There are elements in each day of A’ja Wilson’s life that make you to believe she bops to the beat of a typical high school senior.
She thinks about prom, her basketball team, going to the movies with her friends. She is a prolific social media maven, immersed in Twitter andits communicative cousins.
At Heathwood Hall in Columbia, S.C., she is dealing with the research and writing of her mandatory research senior project, a 15-page thesis on the impact of Title IX on basketball across colleges and universities the nation.
“That’s been one of my primary focuses,” Wilson said.
And so you might say she is dealing with all the normal stuff. Then take another look.
Wilson, a 6-4 forward, is the top-ranked player in her senior class, an opinion shared by just about everyone who has watched her play. She has a post’s frame and a small forward’s inclination.
But what further distinguishes her, as January prepares to turn to February, is that unlike just about all of her peers, she hasn’t decided where to play in college.
And her choices are impressively daunting – UConn, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
To each school, Wilson’s recruitment would be a coup. And to each school, she would represent something different, from a piece to a championship puzzle to the prized building block of a contender.
“What do I want? I’d say a combination of both,” Wilson said. “There are role players in every program. It’s just going to come down to what I believe is the best fit for me.”
Wilson is a great athlete, a big scorer, a difference-maker.
This is her fifth varsity season – she started in eighth grade – and she entered her senior year with 2,170 points Last season, she helped Heathwood Hall to the regional championship and state runner-up finish, averaging 22.0 points and 15.0 rebounds.
How good is she? In December, she set records at the Myrtle Beach Holiday Classic by scored 56 points in a loss to break Ivory Latta’s record of 53 in a 85-82. Wilson also set four-game tournament records with 167 points and 83 rebounds.
“I love the three [small forward] position,” Wilson said. “If you were to ask me, I’d say I’m more of a mobile three as a player.”
She has also competed in track and field, volleyball and soccer (2010-11) and broke her high school’s 100-meter record. And last summer, she won gold on the USA Basketball’s U19 team.
But now things are drawing to an end with her recruitment. Which way will she lean; the established corporation (UConn), the rebuilding icon (Tennessee) or the upstarts (North Carolina, South Carolina)?
“I’m honestly not leaning in any direction,” Wilson said. “I just want to have the feeling I’m with people I’m confident I would fit in with the best on the team.”
UConn would add her to its top-ranked freshman class of 2014 that features four big guards, plug her into the spot vacated by the graduation of Stefanie Dolson and watch her sail next to her USA Basketball buddy, Breanna Stewart.
Wilson, who wants to study sports marketing and psychology – “I love how the mind works,” she said – doesn’t recall when she first heard from UConn. But she does remember what she did when she received her first letter from them.
“I started freaking out,” Wilson said. “My father was asking me what was happening. I told him, ‘I just heard from Connecticut!’”
Her official visit to UConn was for First Night in October. She hung out with her host, Stewart, and sat in the hallway with the players working on a crafts project with 2014 signees Courtney Ekmark, Gabby Williams and Sadie Edwards.
“The whole visit was amazing,” Wilson said. “Just the idea of being up in Storrs was so eye-opening to be there with the girls. I follow many of them on Instagram and Twitter so I already had a feeling for them.
“And then to go to Coach Auriemma’s home. I can describe what it was like soaking that in.”
But South Carolina obviously holds a personal interest. She lives within the shadow of a Palmetto to the Columbia campus, where Coach Dawn Staley is trying to build a consistent SEC powerhouse program.
Her final college visit will be there from Feb. 1-3. And Wilson, the hometown girl with the international skill set, would move Staley’s timeline along. And Wilson said she’s pretty certain after she returns home she will announce her choice somewhere between March and April.
“Would it be hard to say no to them [South Carolina]? Yes, but it was hard just cutting the list to four,” Wilson said. “That was really tough. But the others really stuck out.”
But she also said she will not rush herself.
“Coaching to the college coaches, making my campus visits, seeing the football games [on her trips] has been a blessing for myself and my family. I’ve enjoyed taking it all in. I really have. I’ve been able to see a lot of what goes behind the scenes.”
Wilson says he spends a part of everyday thinking about her decision. She knows the deal; the implications it will have on her life.
“I have to think about it,” Wilson said. “I can’t let a day go by without thinking about where I want to spend my next four years. And trust me, everyone here around me makes sure to ask me, too.
“But it’s not wearing on me. I’m trying not to let [the pressure] get to me. Life is too short to let that happen. I’m just trying to find some balance with it all. I don’t to be too hard on myself because I need to finish out my senior year and hopefully with a state championship. I want to go out with a bang.”