“I feel pretty good about it,” Wilson said of formally signing. “I’m happy to have my mother here for me through it all. My grandma, who just passed away last year, she encouraged me to play ball my ninth grade year. I was happy to have the coaches that helped me work harder through the season and get through it. I’d like to thank coach Golden, who’s been here with me and helped me on my post moves, helped me go to college tryouts, so that I can go to college and play something that I love, the sport of basketball.”
Wilson and Golden travelled down to Brewton for a tryout for one spot on the team at JDCC. As Golden recounts, Wilson was up against stiff competition.
“The exact words of coach [Allen] Gainer at Jeff Davis were ‘We’ve got an unmanageable number here today—meaning we’ve got so many more kids than we thought we’d have I don’t know how we’re going to be able to get through this,’” Golden said. “I want to say by the time it was through there were 60-70 kids there all trying to earn a scholarship. For Darren to catch their eye in that type of environment he had to go through a series of games—they divided them into teams—he played three or four games and then they invited about 25 that they wanted to look at some more. He was in that group, and I was hoping they would like him and he would fit a need. [Coach Gainer] told me ‘In my opinion, Darren is the best player here. For what we need, he’s our number one priority.’ We were just thrilled.”
Golden estimated it was only 30 minutes into the workout and Gainer had already noticed Wilson as a good fit for his team.
“I knew Darren had a chance to play at the next level, but there’s a lot of really good players in high school that don’t get that opportunity because they can’t find a team that needs what they can offer,” Golden said. “Darren is somebody that is going to do all the little things. He plays really hard, he runs like a deer—he was one of our fastest guys in the mile, he’s going to defend and block shots, and he’s continued to get better offensively and developed some of his post moves. I think with two years in a college program and lifting and the individual workouts they’re going to do, he has a chance to be a really good collegiate player.”
Wilson led Sylacauga in blocked shots with 47 on the season, an average of 1.6 blocks per game. Wilson also finished the season with 158 total rebounds, good for an average of 5.4 rebounds per game.
He had a season-high six blocked shots and 10 total rebounds in the team’s 42-41 win over Thompson.
Golden is hopeful Wilson can parlay this opportunity into future success beyond JDCC.
“Hopefully, he’ll be able to go there two years and get his work done and excel on and off the court and then go to a four year university,” Golden said. “The goal is to be able to go to school for four years and have your education paid for. There are very, very few people that get that opportunity. For Darren to be able to do that, we’re just thrilled for him.”
Golden said Wilson is as good a person off the court as he has ever had the opportunity to coach.
“I think the good Lord blesses those people that do things the right way and I think Darren has continued to do that,” Golden said. “I think his teachers are going to love him because he’s such a polite kid.”
Golden continued by saying, “Any time you have a player that is skilled and you never have to worry about [them], that’s huge,” Golden said. “As a coach, I can tell you that’s huge. Kids like Darren don’t come along that often: somebody that you just can’t find anybody to say a bad word about. That’s who Darren is. It couldn’t happen to a better person. This creates an opportunity for Darren to do something special. To be able to go and have a scholarship and then in two years have a chance to earn another scholarship, it’s just huge.”
For Wilson, doing well in the classroom has to do with showing proper respect to adults and knowing that without his education, he wouldn’t be afforded the opportunity to play basketball at the next level.
“When I’m in the classroom, I don’t bother anybody,” he said. “If the teacher tells us to be quiet, I just keep my mouth shut. I grew up saying ‘Yes sir,’ ‘No sir,’ to my parents. I don’t disrespect adults in any kind of way. In class, I just do my work and after I do my work, I like to draw and I just draw. I just keep my mouth shut; it helps me in the long run to be a good player on the court and off the court.”
Golden added that Wilson’s work ethic and determined attitude, no matter the situation, will serve him well when he starts playing at the college level.
“I think his work ethic is going to do him well when he gets to the next level,” Golden said. “Whatever you ask him to do he’s willing to do it. An example of that this year is he was starting for us for a while and then the football playoffs got done and TJ Green came in and earned that starting role. Darren came off the bench and played just as hard, played a ton of minutes for us, but it didn’t matter to him. Then TJ got hurt in the middle of the year, was out for five or six games and Darren had to be reinserted into the starting lineup and he did that. Whatever you ask him to do, he did it.”