then, just days after the WNBA Finals wrapped up, she joined the USA Women’s National Team in Sydney, where the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup was already underway. Despite missing the first two games, Wilson played a key role in the next six as the U.S. won a fourth consecutive world title, and she earned tournament MVP honors in the process.

Now Wilson can add yet another award to her list as she has been named USA Basketball’s Female Athlete of the Year.

“Being named the MVP of a tournament that features the best athletes in the world is an impressive feat that we’re proud to honor,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said. “Even more impressive for A’ja Wilson is that she joined the team two games into the tournament, after a long and grueling WNBA season. She was a leader among a team of leaders who made history in Sydney.”

A consensus National Player of the year while at the University of South Carolina, Wilson joined the Aces in 2018 as the top pick in that year’s WNBA Draft. A focal point for the Aces all season, she was especially good in the playoffs, where she helped the team to a 3-1 series win over the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Finals. Wilson averaged a double-double in playoffs, with 20.3 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game.

Immediately after winning that title, Wilson hopped on a plane to Australia for the World Cup. With USA Basketball legends Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi no longer on the team, this year’s World Cup served as a passing of the torch to the next generation of American women. Wilson was one of the players who answered the call.

Wilson led all players in the tournament in field goal percentage (66.1%) while finishing tied for second in scoring (17.2 ppg) and third in steals (2.2 spg).

Wilson was dominant in the most important games too. She posted a team-high 12 rebounds along with 15 points in the 83-43 semifinal win against Canada. She followed that up with a team-high 19 points against China in the gold-medal game. The U.S. beat China 83-61.

Despite missing the first two group phase games, Wilson did enough to be named tournament MVP as the American women went 8-0 to win their 11th World Cup title.

“I’ve had players where A’ja is, you win a WNBA championship, you come over and you win gold,” U.S. head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It’s really, really special. And they make it look easy, it’s not. They’re tremendously talented, A’ja is tremendously talented.”

Wilson’s showing in Sydney also helped the U.S. qualify for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

The Female Athlete of the Year honor is one of several end-of-season USA Basketball awards being announced by throughout the month.

Shawn Smith is a freelance contributor for USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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