Garrett Miley @GWMiley
The news that senior and leading scorer Carl Jones would be suspended for the first two games of the season put the Hawks in unfamiliar territory. Guard depth was a question mark for the Hawks entering the season, and sophomore guard Chris Wilson was forced into the starting lineup against Yale and Notre Dame. Wilson’s play this season has allowed him to emerged as the sixth man in coach Phil Martelli’s rotation.
Wilson struggled against Yale in the season opener, shooting just 1-of-6 from the field leading to just three points and three assists for the guard, but the Hawks prevailed 61-35.
Then, the Hawks traveled to Brooklyn, NY to take on Notre Dame in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Wilson played with a great confidence and took command on the court. He scored 19 points (6-10 from the field) and added 5 rebounds and 3 assists as Saint Joseph’s upset the 20th ranked Fighting Irish in overtime, 79-70.
“[Starting the first two games] definitely built his confidence up,” said Wilson’s backcourt teammate Langston Galloway. “He’s been working on his jump shot all summer so his confidence is way up right now.”
Now, Wilson is back to coming off of the bench in Martelli’s rotation, but is still averaging 34 minutes per game this season for the Hawks. His jump shot is much better this season thanks to improved mechanics, and it shows. Wilson’s field goal percentage this season is 47, a nine point increase from last season. He is also almost averaging double figures in scoring at 9.1 points per game, compared to just 3.3 points per game last season–and his assists per game are also up. Wilson has been able to do all of these things while maintaining his low turnovers per game average (1.7 this season, 1.5 last season).
“My shot mechanics with my catch and shoot and my change of speeds offensively have improved,” Wilson said. “Those are the two biggest things I’ve worked.”
Wilson is the only true point guard in the Saint Joseph’s rotation, and he knows how important that role is. With Wilson on the floor, forwards Halil Kanacevic, Ronald Roberts Jr., and C.J. Aiken are all more effective on the offensive end of the spectrum.
“As a true point guard, especially with the three big guys in the lineup and the weapons we have on this team, my job isn’t really to score the ball,” Wilson said. “That’s never been my game. My job is to put pressure on the defense and get these guys easy shots. I’m never going out there with the mentality that ‘Chris has to score 20 points.’ That’s never going to be my main focus.”
“This year he’s quieter, and therefore he is more confident,” Martelli said of Wilson. “Last year he was a typical freshman. He thought if he said things and talked, then people will think I really know.”
Coach Martelli clearly views Wilson as a player capable of starting every game in his lineup. Sticking with Wilson as a starter for two games after Jones, a senior and career 1,000 point scorer for Saint Joseph’s returned to the lineup.
“I’m delighted with his play and it calls me back to the times when we had guys like Terrell Myers and Tyrone Barley come off the bench,” Martelli said. “We really have six starters. Five of them get their names called and the sixth guy plays starter minutes.”
While Wilson’s play has been a pleasant surprise for Saint Joseph’s, he is the only consistent option currently coming off of the Saint Joseph’s bench. After being a starter last season, Daryus Quarles is averaging just nine minutes per game this season. Freshman forward Isaiah Miles has shown promise this season, but is inexperienced and unreliable at this point in his college career.
Forward Papa Ndao, despite improving his 3-point shooting, is still averaging nearly two turnovers in just eight minutes of action per game. Without Wilson’s improvement, the Hawks would not getting any positive production from the bench this season.
“We need help, we just need it,” Martelli said. “My intention is to win on Tuesday night [against Villanova]. If these five guys have to play 40 minutes, then so be it. We have six really good players right now, and I want these other guys to develop the mentality that they cannot be neutral. They have to be a plus for us.”
Wilson has been more than a plus for the Hawks this season.