It's rare that an unheralded freshman not expecting to play big minutes gets on campus and becomes a team's most indispensable player, but that's exactly the story of Devin Wilson's first season in Blacksburg.
As anyone that saw a game on television this season knows by now, Wilson was more highly recruited as a wide receiver out of Montour High School in Mckees Rocks, Pa. He received scholarship offers from North Carolina State, Ohio, Temple and Akron and 247Sports pegged him as a three star prospect and the 24th best player in the traditionally talent rich Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
As a point guard, Wilson flew somewhat under the radar. Despite being named Male Athlete of the Year by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he was considered a 2-star recruit by most services and he visited St. Joseph's, George Mason and Western Michigan before choosing the Hokies. He did receive a late scholarship offer from West Virginia, but by then Wilson's mind was made up.
At the time of his commitment Wilson's high school basketball coach Adam Kaufman said, "I truly think that he will have an opportunity to contribute his freshman year."
Boy was that an understatement.
When fellow freshman Malik Mueller failed to qualify coming from overseas, Wilson was the only point guard on the Hokie roster and he became the starter by default.
Devin averaged 9.2 PPG, a team high 4.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 34.9 minutes per game, also a team high. He set the Tech record for assists by a freshman (his 148 toppling Hank Thorns former mark of 113, that's a little over a whole assist per game) and was named to the All-ACC Freshman team.
Not bad for a wide receiver. In fact, Wilson's football background was an undeniable plus. Both his size (6'4", 185) and impressive toughness were major assets through the grind of ACC play. Wilson's scoring went up slightly (10.1 PPG) as did his minutes (36.9 MPG) against tougher competition.
Wilson rarely left a game for more than a minute or two at a time much like former national scoring leader Erick Green the previous season. When he did sit, the ;already impotent offense ground to a complet halt. After Adam Smith's injury calf injury and stress fracture caused him to shut his season down, Jarell Eddie was even forced to play point guard for a few tenuous possessions.
Wilson's reliable handle on the ball served him well in running James Johnson's ball control strategy effectively. Many possessions saw Wilson dribbling and passing around the perimeter until the end of the shot clock when he was usually forced to make a play.
He showed an ability to drive to the basket and use his size to finish against bigger post players. Often when he missed, he drew a foul and went to the free throw line where he struggled more than a point guard should. However, freshmen point guards shouldn't be playing 37 minutes a game, leading to wobbly legs on many of those attempts.
Wilson shot just 65.9% from the line, though several games proved he can shoot just fine including a trio of 8-11 free throw performances and a clutch 8-for-8 in a close win against West Virginia early in the season. His free throw percentage will also go up as he becomes more consistent with his shot.
Despite shooting being the weakest part of his game at this point, Wilson did seem to gain confidence in his shooting ability as the season progressed especially from outside. Wilson shot 31.1% from three point range overall but that went up to 34.3% in ACC play including 12 of his 14 made threes on the season.
That's a great example of playing to your strengths and not forcing shots.
No one is entirely sure what style Buzz Williams will run on offense, but there's little question that Wilson will be the man running the point again in 2014-15.
9-22 seems like a disastrous overall record (it was) but it would have been much worse without Devin Wilson's contributions and he only stands to get better with experience.
Overall Grade: A
Editor Add: Nobody wants 9-22 on their resume. But when you look at Devin Wilson your overall takeaway is the composure, the calm. You get the feeling you're in good hands if the rest of the team's blanks can be filled in.
I don't think I ever saw him give off one single ounce of negative body language this season in spite of the all the tom-f____-ery going on. He dealt with key injuries, a difficult slate of opponents, and a lame-duck coach who put him at a disadvantage strategically almost every night. Yet, he gave his best effort no matter the count. On a traditional scouting report, my number one item is in BOLD CAPS. It says: TREMENDOUS MAKE-UP!
He rebounds well, uses his size (a sneaky 6'4"), and shields the ball well on his drives, though his finishing rate frustrated me. Next year, his attempts at the cup should drop with more regularity. He had trouble at times anticipating contact on his forays, and would often shy away and then the contact never came. You can tell he's not confident in his jumper, and will always defer to the designated shooters on the floor. One of the positive byproducts of all the losing this year, is that he got to throw up a few deep shots that he would have never attempted otherwise if the games were still in question.
It's very difficult to judge Wilson's efficiency numbers. Too many times he's stuck with the ball and an expiring shot clock. A lot of his turnovers and shooting miscues occur with his teammates standin' 'round lookin' simple. And even though he's a good floor leader, he's not accomplished enough offensively to be a bail-out guy, a guy you just expect to go hero-ball and get you a bucket at a 40% rate (really good, believe it or not).
I can't give anyone on this team an A. But if anyone comes close it's Devin. A real D-1 coach, teammates with higher-skill, and some stability will be just what the doctor ordered. He is going to be the toughest matchup in the league for point guards next year.
Grade: If you must have a grade, I'm going B+ with a banana sticker.