Commentary

Wilson cherishes his mother's memory while becoming a star

Updated: April 17, 2009, 12:29 PM ET
By Jon Mahoney | ESPN RISE Magazine

The best play Horlick (Racine, Wis.) boys' basketball coach Jason Treutelaar ever saw Jamil Wilson make was one he didn't finish.

Late in a game this season against Tremper (Kenosha, Wis.), with a Horlick victory well in hand, Wilson drove the lane looking to put an exciting cap on the game. Standing in his way was a Tremper player attempting to take a charge.

As Wilson went up toward the hoop, he expected to crash into the player, yet there he was flying above him on his way to the rim. But after clearing the player, Wilson was so shocked that he didn't have time to think and went for a layup, which he missed.

"I will never, ever see that play in high school basketball again," says Treutelaar. "I was so impressed with the way he cleared that guy that I couldn't give him crap for missing the layup."

"I was so scared when I shot it," says Wilson. "I was like, 'What's going on?' I jumped completely over him. That's probably the highlight of the year right there."

Wilson has delivered countless other highlights during his illustrious career at Horlick, where the 6-foot-7, 215-pound senior small forward turned himself into an elite talent. Rated the nation's No. 31 recruit in the ESPNU 100, the Oregon-bound Wilson will take part in the 2009 Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday at Madison Square Garden (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET).

This past season, he stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 21.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.8 blocks and 1.4 steals per game and helped lead Horlick to the Division 1 state finals, where the Rebels fell to Madison Memorial (Madison, Wis.) 56-41.

Jordan Brand Classic

Wilson was named the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel All-Area Player of the Year and made The Associated Press All-State first team for the second straight season.

But Wilson didn't exactly travel an easy road to get to this point. A few weeks after a sophomore season in which he established himself as a bona fide star, Wilson was forced to endure the pain of losing his mother, Carolyn, who died from cancer on March 31, 2007 at the age of 43.

"I had to mature really fast," says Wilson. "Manhood came really, really quick."

Wilson received support from his family, friends and teammates, especially fellow senior Nick Stark, whose father died from a heart attack only days after Carolyn died.

Jamil Wilson
Jason O. Watson for ESPN.com Jamil Wilson will be an Oregon Duck next season.

"Having someone going through the same pain as me, that just kind of brought like a brotherhood between us," says Wilson. "I mean, I can share anything with Nick, Nick can share anything with me. He can call me any time of the day just to talk about anything. I helped him through it as much as he helped me through it. How close we became after that is just unreal."

Wilson's mother went to his games, even when she was sick. So looking up at the stands during his junior season wasn't easy. But despite playing with a heavy heart, Wilson still managed to average 18.2 points per game and guide Horlick to the sectional finals.

He eventually came to the realization that while his mom was gone, she was still with him in spirit. And to honor his mom, Wilson put off choosing a college program last fall for an announcement on March 8, 2009, which would have been his mom's 45th birthday. Wilson committed to Oregon over Michigan State and Texas.

"It really put a value on what his mom meant to him," says Treutelaar.

More than a month after he made his college decision, Wilson is hoping to cap his high school career with a stellar performance at Madison Square Garden.

"Like I tell him before every game, play hard, have fun and dunk on somebody," says his father, James. "If you do all that, then you'll have a good game."

"I might shock a couple people," adds Wilson.

Only this time, he'll make sure not to shock himself into missing a layup.

Jon Mahoney covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.

Jon Mahoney is a football and baseball editor for ESPNHS. Email him at jon.mahoney@espn.com.

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