It came full circle for Aaliyah Wilson Saturday at Rotary Park — the place of some of her earliest childhood memories as a Muskogee native.
On a break from her first year with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever with the Olympic break in progress, Wilson came home to be honored by approximately 300 family, friends, former teammates and classmates, coaches and fans along with Mayor Marlon Coleman, who presented her with a key to the city and proclaimed it “Aaliyah Wilson Day.”
“This is bigger than me and what I’ve been able to accomplish,” she told the gathering. “A kid looking back 10 years ago and my old stomping grounds and say ‘wow, I’m in the WNBA.’ No matter what it is you are or what you want to do, that goal you have is real. Nobody can tell you you can’t go get it.”
While signing autographs as part of festivities that also included a 3-on-3 basketball tournament for all ages, Wilson looked back on those days in this park as a kid.
“Trying to jump over my sister’s back to score on her when I was younger and my brother and sister keeping me from getting the rebound so I could shoot, walking over here with my dad in the evening from the house, them beating up on me and me on them, just me trying to find myself and my way with this park, it will always be special,” she said.
The one-time McDonald’s All-American and Phoenix Athlete of the Year who reached All-American status at Texas A&M was drafted by the Seattle Storm in the first round of the 2021 WNBA draft then almost immediately dealt to the Indiana Fever, where she’s expected to be part of a significant rebuild there.
Wilson was slowed by a knee injury early and didn’t play her first game until June 24. She had 19 minutes of action in her most work since coming off the injured list on July 9, an 82-69 win over the New York Liberty.
“It finally hit me then, getting some playing time and one of our biggest home games with the fans there, this was like my welcome to the WNBA moment,” she said.
Among those in attendance was her former head coach at Muskogee, Doyle Rowland. Now retired, Rowland with Wilson had three consecutive state tournament trips from 2014-2016.
“I’m so very, very, proud of her because she’s never let anything keep her from rising to the top,” he said. “She’s so motivated on her goals and what she wants to do in life. She didn’t let sickness stop her, she didn’t let injuries stop her and now she’s being rewarded for every bit of it.
“She’s such a role model for any young athlete, girl or boy, to put your best foot forward and let nothing get in the way of a goal.”
The sickness was an auto-immune disorder while at Arkansas before transferring to A&M. There, she fought back after tearing her MCL and ACL in her left knee in 2018.