A'ja Wilson, the top-ranked women's basketball recruit in the nation, concluded her long-awaited signing ceremony at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School by committing to the hometown South Carolina Gamecocks. Wilson chose Carolina over UConn, UNC, and Tennessee, with Tennessee likely the second choice.
We now take you to Coach Dawn Staley for her thoughts on the matter:
BOOM!!!!— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) April 16, 2014
Wilson's commitment was one of the most anticipated in recent women's hoops history. She stoked the drama by choosing not to commit during the early signing period, which led to her being the last major recruit to sign on the dotted line. Somewhat like another top recruit who signed with Carolina, Jadeveon Clowney, Wilson had the spotlight to herself when she signed. Adding to the drama was the fact that Wilson was choosing between an up-and-coming local program and three more established programs, including the sport's two biggest traditional heavy hitters, Tennessee and UConn. Thankfully for Carolina fans, Wilson chose the hometown program.
While Wilson has been tight-lipped about where she was leaning with her decision in the weeks leading up to today, the decision was not a surprise. During the Gamecocks' surprise run towards the SEC regular season title, Wilson attended several games. She got a close look at the program that Dawn Staley has built into an SEC power over the past few seasons, and what's more, Wilson was feted by Carolina fans in much the same way that star football recruits like Clowney and Marcus Lattimore were feted during their recruitment. It surely helped that Carolina fans showed up in droves to watch women's basketball late in the season, a new turn of events for a program that used to enjoy mediocre fan support.
With the vast majority of its 2013-2014 roster returning and a highly-touted recruiting class in tow even before today -- Jatarie White, Kaydra Duckett, and Bianca Cuevas give the Gamecocks a total of four five-star prospects -- Wilson's commitment gives USC good reason to believe that it can take its game to even greater heights next season.