Anthony Dabbundo (@AnthonyDabbundo)
After spending most of his freshman season playing catch-up after an injury, Swarthmore guard Cam Wiley entered the 2016-2017 ready to make an impact off the bench for one of the best Division III teams in the country.
Little did he know that just seven games into the season, Wiley would find himself starting for the first time.
“In talking with Cam and I think all of our guys would agree, his growth since the beginning of the year has been phenomenal,” Swarthmore head coach Landry Kosmalski said.
And in his first start, on the road against an Ursinus team that was ready to challenge for early-season Centennial Conference supremacy, the sharpshooting guard scored 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field in a 75-67 win over the Bears.
When the Garnet needed a stop to get back in the game late, it was Wiley who had two consecutive steals and a fast break layup to tie the game with just three minutes left.
“It’s no different whether I’m starting or coming off the bench,” Wiley said. “You try to treat it like any other game, and I tried to do the best I could to help us win.”
A native of Atlanta, the Georgia guard first heard of Swarthmore during November of his senior year, when the academic dean emailed him, asking him to apply to the school.
When Wiley went to tell his father about the email he had received, his father told him that he had recently heard from Kosmalski, who had spotted the Marist High School graduate at an event in the summer.
“If you look at our roster, we have guys from all over the country,” Kosmalski said. “We see guys at events during the summer and because Swarthmore is a high-academic school we have guys that want to come here and succeed on the court and in school.”
“Cam is a great example of that because he’s a great athlete and student too,” he continued.
Since arriving on campus, it hasn’t been easy for Wiley. He appeared in just 14 games as a freshman, averaging just 3.1 points per game. But the hard work he has put in to improve his game is finally paying dividends on the court in big conference games.
“He’s worked hard and earned his spot,” Kosmalski said. “He’s been a great point guard for us and a great teammate.”
Swarthmore currently finds themselves sitting at number 22 in the national D-III rankings, in large part to their sophomore emerging star.
Through the first seven games, Wiley is averaging 16.4 points, 2.7 assists, and 24.4 minutes a game. Even though he came off the bench for the opening six games, the Atlanta native still has averaged more minutes this season than everyone except for experienced juniors Matt Brennan and Zack Yonda.
Wiley found a lot of success in the team’s win over Ursinus (5-2, 4-1 Centennial) not just shooting, but running the open floor. In addition to starting the 3-of-4 from three in the opening ten minutes, the 6-foot guard’s speed proved difficult for the Bears to deal with.
“We like to get out and run after a defensive rebound or a steal to get the defense on their heels and it was very effective tonight,” Wiley said.
Now at 7-0 (4-0 Centennial), Swarthmore has proven that they are the favorites to win the Centennial Conference, and a force to be reckoned with in the national Division III spotlight.
With Cam Wiley running the point in the final minutes, the Garnet offense is very secure. In a game that was filled with turnovers, including costly ones by Ursinus down the stretch, it was the poise of Wiley and fellow ball handlers Brennan and Yonda that allowed the Garnet to prevail.
Going without a turnover in the final five minutes, Swarthmore closed a four point gap with 4:36 to play, and ended the game on a 17-5 extended run that stretched over those final minutes.
“When the game comes down to it, we have a lot of confidence to make plays,”
Kosmalski said. “We’ve got a lot of seniors and juniors on this team who have been here before, and our newer guys like Cam are confident.”
As confident as Wiley plays on the court, he never loses sight of the big picture, even after a big night for him individually.
“I thanked my teammates that we were able to pull it out because this was a big win against a good team,” he said. “Starting is nice but I just want to win no matter what.”