A’ja Wilson does not take the sacrifices of her parents for granted.

Growing up, the Las Vegas Aces player credits her dad for encouraging her to practice shots on the court, she tells ESPN. Her father, Roscoe, would make her wear a weighted vest while she scored layups. The South Carolina-born athlete describes this time period as “the hell part” of their relationship, but it also helped to improve her skills.

“Left hand, right hand, left hand, right hand,” Roscoe told ESPN. “I’d tell her to always know where her feet should be, don’t bring her hands down below her shoulders. Now, it’s second nature.”

A’ja saw her improvement too. “…The heaven part was that as I grew, I started to see my game change. I realized my dad was just being my coach. As I got older and basketball got more serious, I saw that, ‘This man may know some things, A’ja, so I suggest you listen to him.'”

Roscoe’s passion for the game was reflected in his own life. While he never made it to the NBA, the former Benedict College student who majored in physical education and biology would play on over seven teams in seven countries in Europe and South America from 1974 to 1984, reports Benedict College Athletics. He also had aspirations to play for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. However that dream would be lived out by A’ja, who played at the school from 2015 to 2018, per WCBD News 2. During her time at the school, the Gamecocks went 129-16, won the 2017 NCAA Tournament, and earned three SEC regular season titles and four SEC Tournament wins, according to the University of South Carolina Athletics.

“There are still times I say to myself, ‘Gosh dang, A’ja is at USC!'” Roscoe expressed to ESPN. “I see posters of her, billboards. For me, it’s a total fulfillment to see my daughter here… A’ja is a blessing from God for me and my wife, and we never take that for granted. Since her birth, she’s given me nothing but joy.”

Roscoe frequently visits the University of South Carolina as a statue in honor of A’ja was placed at the Colonial Life Arena, The Washington Post mentions.

As for A’ja’s mother, Eva, she was instrumental in not only her daughter’s journey of self discovery as an athlete but in life. According to Andscape, Eva would begin her day in the early hours instilling in her the necessity of a strong work ethic. She also taught her daughter the importance of defending herself.

“There’s always going to be people around that will always be trying to make you feel lesser than, and you are not lesser than,” Eva explained to Andscape. “I made sure that A’ja understood that. I knew what adversity would be coming towards her and if you can’t stand up for yourself, call me. I will. Times were a little different in my era but not so different when it comes to being from the South and what you’re faced with on a daily basis.”

Today, A’ja’s parents remain present as she has continued to find success in the WNBA. The star player was drafted to the WNBA as a No.1 pick in the first round in 2018, debuting with the Las Vegas Aces, per the WNBA. That year she was awarded the WNBA Rookie of the Year and joined the All-Rookie Team, USA Basketball reports. A’ja also boasts two WNBA championships and is a two-time league MVP, two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, and five-time league All-Star.
What’s more, she emphasizes that her victories would not have been possible without her parents.
“…Without them there is no me — without them taking those sacrifices and driving me to those AAU games where I played zero minutes. It’s big,” the 27-year-old told The Washington Post.
In a recent interview with Boardroom, A’ja details how she is paying it forward to her parents, revealing that she has retired her mother, and her dad continues to be rewarded through her time on the court.

“I don’t even think there are enough tangible things that I could do to repay them for how much they’ve sacrificed for me, how much they love for me,” A’ja revealed to Boardroom. “My dad says, ‘I’m living my dream watching my daughter live hers.’ So every time I step foot on that court, every time I’m seen somewhere, I have to shine because I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams, and I’m my parents’ dream.”

She continued, “The least I can do is share with the world because those are my heartbeats. They give, give, give. So the only tangible thing I really did for my mom was retire her so she could be around me more. With my dad, I think just playing the game that he loved and played is a gift itself. So, that’s why, every time I play, I play with so much passion. Y’all going to get this work.”