It's that time of year. College basketball fans everywhere are gearing up for the NCAA's March Madness tournament. This is also the season where folks try their luck at predicting the champs through their brackets. While the odds of being correct are 1 in 120.2 billion, it's still fun to put your favorite teams at the top and hope for the best. But this year, WNBA Las Vegas Aces star, A'ja Wilson, wants us to also be aware that rooting and filling out your bracket for the women's NCAA teams is just as exciting as doing so for the men.
Wilson recently teamed up with AT&T to share with basketball fans the importance of supporting equity in sports, with a new March Madness campaign called “Madness Loves Company.”
"The biggest thing for me is helping people understand that there is a women's bracket, and you should fill out brackets on both sides. So many focus on the men's NCAA and often forget the women. Both need to be watched, we have our upsets and excitement just like the men do. When it comes to brackets, just enjoy the fun of it and the probabilities of what can happen. The key is to trust your gut and stick with that," she shares.
This year, Wilson has her eyes set on UNLV and South Carolina's women–her alma mater, which she has taking it all—and on the men's side she's rooting for Purdue.
"I'm just excited for the madness to begin," she continues.
As a former NCAA champion herself in 2017, she says that being able to play in this tournament is truly a dream come true for college athletes. According to her, it's just as exhilarating as competing in the Olympics.
"I wish I could turn back the clock and win it all over again with my teammates in Dallas," Wilson says.
Beyond NCAA March Madness and all-things brackets, Wilson is a huge advocate for sports equity and ensuring women get the respect they deserve in the sports industry. Her biggest piece of advice for young female athletes is to always be true to yourself.
"Don't let anyone try to shake you. As Black women, we go through so much from code switching and putting on a mask just to get in the door," shares Wilson. "It's not easy and takes sacrifice, but when you are your authentic self, you're going to be successful as a whole. I always say, 'if you can see her, you can be her.' That's why I like playing on the platform I'm on because it gives another young Black girl the opportunity to say, 'if she can do it, so can I.' I try to relay that and help them realize that you are the light that someone needs."
As the acceptance of women in mostly male-dominated sports continues to progress, Wilson wants more to be done to truly put female athletes on an even playing field. She hopes to continue pushing for that, while also progressing her own career. As for the WNBA champ's hobbies and endeavors off the court, she shares that she owns a candle brand, Burnt Wax Candle Company, that she operates with her mother.
"I love candles, they help me relax," explains the NBA star and lifestyle entrepreneur. "So this is definitely my baby, and it's receiving such great feedback!"