The significance of the date made Monday's dedication of her statue at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina, all the more meaningful to former Gamecock women's basketball standout A'ja Wilson.
"This is the day we recognize the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King [Jr.]," Wilson said in a Zoom call Monday. "My grandmother couldn't even walk on this campus; she had to walk around [it]. If she was here today to see her granddaughter has a statue where she once could not walk ... it goes to show how you just plant seeds, and that's what it's all about."
still surreal ❤️ love you SC pic.twitter.com/ChDGFRHQiB— A'ja Wilson (@_ajawilson22) January 19, 2021
Wilson, 24, grew up in Hopkins, South Carolina, just outside of Columbia, and the hometown star helped lead the Gamecocks to their first NCAA title in 2017 and first Women's Final Four in 2015.
In her career spanning 2014-18, she was a three-time first-team All-American, a three-time SEC player of the year and the WNBA's No. 1 draft pick in 2018, when she was the league's Rookie of the Year. This past season, Wilson was the WNBA's MVP for the Las Vegas Aces.
The 2020 WNBA season, played in a bubble in Bradenton, Florida, had social justice as its focus. That is important to Wilson, who hopes her statue can be an inspiration to all, but particularly to young people.
"Change doesn't happen overnight," Wilson said. "But little Black girls can look at that statue and say, 'Wow.' I'm always going to be unapologetically me, and I hope those young Black girls see the role models that are here in front of them. Because I still look up to so many."