When you are a back-to-back Midwest 2A Conference Player of the Year, the question is not if youâ€™ll play college basketball, the question is where. Such was the case for recently graduated star Eric Wilson.
UNC-Pembroke, Pfeiffer, Appalachian State and Montreat College all were vying for Wilsonâ€™s services during his standout senior year at Lincolnton High School. But Wilson shunned all of them in favor of Western Carolina.
So why choose the Catamounts?
â€œItâ€™s a good fit for me. When I was looking at schools I was looking for what would be best for me academically and on the basketball court. It was a childhood dream to play Division I basketball and Western Carolina provided that,â€ Wilson said.
Lincolnton athletic director Scott Cloninger agrees with Wilsonâ€™s assessment and is happy with his decision.
â€œI think itâ€™s a good fit for him. He had other offers and opportunities, but he felt more comfortable with that program. All our young people need to find out whatâ€™s best for them,â€ he said.
Wilson makes the third Lincolnton standout who has made a decision regarding where they will further their athletic career along with Darren Wilson (Clinton Junior College) and Bradley Dalrymple (Appalachian State).
Cloninger feels all three of them made a solid decision for their college choice.
â€œAll three of them had opportunities to go to different places, but each individual has to make a decision whatâ€™s best. Bradley, Darren and Eric are all walking on, but at times thatâ€™s a good decision. As hard as worker as all three are, I think theyâ€™ll have successful college careers,â€ he said.
Wilson, who has been playing basketball since he was six years old, concluded a stellar senior year averaging 22 points a game, 10 rebounds and dished out four assists per contest.
So what pushes a player the caliber of Wilson?
â€œMy desire to just dominate and be the best. I havenâ€™t been blessed with the best athleticism, so I have to use my basketball knowledgeâ€” thatâ€™s helped me along with my work ethic,â€ Wilson said.
Wilson, who finished as the 2A Player of the Year Runner-Up on I-High.com, loves the game of basketball because everybody has to work together.
â€œI love the team oriented aspect, five people trying to accomplish one goal. You got five people working to put the ball in the hoopâ€” especially team defense where you have to communicate about help and the competitive aspect with everybody wanting to win, thatâ€™s what I like most,â€ he said.
The 6â€™1â€ 205-pound player used a deadly perimeter game and solid post game to put together seven 30-plus point games in his senior campaign. During his senior season he also had five games in a row with 30 points or more, with a high of 37 against the then No. 2 in the state East Rutherford Cavaliers.
Although he is just embarking on his college career, Wilson already has certain aspirations for his career as a Catamount.
â€œI just want to play as a freshman and try to make an impact as a freshman. Long term, I want to work my way from the bottom and to be one of the better players to ever play at Western Carolinaâ€”that would be great,â€ he said.
A second round exit against the Monroe Red Hawks fuels Wilson and has left him with a void heâ€™ll carry with him.
â€œAnybody who plays high school basketball wants to win a state championship. To not have that happen I use that as motivation and just try to get betterâ€” help Western win the conference title next year,â€ he said.
Wilson credits the South Fork Recreation Department for their various leagues that he played in growing up as a kid among other people.
â€œFirst and foremost, I would like to thank God, my mother, Rev. Franklin Lowery, Lawerence Carter, Karen Leonhardt and people at South Fork for giving me a place to play for so long,â€ he said.
With Wilson being a standout on the gridiron, does he plan to explore the two-sport option at Western?
â€œIâ€™m going to miss Lincolnton High School and playing at Von Ray Harris Stadium. Thatâ€™s the thing Iâ€™ll miss is playing football, I loved that. I want to focus on basketball right now, but next year I would like to experiment with walking on the football team as well.â€
by John Mark Brooks