When Marquette coach Buzz Williams picked up his second commitment in the 2011 recruiting class from Derrick Wilson, several of the Marquette faithful asked where Wilson was from, and that is a question that Wilson has been asked many times. “Since I go to school at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut and play summer ball with the New York Gauchos, people always assume I am from the city (New York). And they are always surprised when I tell them I am from Anchorage, Alaska. They usually ask if I am lost.”
It was nearly four years ago when Wilson left his family in Alaska and headed across the continent to attend high school on the East Coast, something not many 14 year olds would opt to do, but Wilson felt it was a move he had to make. “When I headed out for my freshman year, it was really hard. I missed my family and really had to learn to take care of myself. I had to learn to manage my time, and I didn’t have my parents there to take care of me. I had to manage my time between basketball and school, I had to do my own laundry, had to make sure I was eating right and I also had to see to it that I was getting enough sleep. It was a really hard adjustment, but it really made me grow as a person. I honestly believe it was the best decision I had made in my entire life.”
As his play picked up, his recruitment heated up, and Wilson connected with Marquette Assistant Coach Aki Collins, and they hit it off. “Coach Collins is a great guy, he is straight up. He always told me he would love to have me, and that Coach Williams would love to have me, but he always let me know exactly where I stood. He told me that I was a tough kid, and that he liked that, but he never fed my ego. They were straight up with me the whole time they recruited me. Some coaches stroke your ego, but I like that they didn’t, that way, when I get there, I know how it is. They don’t change the way they talk to me.”
Wilson visited Marquette the last weekend of October, and got to see what it was like up close, as the Golden Eagles had a closed doors scrimmage with Virginia on October 30th. “It was a great experience to see them play. They really play tough basketball. They have a very strong defensive mentality, tough defense, and that is a really good fit for me. They really got after it hard, and they went hard on every single play. It was a great experience.”
While on campus, Wilson got to spend a lot of time with the Marquette players. “They are all great guys, and every one of them was really good to me. I don’t think there was anyone in particular, maybe Jimmy Butler, he’s a really good guy, but he won’t even be there when I get there. I think I looked at guys like Vander Blue and felt I could really see myself playing with him. Jae Crowder too, he is a really good guy and really plays hard. I would love to play with all of those guys, they really are a good team.”
When it comes down to it, there are reasons why every recruit picks a certain school over the others, and with Wilson it was his visit to campus. “In the end I was considering UCLA, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Stanford and West Virginia. When I took my official visit, I fell in love with the place – the school, the players, the coaches – I felt it was the right environment for me, I really felt at home, and I knew it was the perfect fit for me.”
Having already moved from Alaska to Connecticut, his family would have supported him no matter where he went, but they were happy with his decision. “My family is 100% behind me. They gave me a lot of input during my recruitment, but it was my decision. My dad came on my official visit with me and he loved the coaches and players. My brothers Dennis and Damar both played at Yakima Valley Community College. Dennis is done now, but Damar is playing at North Dakota State. They kept telling me I had to go with my heart, to go with my gut, and that is what I did. My coach (Hotchkiss Coach Fred Benjamin) really helped me a lot too. He always laid everything out for me and helped me with the process. In the end, I went with my heart and with my gut feeling.”
With that, on Monday night, Wilson called the Marquette coaching staff and made it official. “It feels great to have the recruitment over, I am happy to be part of the Marquette family.”
So, what is Marquette getting out of Derrick Wilson? “Toughness and strength”, Wilson said, “I can get to the hoop and do it while taking contact. You have to be able to do that in the Big East, you have to be physical and you have to be tough - it’s a known fact, and I feel that I have that. I do have to improve my outside shooting, I need to be more consistent with my jump shot, but I work at it every day, and I’ll be ready when I get there.“
After speaking with the 6’1 point guard, there is no question that Buzz Williams has landed another very talented, high character young man to the future Golden Eagles roster.
What does Derrick Wilson do when he is not playing basketball? “If I am not playing basketball, I am usually studying. Hotchkiss is the hardest academic school in the country, so there is no time for X-Box or watching TV. I like to hang out with my friends, and I have a lot of friends at school that play other sports, so I like to go to as many of their games as I can because I like to support them.”
How does Derrick think his teammates view him?
“I think they would describe me as outgoing, a great guy, a best friend. I like to look out for my friends, and I think they know I always have their backs. I think they would say that I am a pretty well rounded guy - I like to have fun, but they know there is a serious side to me.”
What would Derrick like to say to the Marquette fans out there?
“Get ready, because I’m ready to do what I can to help this team get to another level”