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South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson headlines AP women’s All-America team

Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu, right, defends against a pass by Central Michigan guard Micaela Kelly during a NCAA regional semifinal basketball game on Saturday, March 24, 2018, at the Spokane Arena. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu, right, defends against a pass by Central Michigan guard Micaela Kelly during a NCAA regional semifinal basketball game on Saturday, March 24, 2018, at the Spokane Arena. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

NEW YORK – A’ja Wilson is now part of an elite women’s basketball group.

South Carolina’s senior center became the seventh player Monday ever to earn Associated Press All-America team honors three times. She was a unanimous choice from the 32-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. Wilson was joined on the All-America team by UConn’s Katie Lou Samuelson, Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, Louisville’s Asia Durr and Mississippi State’s Victoria Vivians. Voting was done before the NCAA Tournament.

Wilson is the seventh player to be a three-time All-American. Baylor’s Brittney Griner, Tennessee’s Chamique Holdsclaw, Duke’s Alana Beard, Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris and UConn’s Breanna Stewart and Maya Moore are the only other players to earn first-team honors at least three times.

Paris and Moore were All-Americans all four years.

“Those six others to be listed with them is amazing,” Wilson said . “To be in that list of names, so now with years to come when young girls are growing up and they want this and see my name in that name book it’s something special. Something I dreamed of, but never would have imagined.”

Wilson averaged 22.6 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks this season for the Gamecocks and has them in the regional finals Monday night, a year after winning the school’s first national championship.

She’ll face Samuelson and UConn on Monday night.

Samuelson earned All-America honors for the second consecutive season averaging 17.9 points, shooting 44 percent from behind the arc. Coach Geno Auriemma has been impressed how the junior forward has been able to improve aspects of her game every season.

“The thing about Lou is that she’s been able to, each and every year add something to her game,” he said. “When you do as many things well as she does, it’s not so much the numbers it’s how she just breaks games wide open with 3s and she’s one of the best passers on our team and one of the best ball handlers on our team. So, I’m not surprised that she would be recognized as an All-American.”

Durr, Vivians and Ionescu were all honored for the first time.

Louisville’s star guard averaged nearly 19 points a game and usually saved her best moments for the biggest games to help the Cardinals win the ACC regular season and conference tournaments. She also helped Louisville reach the Final Four this year where they will face Mississippi State.

“She’s played well on a big stage and I’ve been very impressed with that,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “She’s such a hard worker. First in the gym, last one out of the gym. She wants to be great and always challenges herself.”

Vivians came to Mississippi State as a scorer, but was far from being a complete player. Now she’s much more multi-faceted and has been a key reason that the Bulldogs only lost once this season.

“It’s kind of shocked me how I’m playing now,” Vivians said. “I’m liking it. Just having great shot selection, getting the ball to my teammates, playing defense and rebounding. Just doing everything – not being one-dimensional.”

Vivians averaged 19.6 points and 6.0 rebounds for the Bulldogs and is the second player from the school to be honored as an All-American, joining LaToya Thomas – who did it in 2002 and 2003.

Only a sophomore, Ionescu has already etched her name in the NCAA record books with 10 triple-doubles. She has led Oregon to one of the best seasons in school history averaging 19.4 points, 7.8 assists and 6.6 rebounds. She’s the first Duck to earn first-team All-America honors.

Oregon faces Notre Dame on Monday night at the Spokane Arena in a regional final at 6 p.m.

“I think Sabrina is just a phenomenal player, just phenomenal. So difficult to guard,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “I’ve never seen a player, especially so young, already got the record for triple-doubles, but the assists is what’s so impressive to me. I’ve had some pretty good point guards, some good guards, but to look at the number of assists she has, really it’s a challenge to figure out how to defend them.”

The second team consisted of Baylor’s Kalani Brown, Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell, UConn’s Gabby Williams, Iowa’s Megan Gustafson and Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale.

UConn’s Napheesa Collier headlined the third team. She was joined by Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan, UCLA’s Jordin Canada, Duke’s Lexie Brown and Louisville’s Myisha Hines-Allen.

Wilson, Mitchell, Samuelson, Collier and Williams made up the preseason All-America team.

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2018 WOMEN’S AP ALL-AMERICA TEAM LIST

Statistics are through March 15

First Team

– A’ja Wilson, South Carolina, 6-5, senior, Hopkins, S.C., 22.6 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 55.0 fg pct, 3.2 blocks (32 first-place votes, 160 points)

– Katie Lou Samuelson, UConn, 6-3, junior, Huntington Beach, Calif., 17.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.7 apg, 53.1 fg pct, 46.2 3pt fg pct, 83.8 ft pct, 1.3 steals (30, 156)

– Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon, 5-11, sophomore, Walnut Creek, Calif., 19.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 7.8 apg, 43.7 3pt fg pct, 1.6 steals (21, 134)

– Asia Durr, Louisville, 5-10, junior, Douglasville, Ga., 18.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.1 apg, 42.5 3pt fg pct, 1.0 steals (19, 124)

– Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State, 6-1, senior, Carthage, Miss., 19.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.5 steals (20, 123)

Second Team

– Kalani Brown, Baylor, 6-7, junior, Slidell, La., 20.2 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 66.3 fg pct, 1.2 blocks (13, 118)

– Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State, 5-8, senior, Cincinnati, 24.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.2 apg, 40.8 3pt fg pct, 1.5 steals (7, 108)

– Gabby Williams, UConn, 5-11, senior, Sparks, Nev., 10.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 5.2 apg, 59.1 fg pct, 2.6 steals (8, 103)

– Megan Gustafson, Iowa, 6-3, junior, Port Wing, Wis., 25.6 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 66.8 fg pct, 2.1 blocks (7, 74)

– Arike Ogunbowale, Notre Dame, 5-8, junior, Milwaukee, 20.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.6 steals (1, 74)

Third Team

– Napheesa Collier, UConn, 6-1, junior, O’Fallon, Mo., 15.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 56.5 fg pct, 1.7 steals (1, 59)

– Teaira McCowan, Mississippi State, 6-7, junior, Brenham, Texas, 17.7 ppg, 13.2 rpg, 60.2 fg pct, 2.0 blocks (1, 42)

– Jordin Canada, UCLA, 5-6, senior, Los Angeles, 16.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.9 apg, 3.2 steals (0, 41)

– Lexie Brown, Duke, 5-9, senior, Suwanee, Ga., 20.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.4 apg, 3.5 steals (0, 15)

– Myisha Hines-Allen, Louisville, 6-2, senior, Montclair, N.J., 13.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 53.1 fg pct, 1.1 steals (0, 15)

Honorable Mention (alphabetical order)

Ariel Atkins, Texas; Kenisha Bell, Minnesota; Tashia Brown, Western Kentucky; Natalie Butler, George Mason; Bridget Carleton, Iowa State; Chennedy Carter, Texas A&M; Lauren Cox, Baylor; Sophie Cunningham, Missouri; Katelynn Flaherty, Michigan; Loryn Goodwin, Oklahoma State; Marie Gulich, Oregon State; Ruthy Hebard, Oregon; Kaylee Jensen, Oklahoma State; Maria Jespersen, South Florida; Brooke McCarty, Texas; Brittany McPhee, Stanford; Tinara Moore, Central Michigan; Teana Muldrow, West Virginia; Kia Nurse, UConn; Jaime Nared, Tennessee; Shakayla Thomas, Florida State; Morgan William, Mississippi State; Imani Wright, Florida State.


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