June 17, 2009
Darryl Wilson isn''t as quick and can''t jump as high as he did 13 years ago.
But the stroke that made him a three-time All-Southeastern Conference shooting guard at Mississippi State is still there.
And, like most shooters, when you challenge him that stroke becomes red hot.
Wilson, 35, is rekindling his scoring touch with the Tupelo Rock-n-Rollers in the World Basketball Exposure League.
Wilson and the Rock-n-Rollers will be in Columbus at 7:30 p.m. Saturday to play host to the Buford Majic at Columbus High School.
Former University of Mississippi standouts Kendrick Fox and Jason Smith also play for Tupelo, as does former Aberdeen High standout Chris Sykes and former Columbus High player Elmo Brown.
Former Columbus High and current Itawamba Community College basketball coach Brian Alexander is the head coach for Tupelo.
The league, which has six teams and is in its sixth season, was founded in 2003 to teach, to develop, and to expose basketball players to NBA, NBA - Development League, and international scouts. It is designed to be a training ground to develop professional players, coaches, and personnel on and off the court.
Team owner Russell Brooks said his first-year franchise wants to build an identity in the 100-mile radius from Tupelo. It typically plays its home games at the St. Paul''s Christian Life Center in Tupelo, but he is excited to come to Columbus to help his team and the league build a following.
Wilson hopes the opportunity in the WBA Exposure League will help him to sign a contract with a professional basketball team overseas. He said he didn''t play last year because he had a fractured bone in his tibia. He spent his rehabilitation with his wife and his kids at his home in Saltillo and is working his way back and hopes to attract interest from teams overseas.
Wilson, who played professional basketball in Israel for a year and a half and for seven to eight years in Italy, said it is difficult to get seen by professional teams in this area, but he said his name recognition and experience are assets. He also said the ability to put up big numbers is an added incentive.
"My goal was to average 17 or 18 points a game," Wilson said. "I am averaging a little more than that. That is a plus. But the most important thing is winning. If you win and don''t average as many points everyone will stand out."
Alexander, 32, said coaching an older player is part of being a younger coach in a professional league. He welcomes having Wilson''s experience on the floor because he said the former MSU standout is a leader.
"He has an attractive personality where people flock to him," Alexander said. "When he speaks people tend to listen. They know he has been there, and he tells them the right things."
Wilson is second in the WBA Exposure League in scoring at 20 points per game. Alexander said Wilson''s shooting touch has been an invaluable asset this season.
"He is one of those guys that if he gets it lined up it has a shot to go in, regardless of whether he is 35 years old or 22," Alexander said. "He makes more than he misses in most cases."
Wilson was the leading scorer (18 ppg.) on the 1995-96 MSU team that lost to Syracuse in the national semifinals. He led a team that featured center Erick Dampier and guard/forward Dontae Jones to a 26-8 finish, a 10-6 mark in the SEC, and a SEC Western Division title.
Former MSU coach Richard Williams said Wilson was a "great college basketball player" with the ability to stretch defenses with his shooting ability. Wilson led the Bulldogs in scoring his final three seasons.
More importantly, Williams said Wilson was a player who lived for big games and would do whatever his team needed to win.
"I coached a lot of guys who could shoot it, but what was special about Darryl was his competitiveness. He hated to lose," said Williams, who worked last year as the director of basketball operations at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "I don''t know if anyone hated to lose more than Darryl did. He was willing to do whatever he could in terms of giving everything he had physically to win a basketball game. That was a special trait that separated him from others."
Williams remembers one game in 1995 or ''96 against Georgia when he told Wilson that Georgia''s Shandon Anderson couldn''t get to the offensive glass if MSU was going to win the game.
At 6-foot-1, Wilson did his best to keep Anderson off the boards. After the game, Williams said the first question Wilson asked him was "How many offensive rebounds did Shandon Anderson have?"
The answer was zero, and MSU won the game.
"That''s what he was willing to do to win games," Williams said. "He is the kind of guy that if I told him he wouldn''t be able to take any shots for us to win game he would do it. He would not have liked it, but he would have done it. That is the kind of guy he was.
"He is one of the best leaders, if not the best leader, I have ever been around."
Williams said Wilson''s height and the fact he wasn''t the fastest or quickest two guard coming out of college hurt his chances for making a team in the NBA. He said he talked to numerous coaches and scouts in an attempt to convince them to give Wilson a chance, but he was unsuccessful.
Wilson said he had chances in training camps with the Golden State Warriors and with the Phoenix Suns and was close to making the final cut but missed out.
He said he still loves playing basketball and is confident he can still compete at a high level. In fact, he still enjoys watching NBA games to see guys he used to play against and believes he could hold his own if given the chance.
"I am older and not as fast but not as slow," said Wilson, who also works at camps and provides individual basketball instruction in Tupelo. "I know when to turn it on and when to turn it off. As for shooting the ball, nothing has changed."
Tickets for the game are $6 and can be purchased from any member of the Columbus High boys basketball team.
Tickets also will be available at the door the night of the game.
Brooks said season tickets purchased for the team will be honored at the game.
Columbus High coach Sammy Smith said he is trying to line up a summer league high school boys basketball game to be played before the Rock-n-Rollers/Majic game.
The Rock-n-Rollers also will practice at 6 p.m. Thursday at Columbus High.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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