The Las Vegas Aces look as dominant as ever as they come to within six wins away of successfully defending their WNBA championship after making quick work of the Chicago Sky across two lopsided first-round games. A big part of their continued dominance has been the stellar play of star forward A'ja Wilson, who continues to show that she's a class above her peers on the court thanks to her incredible output on both ends of the court. And on Friday, Wilson's work on defense was validated in the form of a second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award.
Wilson, despite not exactly being a sieve on defense back in her pre-Aces days, has come a long way from being the player who found herself on the receiving end of some defensive teasing from Dawn Staley, her collegiate head coach at South Carolina. In fact, the Aces forward dropped a special shoutout to someone who has proven to be an instrumental part of her defensive growth.
“Now she's more like, ‘All right, you got it.' And I'm like, ‘Thank you, Coach Staley.' I always appreciate her. She helped me. She motives me to this day,” Wilson said, per Michael Voepel of ESPN.
The Aces star has won awards for her defense in back in her college days, but winning it on the professional level certainly hits differently even if she has won the same acclaim just a season ago.
“Winning [a defensive award] in college, I was like, ‘OK, cool.' But winning at this level feels different, because these are pros, world-class elite women. I'm excited to share it with my teammates,” Wilson added.
At the end of the day, the Aces forward prides herself on her versatility and never-ending desire to fight and make an impact on the less glamorous end of the court.
“I like to take that challenge of ‘Can I guard a 5? Can I guard a 1?' I try to go out there and prove it every time,” Wilson said. “”I'm not trying to be the world's best [shot-blocker], but if I can contain to help my guards or force a missed shot, I'm happy with that. People always say defense starts with the heart. I try to have as much heart as I can.”
Now, A'ja Wilson and the Aces set their sights towards taking care of the Dallas Wings in the semifinals of the 2023 WNBA playoffs.