The following content is presented by Nissan. It does not reflect the work or opinions of the NBC stations news staff. Click here to learn more about Nissan.
In our Thrills in Tokyo series, we’ll highlight some of the summer Olympics biggest competitions. More than just focusing on the teams, we’ll look at the colleges from which these athletes hail.
With the pressure to win their seventh consecutive gold medal, the U.S. Women's Basketball team has put together a team that’s ready to take on a challenge unlike any other.
Of the six players making their Olympic debut, A'ja Wilson is already shining in Tokyo. The University of South Carolina alum, All-American, and 2020 WNBA MVP was Team USA's leading scorer during the group stage games and finished with a double-double in two of them.
For someone who’s only 24 years old, Wilson has already made quite an impact in the sport. Earlier this year, as part of the University of South Carolina’s observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a statue of Wilson was unveiled near the main entrance of the school’s basketball arena.
"A'ja was a powerful force in our program, on our campus, and in our community through everything that she accomplished on the court and the person she was off it," the Gamecock and Team USA’s coach Dawn Staley said during the statue’s unveiling. "This statue in front of this arena is an equally powerful force. Every young person, and especially young black girls, can see what is possible through hard work, passion, and dedication."
Though this is their first Olympics together, Staley and Wilson have seen success in a high-stakes tournament together before. The two won the national championship as coach-and-player at South Carolina in 2017. Coach Staley is like my second mom,” Wilson told NBC before the start of the Games. “I thought I left her in South Carolina, but we’re back together again.”
Both are ready to repeat their NCAA success on the Olympic stage. “I love the Olympics because you’re seeing the best of the best from around the world,” Wilson told NBC Olympics. “Winning a gold medal is something I dream of.”
Another Olympic rookie ready to leave an Olympic mark is Chelsea Gray. With a strong performance against Australia in the quarterfinals, the Duke graduate was a key player in the American’s 53rd consecutive win in Olympic competition.
And this is a big first for her. Not only are these her first Olympic Games and first major international competition, it’s also the first time ever a Duke Women’s Basketball player is part of Team USA at the Olympics.
After seriously injuring her right knee midway through both her junior and senior NCAA seasons and struggling early in her professional career, Gray continues to show her resilience and determination. "My path hasn't been straight and narrow," she noted during a pre-Olympic training camp interview. "There have been some hills and obstacles to get to where I am today, and I'm super proud of the hard work that I've put into this game. I'm excited to wrap USA across my chest and compete for a gold medal."
For sports excitement, turn to the Olympics. For driving thrills, click here to see what Nissan has to offer.
Catch full Olympic coverage on NBC, including the Women’s Basketball Final tonight at 12:05 a.m. ET.