College Sports

USC’s future A’ja Wilson statue has a home. Giant Gamecock sculpture delayed again

A’ja Wilson shares her surprise at USC statue announcement

South Carolina women’s basketball star A’ja Wilson talks about her reaction when president Harris Pastides announced at her graduation that USC will build a statue in her honor, how her rookie year is going and what it means to get her degree.
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South Carolina women’s basketball star A’ja Wilson talks about her reaction when president Harris Pastides announced at her graduation that USC will build a statue in her honor, how her rookie year is going and what it means to get her degree.

A’ja Wilson’s lasting presence on South Carolina basketball now has a concrete location.

The statue for the all-time Gamecock great will be placed between the fountain and main entrance outside Colonial Life Arena. Such was announced Friday at the USC board of trustees meeting. The budgeted $275,000 project, taking care of via private funds and now approved by the board, is expected to be completed prior to the 2020-21 season.

The Wilson statue, a tribute to USC’s three-time All-American and the 2018 national player of the years, will be sculpted by Julie Rotblatt-Amrany. Rotblatt-Amrany has impressive athlete-crafting experience as proven by her work on the Michael Jordan statue in Chicago and Jerry West statue in Los Angeles.

While one statue has a home, another one is still waiting to land.

The giant Gamecock statue, which was approved by USC’s board in 2016 and planned for outside of Williams-Brice Stadium, is expected to be completed and delivered in November. It’s now being made in San Diego. On-site assembly will take place after the 2019 season.

“This is a sculpture that’s nearly 20 feet wide,” said university architect Derek Gruner. “Really, it’s like 24 feet with the tips of the tail, which really the tail is the last section now to be done. ... Over 100 pieces of bronze have to be tiled together and then welted, continuously polished ... just many, many steps that goes into this.

“So the detail is pretty tremendous. It’s a tremendous work of art. It’s just taken a long time to get it done ... an engineering challenge.”

When it’s officially unveiled to the public remains unknown.

USC athletics director Ray Tanner said in January he was optimistic about the statue being in place before USC opened the 2019 season against Charleston Southern. The original goal was to have it up before the 2017 season. The statue is a $995,000 project paid with gifts to the university.

It’s destined to be placed on the Spring Brooks Plaza near the George Rogers statue.

Tanner on California bill

This week, California’s state legislature became the first one in the United States to pass a controversial proposal allowing college athletes to profit from their fame by earning endorsement money.

Tanner on Friday, and after a pair of S.C. Democrats added to the movement, was asked by the board for his thoughts on the manner.

The California Fair Pay to Play Act is still pending. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has a month to decide whether to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature. The new law would take effect Jan. 1, 2023, giving the NCAA time to get on board with letting players profit from their names and likenesses.

“There’s a lot of things that will happen before then, I’m sure a lot of litigation,” Tanner said. “It’s a very difficult process. I think we’re in a really good place. We do cost of attendance now, we provide all kinds of services. I probably shouldn’t do my editorial, but I don’t see how it could ever work. We have 21 sports and for all intents and purposes, football pays the freight for the other 20. If we’re going in that direction, however it may be set up, it’s going to affect us financially in a big way.”

Sellouts

Tanner told the board that Saturday’s football game against No. 2 Alabama is sold out. Upcoming home games against Kentucky (Sept. 28) and Clemson (Nov. 30) are expected to do the same.

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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