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A’ja Wilson Wanted This to Be Her Year. So Far, It Is.


“The first year was, ‘Oh my God, what is going on?’ ” Laimbeer said of Wilson’s outlook. “Second year, I really thrust a leadership role on her, and she had to do it — it wore her down in some games. But this year, she came with the focus that this is her basketball team — that she’s going to do what she has to do for this basketball team to be successful.”

In many ways, this trajectory is a familiar one. Wilson won the Rookie of the Year Award in Year 1, and M.V.P. in Year 3 — just like Stewart, Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles, whose talent level, said Laimbeer — who coached Charles with the Liberty — is within Wilson’s reach.

“I guess Year 3 is a special year for a lot of us,” Wilson said, adding that it was a “big deal” to be mentioned with those players. “I think it’s the year that you really start to know yourself, to know the league.”

But what’s striking in the conversation around Wilson is less that she’s reached these heights already, at age 24, but that everyone, Wilson included, sees a ceiling so much higher than this current perch, even as she sits atop the league’s pecking order.

For Laimbeer, it’s seeing Wilson, a natural lefty, build on her ability to drive to her right by getting comfortable shooting right-handed anywhere on the court. Staley talked about Wilson extending her range beyond the 3-point line; she has just one attempt from deep in three seasons.

And then there’s that final hurdle: doing it all the time.

“I think that’s really what I focused on in the off-season — just making sure that I can knock down shots in my way and making sure that no one gets in my way of getting there,” Wilson said.

That work came to fruition in the late moments of Las Vegas’ final regular-season game, also against Seattle. Up 82-79 and coming out of a timeout, Aces guard Danielle Robinson fed Wilson at the top of the key, forcing a defensive switch. It was the clear play call to get the ball to Wilson in that spot. The Storm surrounded her.

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