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Sports >  NCAA basketball

Fifth-year guard Anna Wilson emerges as a top Stanford defender

Stanford guard Anna Wilson (3) dribbles against California during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stanford, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021.  (Associated Press)
Stanford guard Anna Wilson (3) dribbles against California during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stanford, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (Associated Press)
By Janie McCauley Associated Press

STANFORD, Calif. — Anna Wilson walked to midcourt to receive congratulations and a big bouquet from Tara VanDerveer and the Hall of Fame Stanford coach only half-jokingly threw out the idea of the fifth-year senior returning for a third Senior Day on The Farm a year from now.

It might just happen.

Given this senior class could opt for another year of eligibility after going through a coronavirus-shortened 2019-20 season, Wilson can come back as a sixth-year senior for the Cardinal. Their team defense sure would be better for it.

“So, Anna, I feel like deja vu, haven’t you been here before?” VanDerveer quipped over the microphone following Sunday’s regular-season finale.

Wilson just laughed and smiled.

“I have been here before. It’s a little different this year but it’s not any less special,” she told her coach.

Wilson has quite the support system to turn to when it comes time to choose what’s next: one of her big brothers is Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. She is accustomed to the constant questions about him, just offering a good-natured smile or chuckle.

There’s a physical reminder as well. A cardboard cutout of her brother sporting a Cardinal red Stanford hoodie hovers just above the basketball bench at Maples Pavilion. He’s always there with her in spirit, along with their mother Tammy and a second brother, Harry.

Anna is doing them all proud, earning Pac-12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year while pursuing a master’s degree. Wilson was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA since she appeared in just six games during her freshman season on The Farm before missing the final 11 with a right foot injury.

On Sunday, the 5-foot-9 guard went through an unprecedented second on-court senior day celebration complete with accolades from teammates following a 72-33 victory against rival California. Her family offered congratulations and virtual hugs through a special video call on the big screen since they couldn’t attend in person this year because of COVID-19 protocols prohibiting fans.

Wilson and No. 4 Stanford (22-2, 19-2 Pac-12) won the Pac-12 regular-season championship for the program’s first title since 2014 and the Cardinal are the top seed for the conference tournament that began Wednesday in Las Vegas. The Cardinal are riding an 11-game winning streak as they prepare to play their opener in the quarterfinals Thursday against the winner between USC and Arizona State.

Russell Wilson would not be outdone by older brother Harry when it came to showering their sister with love and support over the video call.

“Go win it all! You haven’t done anything yet,” the football star told the Stanford players, wife Ciara at his side. “The Pac-12 is great, you’re supposed to win the Pac-12. That’s what you’re supposed to do. The great thing is you’ve got a chance to do something that only so many people in the world can ever do, especially with the circumstances you guys have had to deal with every day.”

Little sister – who like Russell wears uniform No. 3 – has emerged as a pesky lock-down defender whose energy and work ethic during the preseason led to her earning the guard spot in the starting lineup.

She often draws the assignment of defending the opponent’s top player, scrambling around the court to make tough plays. By now, her job comes more naturally because of her preparation beforehand of studying opponents’ tendencies.

“Getting a lot of reps is definitely very helpful,” she said. “It’s also just determining pace and understanding that I won’t be able to do the same thing every time. There’s a ton of possessions in a game so I won’t be able to do the same thing every time but definitely being able to have a lot of effort.”

Wilson and the Cardinal plan to keep this special season going all the way to the Final Four in San Antonio, the hometown of fellow senior starter Kiana Williams.

And, perhaps, just one more run by these two young women?

“It has been great having you back for a fifth year,” VanDerveer said. “You’ve had a fantastic season. You get my vote for Pac-12 defender of the year. … I think that No. 3 on your jersey means you should come back for a third Senior Day.”

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