With the changes soon coming to the Big East, teams will find themselves traveling across the country to compete against conference opponents.
With the summer 2013 commitment Duane Wilson just completed, he should have no problem adjusting.
In the span of just over a month, from June 12 to July 23, Wilson participated in the NBPA Top 100 Camp (Va.), the Deron Williams Skills Academy (Chicago), the LeBron James Skills Academy (Las Vegas), the Nike Global Challenge (D.C.) and the Nike Peach Jam (S.C.).
That’s not to mention his play in the Whiz Kids Summer League in Milwaukee before his travels, coming on the heels of a Division 4 state title with Dominican High School in March.
Just a typical summer in the life of one of the top point guards in the country.
The No. 11 point guard recruit in the country, according to Rivals.com, Wilson called his adventurous summer “fun, tiring, but at the same time preparation.”
His attitude to improve at each of his stops has vaulted the 6-foot-2 guard from a fringe top-100 prospect to a unanimous top-60 recruit in a highly talented 2013 class. That, and the teaching and advice of some of the world’s best players.
Wilson said the highlight of his summer journey was his time in Chicago at Williams’ Skills Academy. As one of 17 high school point guards selected to attend the camp, Wilson said he grew as a decision-maker and pick-and-roll point guard. The three-time NBA All-Star Williams also took part in many of the drills and also made himself open and available to the prospects for questions.
Wilson took full advantage of the opportunity.
“I asked him a lot of questions about being a big point guard, running your team, whether to be pass-first or score first and how to get your teammates open,” Wilson said. “He helped me the most setting up pick-and-roll action.”
He even got a direct lesson from Williams, going head-to-head with the camp’s host that Wilson jokingly recapped as, “I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
But the advice and tutelage didn’t end with Williams in June. Two weeks later, Wilson attended LeBron’s academy as one of 93 listed top high school prospects.
James was away from the skills camp for much of the weekend, practicing for the first time with Team USA in preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
But James did invite some of the participants to watch practice, an experience Wilson won’t soon forget. When James could make it out to the camp, he brought along some teammates to watch the next wave of talent.
“We talked with a with a few of the players. LeBron didn’t play with us, but he brought Chris Paul, [Kevin] Durant, Carmelo [Anthony] and Russell Westbrook to watch some games.”
James took some of the players to dinner, including Wilson, and shared his past experiences of growing up in a rough neighborhood to make it to NBA stardom.
“Four or five years ago, I wasn’t as well-known. Now they’re All-Stars, and it gave me motivation,” Wilson said. “It was awesome meeting players like that. LeBron actually spoke to you, talked to you, and they would tell you how it was in the NBA and keep it real with you. It was real cool.”
And just as Williams helped him with pick-and-roll offense, Wilson approached James on how to guard them, “when to go above screens, when to go below and how to get screens without getting caught.”
After Wilson’s unforgettable experience watching James, Williams and the rest of Team USA, he was able to put on a red, white and blue uniform of his own.
A small injury that Wilson called “jumper’s knee” limited his time with USA Midwest at the Nike Global Challenge. He took the games slow in preparation of the Nike Peach Jam, which he and his father determined would be more important to be healthy for than playing in the nation’s capital on a fatigued leg.
And the decision paid off, as Wilson performed admirably at the Peach Jam, a tournament he called the best he had ever played in.
“Every college coach you could think of was there,” Wilson said. “I was already committed, but it was a good experience to see the coaches and having everyone on top of you. Before I committed, I wasn’t highly recruited by the Arizonas, the Dukes or the Carolinas, but I wanted to show them I was just as good.”
Those coaches (Wilson noted John Calipari in the stands) may not have been in attendance to see Wilson, but they were watching some of the steep competition his Wisconsin Playground team competed against.
In the first three games, Wilson competed against Julius Randle (No. 1, 2013), Jabari Parker (No. 2, 2013) and Andrew Wiggins (No. 1, 2014). His team, which included Jamaar McKay, Jameel’s brother, went 2-3 over the weekend, but Wilson performed well in front of those coaches who overlooked him.
He played just two minutes in the team’s final game, but in the first four Wilson averaged 17.8 points on 46.5 percent shooting, seven 3-pointers, 2.5 assists and 2.2 turnovers in 26 minutes per game.
But the matchup that put Wilson on the scene in South Carolina was his battle with Tyus Jones, the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2014 class. Wilson scored 29 points in an 83-77 win over Howard Pulley (Minn.), with Jones countering for 31 points and 10 assists.
In the stands for that game, and every game that weekend, was Buzz Williams and Isaac Chew. Both made the trip to watch Wilson, and even stayed for the finale when he played just the opening minutes.
Whether it was to watch other prospects or simply to show their support for the top-ranked recruit of their class, Wilson appreciated it and noted it as another example of his growing relationship with the staff.
“It made me feel like they’re there for me and want to make me better,” Wilson said. “Me and Buzz have a tight relationship, it’s as if I’m (at Marquette) already. Coach Chew is the same. I can come and talk to them about anything, and they’ll tell me what I need to work on.”
Another player helping Wilson is current point guard Junior Cadougan. When Wilson makes trips to Milwaukee for open gym scrimmages at Marquette, Cadougan places Wilson on his team and takes him under his wing on the go.
“Junior gives me the ball and tells me to go. And he’ll pull me to the side and tell me to do this or shoot a pull-up on the fast break,” Wilson said. “He instructs me to get it done. He’ll show me what to do, being a mentor and leading.”
All this learning over the past four months while traveling the country has had a direct effect on Wilson’s ever-improving game.
But even with his hectic schedule out of the way, Wilson isn’t satisfied.
And with the likes of NBA All-Stars in his ear all summer, combined with his mentors in Milwaukee, Wilson knows this is just the start of his progression.
“Coach Buzz says he loves my spirit and knows I’m going to stay in the gym and work on my game,” Wilson said. “And I’ve got my dad and my uncles, I’ve got a lot of people in my life that stay on me constantly every day.”