GAME DAY FEATURE: Chris Wilson
Jan. 23, 2013
by Nikki Philpot
If you didn't know him last year, you certainly know him now.
Because Chris Wilson is having himself quite the season.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard has seen action in all 16 games this year with 13 starts to his name - 12 more than his total number of starts from all of last season. Wilson has utilized his increase in both minutes (he averages just over 32 per game) and opportunity to embrace his new role on this season's squad: team leader.
"My role is running the team and running the show as the point guard," said Wilson of his responsibilities on the court this season. "It's being an extension of the coach and one of our vocal leaders. I just try to be aggressive on offense and aggressive on defense."
That aggressive demeanor has shone through as Wilson has noticeably contributed on both ends of the court for the Hawks this season - from hitting a career-high 19 points to lead SJU over nationally-ranked Notre Dame at the Barclays Center to averaging an impressively low 2.1 turnovers per game from the point when getting the starting nod.
His play is confident, and his confidence doesn't waver. He carries himself with the mentality of a point guard and has consequently proven himself to be a fan favorite. It's indisputable that his game has progressed, and with that development, the sophomore has gotten it done.
Wilson kicked off the game by hitting four consecutive three-pointers en route to an eventual career-high 5-of-7 shooting from beyond on the arc. Draining just one three-pointer in the opening minutes against the nationally-ranked Bulldogs would have brought Hawk fans to their feet.
Wilson hit four.
But those flawless points aren't what Wilson remembers about Butler because Wilson doesn't play for individual numbers. He focuses on one play at a time.
This is apparent in the fact that the sophomore hadn't even recognized what he had done.
"I didn't realize that I hit four in a row until that first TV timeout," admitted Wilson. "It was just one shot at a time: being open and knocking it down...it definitely would have been sweeter if we had gotten the win."
Wilson's perfect 4-of-4 shooting from three-point range in the first 4:49 was a direct result of 100% work ethic and 0% luck. He put in tireless energy in the offseason to break down, rework, and perfect his shot.
Let's look at the numbers. At this point last season, Wilson was averaging 4.1 points per game to go with 2.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists. This year, the statistics in those exact categories read 8.1, 3.8, and 4.0.
The numbers don't lie. And to Wilson, it's all about the adjustment.
Before the start of his career on Hawk Hill, the Fayetteville, N.C. native played high school ball for the Bulldogs of Terry Sanford High School, where he was a two-time Associated Press All-State selection that averaged 18.4 points per game. Wilson dominated the high school scene but revealed that the speed and pace of the college game proved to be a challenge for him as a rookie in the Atlantic 10.
"In high school, I was stronger than most guards so I could just get into the paint at will," said Wilson of his basketball days at Terry Sanford. "In college, it's not always like that. There are guys that are older and stronger than me, guys that are defensively talented. So the biggest adjustment for me was the speed and the athleticism of the other guys."
After competing at the collegiate level for a year, Wilson made an adjustment in the one area that stifled him last season.
"Last year, I had an inconsistent jump shot, so that allowed people to lay off of me and not respect my jump shot to the point where it made it harder for me to get into the paint and score or get assists to my teammates."
Wilson shot .364 from the floor last season with a total of 32 field goals. This season, he's shooting .430 and has already made 46 field goals with 13 regular-season games still to come.
He realized that he would be able to excel on both ends of his game if he could knock down the jump shot with consistency as well as change the pace of his game with more ease and frequency. For the success of the first part of that formula, Wilson credits coaches David Duda and Rob Sullivan for working with him on his mechanics of shooting from three-point range, mid-range, and off the dribble. For the latter, he acknowledges coach Geoff Arnold for the improvement of his pace with the basketball.
Although he has made necessary adjustments, Wilson's game has remained consistent in one area - his point guard mentality.
"I love to see my teammates get involved," said Wilson. "My mindset is that I don't always look to score first. If I get in the paint or make a play, I'd be just as happy if I passed it to somebody and they scored. That's never changed."
When you take a look at Wilson's poise on the court, it doesn't come as a surprise that he tries to model his own game after Deron Williams, star point guard for the Brooklyn Nets. To Wilson, Williams is great because Williams is a great leader.
"I really like the way that he can score and how he can run the team," said Wilson. "He can dominate a game without taking a shot or he can take over the game scoring-wise."
Wilson will look to combine both the physical adjustments and mental strengths this evening as the Hawks host St. Bonaventure.
And what a game this promises to be.
Last season, Wilson dropped 13 points against the Bonnies in regular-season conference action and then saw 19 minutes against them in the quarterfinals of his first conference tournament. In a span of just two weeks, the Hawks came up short - twice - the first loss by six points and the tournament loss by three. Those kinds of wounds don't just heal without a trace, but Wilson and his squad refuse to come out tonight looking for vengeance. They will approach this game like all others - with their focus on getting one step closer to that A-10 title.
"Winning will be the only thing I'll be thinking about," Wilson affirmed. "It stings that they beat us twice in close games, but it's not like we're coming out this year for revenge. Our goal is to win the Atlantic 10, and they're in the way of that. If we want to win the A-10, we have to beat them, so that's the only thing I'm focused on."
Like any competitive basketball player, Wilson sets high goals for himself. However, at this point in the season, he is set on leading the Hawks in two ways:
"I'm focused on trying to take my game up a notch every single game and doing whatever I can to help this team win. That's all I'm thinking about," he said.
Look for #24 to make a difference in this evening's game - either as a starter guiding his team from the opening tip or as a spark of energy off the bench.
In either capacity, you know him now.
He's about three things: team, success, and above all, his team's success.
He's Chris Wilson.