17 September 2014

Veteran Watch: John Wilson

John Wilson Meralco Bolts
When John Wilson won the NCAA Most Valuable Player (MVP) plum way back in 2009, everyone thought that he definitely has a very bright future in the professional league. However, the first three years were surprisingly unproductive.

The Jose Rizal University (JRU) Bomber was drafted 7th overall in the 2010 PBA Draft by the Barangay Ginebra Kings. He played 63 games but was often overshadowed by the team's more established shooting guards like Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand. Wilson averaged only 3.75 points per game in 12.1 minutes of play before he was dealt to Air21 for another forgettable season.

In 2013, Wilson, Noy Baclao, and James Sena were traded to the Bolts in exchange for Rey Guevarra, Vic Manuel, and veteran big man Carlo Sharma. After the change in team environment, everything looked promising for a player who once scored 48 points in an NCAA game.

The team had other talented players like Gary David, Clifford Hodge and Mike Cortez, but Wilson was the best candidate to be that prototypical #3 or #4. He could defend multiple positions, work off the ball with Cortez and David drawing defenders, catch and shoot or cut back door with Hodge in the post, or fill the lane on a fast break.

In his first 8 games with the bolts, he immediately made an impact. Playing 23.5 minutes per match, Wilson is averaging highs in points (13.5), rebounds (5.1), assists (1.4), and steals (1.4). He is also shooting close to 40 percent from three-point land – the best so far in his career.

He also ranks second in scoring for Meralco, just behind scoring champion David (15.6 PPG). But that was all riding shotgun with David and Dillinger. After the isolation-heavy plays of former coach Ryan Gregorio included the imports during the last two conferences of 2013, Wilson did not really do the next jump and become ‘The Man.’

There were flashes. In his last 6 games in the Governor’ Cup, the former member of the All-Defensive Team (2010-2011)only averaged 2.5 points on 28.6 percentage shooting from long-distance. He seemed passive at times and that lead to inconsistency. Some saw a lack of aggressiveness on Wilson’s part and there may be some truth to that, but ultimately, it's just a matter of miscasting.

The four-year veteran looks the part of PBA leading man. He's 6’2 solid guard with a pretty jumper and hops. That's the mold they used to make Caguiao, Willie Miller, and Ryan Reyes. But for some reason or another, Wilson seems to be destined for smaller roles and that's OK. They win Oscars for best supporting actors and sometimes, they even win PBA Finals' MVP.

Sometimes, it isn't just a matter of billing. You give Robin Padilla any role in any hoodlum movie and he's going to hit it out of the park, but you don't put him tights and cast him as Captain Barbel. It's a matter of concept. The Bolts’ offense under coach Gregorio lacked an identity. He gave Wilson the opportunity to handle the ball more and he underperformed.

In the next season, look for new Coach Norman Black to run Wilson off of more off-ball screens or freelancing with Cortez penetrating the paint. This article may be full of analogies, but we think of Wilson as a versatile tight end in football that can pass protect for the quarterback, block for the running back, or catch a pass. Not unlike how he thrived in the second half of 2013-2014 with David and Jared Dillinger, he works best not in the glamour positions of quarterback or runningback.

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