Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 19:11
Having averaged a paltry 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game during the 2011-12 campaign, senior center Sydney Wilson is looking for a huge leap forward in her final season.
And given more freedom now under first-year Head Coach Keith Brown, a fully healthy and newly confident Wilson just might get there.
“If you’re open, shoot the basketball — that’s my philosophy,” Brown said. “That puts pressure on the defense. So that would be the biggest change. They will have an opportunity to make their own calls on the floor.”
That change in mentality will have an especially strong impact on Wilson, who stayed mostly in the post in the first three seasons of her collegiate career under former Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy.
But much like Henry Sims, Greg Monroe and others have in recent history on the men’s side, Wilson will now be expected to pop out from the paint and exert an influence on the game in other, non-traditional ways. For Sims and Monroe, that meant being smooth-passing big men, but for Wilson, it will mean an increased responsibility to take — and hit — outside jump shots.
The skill is one that Brown has always felt Wilson had in her repertoire, but it is something that both player and coach plan to see much more of this season.
“I’ve always thought that Sydney is one of the most skilled big girls in the country, as far as her skill set,” Brown said. “She can knock down that midrange jump shot from the elbow. She can knock down shots all over the floor. The biggest problem has been getting Sydney to translate what we see from her in practice to the [games themselves].”
Beginning this past summer, though, Wilson has taken her efforts to the next level in order to eliminate that disparity.
Weight training was a big part of the entire team’s offseason routine, but Wilson went the extra mile through in-depth workouts with assistant coach Tim Valentine, whom Brown brought to the Hilltop from Elon University after taking the reins in May.
The focus in Valentine’s sessions was on improving Wilson’s shooting abilities but also on being more willing to pull the trigger when called upon.
“This was the first time in my three years [at Georgetown] that I had someone [to work with] who was so post specific,” Wilson said. “He really helped expand my game and do things that big girls should really be doing, and then he also let me know, ‘You can shoot from the top — you can do those other things.’”
Brown was equally pleased with Wilson’s progress so far under Valentine’s instruction.
“I think Sydney’s done a tremendous job this summer, and Coach Valentine has done a tremendous job this summer of giving her the confidence to shoot that shot,” he said. “We need points out of Sydney, and she’s going to be able to shoot the ball.”
Although Wilson started 29 of 32 games last year, the Silver Spring, Md., native was just seventh on the Hoyas in field goals attempted. It’s safe to say that that will not be the case again this time around.
And with every opponent’s defense likely to be honing in on All-American shooting guard Rodgers, the offensive contributions of Wilson and others become that much more important.
“Sugar is going to give us what she’s going to give us, but everybody in the country knows it,” Brown said. “They’re going to be defending her, but if the other girls can take up the slack and score some points, not 20 but seven or eight, they’ll free Sugar up.”
Wilson’s role is further amplified due to the loss of frontcourt players Tia Magee and Adria Crawford. Magee averaged 11.1 points as a senior last season, good for second on the team after Rodgers; Crawford, meanwhile, averaged 4.6 in addition to tying for the lead with Magee in rebounds with six per contest.
Needless to say, making up for that loss in rebounding will be huge, and a large bulk of that task will be assigned to the 6-foot-6 Wilson. With her knees finally healed after a rough preseason injury during her first year at Georgetown, Wilson should be able to get more spring in her jump this season and, as a result, be more successful on the glass.
“She probably feels the best she’s felt since she was a freshman,” Brown said. “When you tear the meniscus in both knees, it takes a little while for you to get your bearings.”
With a shortened roster, Wilson and her teammates will all have to remain fit throughout the course of the season, too.
With all of the time and energy that she’s invested on her own and with Valentine — and if she can manage to stay on the court — the Hoya faithful may very well end up seeing a Sims-like improvement out of Wilson this season.
After all, Brown’s made a very deliberate point out of giving his starting center the green light. All Sydney Wilson has to do now is go.