““I don’t want to sound crazy, but hey, you know,” Roscoe said with a laugh.
Eva Wilson mainly turns her eyes on her husband’s routine. He’ll even make excuses for why he’s out of Colonial Life Arena, where the Gamecocks play their home games. The statue is the third on the Columbia University campus to represent a specific individual and the first for a woman.
“Oh, it just happened [over there]Eva, imitating their conversations, said: “You didn’t happen to be anywhere.” “You wouldn’t happen to be next to the statue. I’m like, Roscoe, really? I wouldn’t be surprised, frankly, Lou Roscoe [did] I go every day.
“If someone said, ‘Eva, I work at Colonial Life Arena and see your husband every day,’ it wouldn’t surprise me. And I work downtown—what, two miles from him—and I don’t.”
They were on the field next to the real Aja Wilson on Sunday, beaming with pride, as she received her second MVP award from Commissioner Kathy Engelbert before the start of the WNBA Finals. She led the Aces into the Championship Series for the second time since the franchise moved to Sin City in 2018. The team drafted Wilson with the #1 pick that year, and advanced to the semifinals in four straight playoffs – losing, 3-0, to Seattle Storm in the 2020 finals – and won a record 26 games this season. The Aces and Connecticut Sun kicked off their Best of Five series on Sunday; Las vigas Advance 1-0, win 67-64 at home.
Wilson, named after a song by Steely Dunn, won her first female defensive player of the season. She averaged 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and fired 50.1 percent from the field while expanding her offensive arm beyond the three-point line for the first time in her career. In Game 1 win, she set the tone early and finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
Wilson made sure to mention her parents when talking about winning the award, something she said she wasn’t striving for despite it being a two-woman race between her and Seattle striker Breanna Stewart. I called them before the announcement and received cries in response.
These moments took decades to make: Her parents represent a divide in her growth as a person. Roscoe is a former professional basketball player who led her development on the court. Eva handles matters off the court in a strict and loving manner. She runs her daughter’s Burnt Wax candle company and tries to stop her from buying too many handbags – an interest Eva has taken on – as the 26-year-old teaches about finances. Perhaps Eva’s lecture didn’t go well: Wilson walked into the post-game 1 press conference with a new Louis Vuitton bag.
“It was just a feeling that he never gets old,” Wilson said of making a call to her parents. “I am so happy that they are able to enjoy this moment with me…because without them I don’t exist – without them who make such sacrifices and lead me to the Al Ain University games where I haven’t played a minute. It’s big.”
Wilson wouldn’t even have washed an AAU jersey – number 22 on the Palmetto 76ers – when their daughter came home. At first, she wasn’t playing enough to make it sloppy. They considered whether the financial commitment was worth it. Eva joked that Aja was content with being a cheerleader for her teammates.
“[At] “Aja, 11 or 12, was feeling sorry for basketball,” Roscoe said. “I mean, totally sorry. I have no problem saying that.”
Sometimes she would come home crying after rehearsals with Roscoe. They were practicing an extra half hour of training before and after the matches. My dad would put her on Mikan Drill Training – a post-game development technique – where she was wearing a 20-pound jacket. Roscoe has always emphasized basics and conditioning, opting to play outside, and those workouts were part of the process. Sessions often end with Aja coming home and running to Eva to complain about Roscoe yelling at her during practice. His answer: “Deal with it.”
Eva understood what was happening when the two of them walked in and didn’t talk to each other.
“I’m like, OK, OK, come on now,” Eva said. “But that’s what it was, though. Nobody speaks. Nobody speaks.
My side was always: ‘Okay, Aja, let’s set the record straight. It only guides you because he was there and did it. He’s not riding you because he just wants to ride your back. He leads you because he wants you to be successful. And if this is something you really, really want to do, listen up. “
Roscoe added, “I didn’t feel bad about it. Well, I did feel bad sometimes because she was going to get really frustrated.”
Fifteen years later, Wilson is one of the best basketball players on the planet. She has some of the best footwork in the WNBA and a talent for attacking the glass with a quick second jump. In three straight wins to beat Storm in the semifinals, Wilson averaged 30.0 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks while shooting 64.2 percent. It wasn’t sped up despite having two extra defenders, and played everything but four minutes during the four games against Storm.
Roscoe remembers his daughter, a middle school student, saying she wanted to be the best player in the country and win a high school championship, college championship, and an Olympic gold medal. You accomplished it all – and the WNBA title is the only thing missing.
Rebecca Lobo, analyst at Hall of Famer and ESPN, said Wilson is more decisive than ever and has improved in every area. Lobo added that she has exemplary behavior and has a sense of when she is demanding with her teammates.
Lachina Robinson, an ESPN analyst, noted that Wilson has taken “huge leaps” in her leadership and speaking up with her teammates. She said Jackie Young, the WNBA Most Improved Player, was empowered by Wilson to be confident and aggressive. Wilson dominated the rally in the fourth quarter of the first game and had a choice of words that teammate Chelsea Gray called “the right thing at the right moment”.
Roscoe’s father was a priest and his mother was a missionary, so the Ajas were raised in church and the faith remains a large part of their family. His trips to campus to gaze at a statue of his daughter are significant. He remembers the days when African Americans were not allowed to play in South Carolina as Jim Crow laws governed the South. Eva’s mother, Hattie Rakes, was a single mother of four who worked multiple jobs. Rex grew up four blocks from where this statue stood and was forbidden to walk on the grounds. She had to completely walk around the campus to get to the other side. Decades later, her granddaughter was immortalized there.
“I spoke to you today.” Wilson said about her father and the statue. “I love it. The most important thing for me about the statue is for my parents to enjoy it. It’s not even about me. It’s just, I can only imagine how big of a smile they are. For them, being able to drive that way on their way to work is a big deal. Too big for me.”
Eva added, “This is progress. For Aja and our family, this is just a testament to what can happen.”