It was a strong start to a great season for the 6-foot-4 guard. Wilson won Lehigh’s Most Valuable Player award and was named third team All-Patriot League and NABC second team All-District. He led the Mountain Hawks, and finished in the top 10 in the Patriot League, in points (15.3), assists (2.8) and steals (1.6) per game. But his journey has not always been a smooth one.
During his second year at Lehigh, Wilson lost his grandfather and, along with him, his direction. He says he still gets chills thinking about the time when two constants in his life—his family and identity as a basketball player—were in turmoil. The marketing major’s performance in the classroom fell and his academic standing made Wilson ineligible for basketball.
Packing up and heading home was an option, but ultimately he stayed.
“At the end of the day, there’s no way that I could ever, ever give this up before I’m forced to,” Wilson says.
It was tough, Wilson says, but the Lehigh coaching staff, including head coach Brett Reed and his family, and his teammates were there for support.
Wilson’s father and Reed told him they understood what he was going through but he had let his team down. They advised him to apologize to his teammates. He prepared remarks that he never ended up using. The room fell quiet as he walked in to face his teammates. Speaking from his heart, he says he told them he was sorry. He was going through something but it wasn’t an excuse.
“That was one of the toughest things I ever had to do,” Wilson says.
That experience factors into one of his favorite mottos, “learn, grow, lead,” he says. As a fifth-year senior, he’s learned and grown; now he’s embracing his role as a leader. He’s offering advice to younger players wherever he can and he’s recognizing the impact it’s having. He’s seeing his teammates incorporate his advice, sometimes into the very next drill.
“There’s nothing [the younger players] can go through that I haven’t,” Wilson says. “You have family issues, somebody passed away, school issues, problems with your girl back home, relationship problems, friendship problems, you’re homesick? I’ve been through everything. … Why not embrace it?”
Wilson would love for the team to win a Patriot League championship and qualify for the NCAA’s March Madness tournament. Each year he watches with his friends and thinks “next year,” but in his last season, he says the urgency is heightened. With fans set to be back in the stands, he says this season will be special regardless.
“Last year ... all these cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands was a constant reminder of just how different things were,” Wilson says. “This year it just feels like, ‘Okay, we’re back.’ ”