Chris Gillespie, GamecockCentral.com
Per USC Release***
South Carolina junior forward A’ja Wilson added First-Team All-America honors from the Associated Press to her growing collection of awards this season, the organization announced today. It is the second season that she has been recognized on the AP First Team, while senior center Alaina Coates picked up honorable mention status for the second time in her career.
“South Carolina has known how special A’ja Wilson is as a player and a person for a long time, and the rest of the country has spent the last three years catching up,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “Watching her grow into the force she is today, on and off the court, has been one of the great joys of my basketball career. A’ja deserves every accolade she gets because as talented as she is, she never stops working to be better.”
The two-time reigning SEC Player of the Year, Wilson powered South Carolina to its fourth-straight SEC regular-season title and third-consecutive SEC Tournament championship as the team’s top scorer and shot blocker. She has been most impressive this season when the spotlight and the stakes are at their peak. As the focal point of every scouting report, Wilson has delivered 17.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game. Those numbers include a career-high 13 20-point games, including five against nationally ranked teams, three straight to close the SEC regular season and her last two NCAA Tournament outings. She has been the Gamecocks’ top scorer a team-high 20 times and leading rebounder in 12 games this season. In the seven games without Coates absorbing some of the attention in the frontcourt, Wilson has lifted her averages to 20.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks, and she has willed the Gamecocks to postseason fourth-quarter comebacks against #6/7 Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament championship game and Arizona State for a spot in the NCAA Sweet 16 for the fourth-straight season.
Injury shortened Coates’ career by several games, but her resume still stands among the best to wear a Gamecock uniform, highlighted by being the first to earn All-SEC honors all four years of her career. This season’s domination included averaging a double-double overall (12.9 ppg/10.7 rpg), in SEC action (12.7 ppg/11.1 rpg) and against ranked opponents (11.8 ppg/11.4 rpg). Coates owned the glass on both ends of the floor, leading the team in rebounds 20 times in her 28 outings and ranking fourth in the SEC in offensive rebounds and ninth in the nation with an SEC-best 7.4 defensive boards per outing. Among active NCAA Division I players, she is second in career rebounds (1,230) and double-doubles (57), ranking second in school history in both categories as well. Coates is just the third Gamecock all-time to reach the 1,000-rebound plateau and the first since 1980-81 to amass 50 career double-doubles.
The No. 3/4 Gamecocks will vie for their second NCAA Final Four appearance tonight against No. 10/13 Florida State as play in the NCAA Stockton Regional closes out the Elite Eight games at 9 p.m. (ET) on ESPN.
2017 AP All-America First TeamNapheesa Collier, F, UConnBrionna Jones, C, MarylandKatie Lou Samuelson, G, UConnKelsey Plum, G, WashingtonA’ja Wilson, F, South Carolina
2017 AP All-America Second TeamKelsey Mitchell, G, Ohio StateChantel Osahor, F/C, WashingtonAlexis Peterson, G, SyracuseBrianna Turner, F, Notre DameGabby Williams, F, UConn
2017 AP All-America Third TeamLindsay Allen, G, Notre DameLexie Brown, G, DukeVictoria Vivians, F, Mississippi StateShatori Walker-Kimbrough, G, MarylandSydney Wiese, G, Oregon State