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Aces back for 2nd White House visit, with Bidens this time

Updated May 8, 2024 - 7:18 pm

WASHINGTON — The Aces are returning to the White House to celebrate their back-to-back championships.

Thursday’s visit, scheduled for 1 p.m. Pacific time, will honor the team’s victory over the New York Liberty for the 2023 WNBA title. The team will be hosted by President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and first lady Jill Biden.

The Aces will end the whirlwind weekend with a trip to South Carolina for their only preseason game.

Last year, Harris hosted the Aces after the Bidens extended a vacation at the last minute. Joined by her husband, second gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Harris applauded the 2022 winners for the “grit and determination” they showcased en route to defeating the Connecticut Sun and bringing home Nevada’s first major professional sports championship.

The Aces’ display of perseverance continued last season, as they became the first WNBA franchise to repeat as champions since 2002. They accomplished the feat without 2022 Finals MVP Chelsea Gray and center Kiah Stokes, who were sidelined with injuries for the title-clinching Game 4.

Last season’s effort was led by star forward A’ja Wilson, who earned the Finals MVP title after being named defensive player of the year for the regular season.

Wilson, the 2022 regular-season MVP, will be further honored as the weekend continues. After the White House visit, the Aces will go to Wilson’s alma mater for an exhibition game against the Puerto Rico national team at Columbia’s Colonial Life Arena on Saturday.

Wilson powered the Gamecocks to the 2017 NCAA title before becoming the No. 1 overall pick by the Aces in 2018.

The idea for the unconventional preseason game was born after no WNBA team wanted to play the Aces, coach Becky Hammon said. The circumstances forced the team to get creative. Once South Carolina agreed to host, things fell into place.

“We just started kind of building from there,” Hammon said. “It’s really cool for players to go home, and that’s where she’s from. She’s the centerpiece of our whole organization.”

Aces general manager Natalie Williams said last week that 12,000 tickets had already been sold for Wilson’s homecoming.

For guard Kelsey Plum, who jokingly called Wilson the “mayor of South Carolina,” the entire trip is an opportunity to build team chemistry.

“We have some new pieces, and we’re just trying to figure out where our rhythm is,” Plum said. “Because when the season starts, it happens fast.”

The Aces open the season Tuesday against the Phoenix Mercury at Michelob Ultra Arena.

Contact reporter Callie Lawson-Freeman at clawsonfreeman@reviewjournal.com. Follow @CallieJLaw on X.

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