He’s the leading scorer on the number-one ranked team in Connecticut, the next great player out of the Connecticut Basketball Club AAU program, following in the footsteps of Detroit Pistons forward Andre Drummond, former McDonald’s All-American Kris Dunn, and Capital Prep’s USC commit Kahlil Dukes. Jared Wilson-Frame has led the Warriors to a perfect 8-0 record so far this year -- including a tight win over New Mission, the third-ranked team in ESPN Boston’s boys hoop top 25 poll, at the BABC Holiday Classic.
Wilson-Frame came onto the scene on a regional and national scale last January at the Hoophall Classic, where he scored 16 points to lead Windsor to a win over Springfield Central, the eventual state champion in MIAA Division 1. To further that reputation, the muscular 6-foot-5 junior forward scored 45 points last year against Kuran Iverson’s Northwest Catholic squad, finishing the game with 9 three-pointers in all. In the quarterfinals of the CIAC Class LL state tournament, Windsor fell short of Dunn’s New London team despite a double-digit second half lead; the Warriors finished the season 25-3.
Since his big year, as well as breaking out this summer on the AAU circuit, he has heard college interest from Division 1 programs such as Connecticut, Georgetown, Providence, and Virginia Tech. We sat down and talked with him about playing against New Mission, AAU friendships, his father-son relationship with Windsor Coach Ken Smith, and what he likes to do in his free time.
Q: You guys were recently ranked as the top team in the state of Connecticut by the Hartford Courant. How much stock do players take in team rankings like that?
A: “When it comes to rankings, we understand what we are, that we’re number one, we see it. But we don’t take it as ‘Oh we’re number one so we can turn it on or off whenever we want.’ We take it a different way, knowing that were number one, teams are coming to play us every night like it’s a championship game. Every team, every time we step up on the court, we have to take it like it’s our biggest game of the season because who doesn’t want to beat the number one team in the state? I know I sure would if we weren’t number one.”
Q: How does having that target on your back change your mindset going into each game?
A: “Well, in Connecticut basketball, Windsor has always had a target on their back because we’re so known for being successful every season, we’re known for beating teams that we weren’t supposed to, winning so many games each year. We already have a target on our back, now this just makes us realize it even more than we’re ranked number one.”
Q: When you aren’t playing high school ball, you play AAU with CBC (Connecticut Basketball Club) in the summer, what kind of friendships evolve within an AAU team when you guys are with each other all summer like that?
A: “I’ve made a lot of friendships; I first played for CBC before they even had a sponsorship when I was like 9 or 10 years old. That’s where I first met Levy[Gillespie], Kahlil [Dukes], Andre [Drummond]. From there it was a family environment, the whole organization, they realized that we all have to play for the same team. Whenever Andre was gone Kahlil had to step up and be that guy, when Kahlil is gone, me and Levy are going to have to step up. We just learned from each other, really just have a lot of love for each other as brothers.”
Q: How often to you see your AAU teammates on the court during the season, and what’s it like going head-to-head against your friends?
A: “We don’t see Kahlil or Levy at all during the season [Windsor is in Class LL, for the state’s largest schools, while Capital Prep is in Class S, the state’s smallest], but I played against Kris [Dunn] last year in the state playoffs, and you just don’t really look at them as your friend anymore. Off the court we have a strong relationship, and I still talk to Kris once in awhile to see how he’s doing. But that game when you’re going up against somebody who you already know, there are no friends on the basketball court. You can’t let that get to you and you can’t give them an advantage just because you have a close relationship. When it comes to the court, it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re still my opponent, you’re trying to beat me as badly as I’m trying to beat you.”
Q: You have a close relationship with your high school coach, Ken Smith. What are some things you have learned from him?
A: “Only people who really know me know this, but Coach Smith, for all purposes necessary, is my father for me in my life. He looks out for me, he takes care of me when I may not be feeling good, he’s let me stay at his house for weeks because things at home for me weren’t going great. He’s just a great person to me, all my life. My older brother played for Windsor, and ever since he’s just brought me in, taught me the game, taught me situations, and really taught me how to be a man, period. He’s taught me basically everything.”
Q: Being one of New England’s top public school players obviously didn’t come easy, what kind of workouts do you do in the off-season?
A: “Being around Kahlil [Dukes], Kahlil is probably the hardest working basketball player I know, and the hardest working person I know, period. Talking to him, I used to rarely do anything once I got back from AAU in the summer, and now you would never catch me anywhere but the court. Even if it’s outside, I don’t care, I have a park near my house where I go when I get back from the summer. Losing to Kris Dunn and New London last year in the playoffs, I missed two free throws that could have won the game. I had that in the back of my head all summer, and every time I went to the park this summer I’d make 500 free throws before I even started my actual workout.
"Coach wants me to become a more well-rounded ballplayer, so my workout was a lot of ball handling, a lot of shooting drills, doing box-out drills with some of our big men. Every basic skill that comes with playing basketball, I worked on it.”
Q: What kind of things have you, as a leader on your high school team, done to create chemistry?
A: “Usually the story with public school is that the kids grew up there and know each other already. I’m not going to lie, some of the guys on our team didn’t really like each other, didn’t hang out, and we didn’t know each other personally much. But the motivation of playing for Windsor and playing for Coach Smith really brought us together. The tradition creates a bond for us. We realize now, that at the end of the day that to stop playing with each other is to quit, and none of us are going to quit, so we came together.
"Before out actual scrimmages, I called the team in the locker room and we had a team-only players meeting, coaches didn’t even know about it. And the thing is we were supposed to be practicing, but we were in the locker room talking it out, for like an hour and forty minutes, just expressing to each other how we need to be a family because there have been a lot of great Windsor teams that could have won championships and didn’t, and we don’t want to be one of those teams that could have won a championship. We want to get it done this time.”
Q: Who is the toughest team you guys have seen so far this season?
A: “The team up in Massachusetts we played, New Mission, they’re definitely the toughest team we’ve faced. They have size, they kids who can score the ball, and they’re just gritty, grimy, and their playing style reminds me a lot of our playing style: we’re going to get after it on defense, and then do whatever we want on offense because you just aren’t going to stop us. They came out the same way we came out, they didn’t really know who we were, and they didn’t care who we were, just like we didn’t care who they were. We just came out and played basketball. At the time, one of starting bigs wasn’t even playing, so that was tough early on in the game.”
Q: What teams or players are you particularly looking forward to playing against?
A: “I say this to my team all the time: every team that we play has to be our rival. Every team we play has to be that team we hate that beat us last year. We have to play hard against everybody because every team is going to play us like it’s their last game. I’m not really looking in particular to play a certain team, whatever team is on the opposite side of the court, that’s it.”
Q: Outside of basketball, what other interests do you have?
A: “One of my biggest things is writing, I like writing a lot and I do it all the time. After games I’ll go home and write about how it went. I like to write my thoughts, I have poems in my journal and stuff like that allows me to be free and express myself. I like to draw too, I draw a lot of basketball related things.”