It’s 7 a.m. on a cold Saturday morning. Players start arriving for basketball practice, but senior captain Chris Wilson is already there. His form of transportation? A bike.
Wilson, a 6-foot forward, bikes three miles to most morning practices from his midtown home.
“Being able to quick-start myself in the morning is important because I have a job on Sunday mornings,” Wilson said. “Basketball’s given me the discipline to wake up early for practice and for work.”
Coach David Ancrum said biking to practice shows that Wilson is eager to play. Ancrum added that Wilson “has a great attitude and has made the team hard-working, just like him.”
Junior guard Avinash Krishna also praised Wilson’s work ethic.
“Chris is so dedicated to the game,” Krishna said. “He’s always in the gym, getting his shots in and getting better. A lot of people don’t see Country Day’s team as something that requires a lot of effort, but Chris rejects that notion and keeps improving.”
Wilson averaged 4.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season, mostly as a starter.
Ancrum said he has high expectations for Wilson this season.
“This is going to be a breakout year for him,” Ancrum said. “It’s like when you have a lot of guys in a group, like Michael Jackson in the Jackson 5. I think (Wilson) will be Michael this year.”
When Wilson started on the recreation boys basketball team in eighth grade, he wasn’t the dedicated leader he’s become today, according to Wilson.
Like many who start a sport, Wilson said he was attracted to basketball because of his friends.
“It was friends (that got me to join), but I also liked being an athlete,” Wilson said. “I liked the idea of running up and down the court and having fun (while playing).”
Wilson ran on the track and cross country teams in middle school before joining the basketball team, which helped him athletically. When Wilson decided to continue basketball his freshman year, he was put on the varsity team due to a shortage of players.
“I got thrown to the wolves,” Wilson said with a laugh. “Even though I didn’t get much playing time, every time I got called onto the court, I tried to be a supportive player. I knew I wasn’t skilled enough to outplay most of our opponents, so I helped pass the ball to players who could.”
Ancrum said Wilson has become a stronger player.
“He’s improved 110% since his freshman year,” Ancrum said. “His jump shots and free throws have improved immensely. And it’s nice to see him stepping into a leadership role this year, explaining some things to the newer guys.”
Wilson said he stuck with basketball despite its challenges because it improved his physicality and social interactions.
“I’m not trying to go into college basketball, so I don’t think of it as the sport itself,” Wilson said. “I like to think of basketball as a tool that’s helped develop me. The quiet Chris Wilson in freshman year has become what I am today: communicative and more disciplined.”
—By Arijit Trivedi
Originally published in the Dec. 17 edition of the Octagon.