Player Breakdown: Jamil Wilson

Watch your head. (Tribune file photo)

This is part of  Paint Touches’ series breaking down each players’s 2011-2012 campaign and looking forward to next year. A big thank you to assistant coach Aki Collins, who provided exclusive, in-depth analysis on each player.

What he did well: After a rather inauspicious start to his Marquette career which saw limited minutes and little in the way of an offensive arsenal, Wilson blossomed into swiss army knife of player. Wilson’s defense was outstanding throughout the season, tallying a team high 47 blocks and a defensive win share rating of 2.8, second only to Jae Crowder.

His value was not limited to shot blocking, however. When Gardner went down and left Marquette without a true big man, the lanky Wilson slid in to the five spot seamlessly, guarding the Big East’s biggest and best players like Yancy Gates. When used as the high man on a full court press, Wilson was simply lethal. His length, quickness and agility made him one of the best full court press defenders in the country.

Offensively Jamil got much better as he began gaining confidence in his shot. He was fourth on the team in made threes and tied with Jae Crowder for second at 34.5 percent from beyond the arc. While his attempts from distance were limited (29 in 34 games) he showed he has the form to be a great shooter next year. If he could get his turnaround fade away to fall more frequently, he will be close to unstoppable. (Play video from 1:09 mark)

What he could have done better: Jamil deferred to the elder statement way too often in the start of the season, and although he got better as the Big East season got underway, still was too hesitant to pull the trigger at times. He was way too tentative going to the hole as well. With his size and athleticism, Wilson should be looking to attack at every opportunity, yet only got to the line 58 times all season. In comparison, Todd Mayo got 26 more free throw attempts in almost 100 les minutes. Wilson will have to gain that scorers mentality and will himself to the hoop come next season.

Defensively, Wilson was too foul prone at time, putting his team in tough spots without Otule or Gardner. He has to be smarter with his defense, particularly in situations where the team can not afford to have him sit on the bench for long stretches of time. Aggressiveness is good as long as it does not lead to dumb fouls.

From the coach:  “I think it was more so after Davante got injured that he really stepped up. He was playing well when Chris went down, but it was still a little inconsistent. I think when Davante went down he knew it was just he and Jae. He really stepped up and had some really good performances for us.

He’s similar to Mello, where he understands everything that’s going on out there. Where Jamail can always recite it, Jamil will know but sometimes he won’t verbalize it. But he understands and he’s very smart. As a basketball player, he thinks about things differently than you would want, as a coach. A lot of times you want guys to be aggressive but think about what you’re doing. Jamil will pause sometimes, and you can’t pause in the game of basketball. It’s too fast-moving.

The thing with him, I tell him greatness is greedy. When you have opportunities to score or make a play, you have to make that play. Not being selfish, and when people hear the word greedy they think it’s a selfish connotation. You’re going up for a dunk and you pass the ball to somebody who’s 2 feet farther away from the basket. No, just go ahead and do it. So hes starting to udnertstand what that means. And everybody said it since the day he walked in, he’s by far our most talented player. Getting him to have that killer instinct that when I step on the floor, not only do I think I’m the best player, I know I’m the best player and they know I’m the best player, and then following that and coming up with a performance that’s indicative of your talent level is the key to his success.

He does some things out there sometimes where you’re like, “Wow.” He blocks shots and you’re like, “Where did he come from?” That fine line between good and great that Jamil has to overcome, he’s getting so much closer to being great, but it’s not there yet and we need it to be in order to maximize our potential as a team.”

Best performance: Jan. 21 at Providence (16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks)

Dubbed Jimmy Butler’s successor by many before he had played one minute, his performance at Providence validated all the hype he had coming into the season as Wilson gave the Marquette faithful a taste of what is to come. Jamil buzzed around the court scoring a career best 16 points, pulling down seven boards and stuffing three shots in 33 minutes. If there were any questions about his game, this performance let all doubters know Wilson will be a force to be reckoned with.

Worst performance: Jan. 7 at Syracuse (0 points, 4 rebounds, 12 minutes)

With Cuse’s vaunted 2-3 zones giving Marquette fits, the Golden Eagles needed someone to step into the game to hit a few 12 to 15 foot jumpers to ease some of the pressure off DJO and Crowder. That player was not Jamil Wilson. This was the first and only game of the season where the Racine native did not score a single point. He was in over his head against the Syracuse zone and never got into any sort of rhythm, only putting up two shots all game. The 12 minutes was also the least amount of playing time he would see for the rest of the season.

2012 outlook: Jimmy Butler has been Wilson’s parallel since he first put on the blue and gold jersey. The Tomball, Texas, native went from averaging 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds his sophomore year to putting up 14.7 points and 6.4 rebounds his junior campaign. Can Wilson make a similar leap? He averaged 7.1 points and 4.1 rebounds this year, and with the loss of the two leading scorers in Crowder and DJO, he will definitely get the offensive touches to do so.

Wilson will slot into Crowder’s spot. What will definitely change is that he won’t be stuck guarding the five position quite as often with a healthy Otule and a healthy Gardner. This should free him up both offensively and defensively. Already the team’s best help defender inside the three point arc, Wilson will get plenty of swats in with two healthy big men in the post.

Realistically speaking, Wilson has the talent and tools to surpass Butler’s numbers, but having the ability and putting it to use are two separate things. How will he respond to added leadership roles as someone who wasn’t as vocal last year? Will he be able to knock down the 15 foot jumpers more consistently? What will the added defensive attention do to his offensive numbers? There are plenty of questions still surrounding Marquette’s most athletic player, but if his progress from the start to the end of the season show you anything, it’s that Wilson is more than up to the challenge.

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