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Wilson comes up big for Saint Joseph's on Senior Night

03/05/2015, 1:30pm EST
By Jeff Neiburg

Jeff Neiburg (@Jeff_Neiburg)

Chris Wilson’s job this year was more than just the starting point guard at Saint Joseph’s.

It was more than an on-court facilitator and occasional scorer.

One of Wilson’s biggest duties as a senior was to help coach Phil Martelli transition from an experienced team fresh off an Atlantic 10 championship to a young, inexperienced group looking to build toward future A-10 titles.

Though the Hawks improved to just 7-10 in league play and 13-16 overall with last night’s 55-50 win over La Salle, Wilson saved arguably his best performance of his senior year for a crucial game at Hagan Arena.

And it just so happened it was Senior Night on City Ave., so Wilson and fellow senior Evan Maschmeyer were honored before the game

“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bit special,” Wilson said of Senior Night. “It was definitely special to have my family here. But honestly, the biggest thing is we knew how big this game was as far as seeding for Brooklyn.”

Wilson poured in a game-high 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting. He knocked down five 3-pointers, including one that gave St. Joe’s a four-point lead with under a minute to play in a win that helped the Hawks continue the quest of avoiding the A-10’s opening round – which the bottom four teams in the 14-team conference are forced to do.

A year ago around this time, the Hawks were saying goodbye to a senior class which included the likes of Langston GallowayRonald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic.  As the starting point guard last year, Wilson’s job was much easier. There were multiple proven, capable scorers and a budding star freshman in DeAndre’ Bembry.

Wilson hasn’t had the type of year he envisioned. Surprisingly, his scoring average (8.3ppg) is down from last year (9.1ppg) despite being relied on more to put the ball in the hoop.

“I don’t think it’s been the smoothest year for me,” Wilson said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of injuries throughout the year. There’s been times where I’ve gone a week or two without practicing at all and have only gone on game days. I probably haven’t been above 80 percent in a game since November or December. It’s been challenging, but there’s no excuses. I just try my best as one of the leaders of this team to just keep everybody uplifted.”

In that department, it’s tough to make a case that he’s been anything but successful. The Hawks have seen big improvements recently in the play of starting freshman guard James Demery. And Bembry said he’s learned a ton from Wilson over the last two years.

“It’s such a young team, the future is really bright for these guys,” Wilson said. “As a leader, it’s my job to show these guys that it’s not all negative. There are bright spots, but you have to keep pushing. You can’t cave in and say, ‘Alright let’s just be ready for the season to be over. You can’t do that, you can’t be that mentally weak. You have to push and say, ‘Alright, how are we going to get better from this? How are we going to learn from this? How are we going to grow from this?’ Even though it’s been a very up-and-down season, everyone stayed emotionally invested and I think that’s a really good sign.”

About midway through the season, Martelli called Wilson into his office and challenged him to step up and help carry the Hawks to the next step. Wednesday night was a perfect example of just that.

“I’m proud of the fact that he’s going to graduate, that he’s walking out of here with a championship ring, that he represents his family – which is what I ask all of them to do,” Marteli said. “That’s what I’m proud of, not the basketball. The basketball, to me, is still very much a work in progress and we have another week to go to see if we can’t get him to play at a higher level, but that’s all of them.

“But for Chris, the fact that knowing he’s going to graduate and knowing that there’s never been a midnight phone call about him, there’s never been a phone call at 10 in the morning from a professor about him – he’s a tribute to his family.”

The soft-spoken guard from Fayetteville, N.C still has at least two games left. The Hawks play Rhode Island on Saturday before heading up the Jersey Turnpike for the conference tournament.

Whether he has more than two left or not remains to be seen.

“Anybody can get hot in Brooklyn and hopefully it’s us,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to obviously handle business Saturday first. Honestly, if we’re playing good basketball going in, I like our chances. But it’s a one game at a time thing. You can’t see the bigger picture.

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

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