VICTORIAN Tom Wilson has experienced success at every level he has played, whether it has been for his club, state or his country.
Wilson’s journey started as an 11-year-old with the Sandringham Sabres… yet it was not until his move to the Melbourne Tigers that his star began to emerge.
That success can be traced back to his first experience at the Medibank National Junior Classic (NJC).
The now 6’4 guard fondly recalled of his time in playing at the Classic, explaining that he played with Sandringham at U12 level, in a year they placed third.
“U12s… that year was pretty crazy,” explained Wilson. “I felt special and was also very nervous to play in a national tournament.
“The experience was unbelievable – especially going in and not knowing what we would be coming up against.”
Two years later Wilson would capture the U14 NJC title in his first season with the Tigers. It would be a result that sparked an amazing run that also included winning a VJBL Victorian State Championship (VC) and the Australian Club Championship – as the extraordinary side dropped just the one game for the entire year.
“That first year at Melbourne we were expected to win,” Wilson said. “Thankfully we never really went close to losing a game – it was a very special year in winning all three major junior titles.”
Wilson’s run at the Classic would extend to capturing one more title with the U16 Tigers in 2012; he was unable to compete in the U18 event due to national team commitments. That year Wilson made his first state team, competing at U16 Australian Junior Championships in Tamworth, in an event that his Victorian Metro side dominated.
“Making the state side for the first time was pretty special,” Wilson said. “Not only did we win, I also did alright personally in being invited to the Australian Development Camp.”
From that point forward, Wilson never again missed state team selection while also claiming the U16 and U18 VC titles along the way.
While Wilson had been excelling at state and national level, the international stage beckoned.
Wilson stood out as one of 25 players taking part in the three-day Australian Development Camp and earned selection to the Australian U17 team in the 2013 FIBA Oceania qualifiers.
Soon after, Wilson accepted a scholarship to the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (CoE) in a year in which he would also be voted in as captain for the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships. Australia secured silver in the United Arab Emirates, a tournament in which Wilson spoke glowingly.
“Playing at the World Champs was awesome,” Wilson said. “We finished third in our pool, but we then had a very good run in the knockout stages, including an overtime win against Spain in the semi-finals.”
Waiting for them in the gold medal game was the USA, a team nobody gave Wilson and his side a chance of beating.
“Nobody expected us to get close in that game,” Wilson recalled. “Yet we took it right up to them – pushed them all the way – and only went down by seven points.”
Wilson would deliver 21 points as well as six rebounds and seven assists in an outstanding individual performance.
“Earning the silver medal for Australia was my proudest moment as a basketballer; knowing we were the second best team in the world behind only the USA,” Wilson said. “It is one of those games that we would like to have back again, as I still think we could beat them.”
2015 saw Wilson continue building upon his international resume, earning an invitation to the NBA All-Star weekend in New York for the Basketball Without Borders camp.
His amazing trajectory continued as Wilson performed well and was selected on the All-Star team – yet another “unreal, awesome experience”.
At the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships in Greece, Australia finished seventh, with Wilson injuring his knee in a tough quarter-final loss to Turkey.
“We struggled a little as a team and ultimately we did not have the size to compete as we had a lot of bottom-aged kids,” Wilson said.
“We upset Serbia in the round of 16 which was massive… against Turkey, another highly ranked team, I literally broke my knee and I was out for the rest of the tournament.
“It was a disappointing end to an otherwise great experience.”
The next stop on Wilson’s international adventures will see the talented and versatile guard head to Dallas, Texas where he will suit up for the Southern Methodist University Mustangs in NCAA Division I college basketball. Wilson explained that he settled on SMU as he wanted to be able to play immediately.
“I did not want to go to a bigger school, as I did not want to sit on the bench or be just a bench role player for four years,” Wilson said. “I ended up deciding to visit just four schools – including Saint Mary’s College, Boise State, Washington State and SMU – primarily because they all had strong ties with Australia and were all good programs.
“The SMU program suited me, the opportunity would be presented there, (head coach) Larry Brown is a legend of the game, a hall of famer.
“The point-guard position is full open next year – I would have an awesome opportunity to come to a good program and a chance to earn a lot of minutes and play against the best kids in the world right away as a freshman. I have no doubt I can do that at that level.”
Wilson has enjoyed an amazing experience already in travelling the world and playing the sport he loves.
With his demonstrated ability to rise to the challenge and deliver on court success at each level, expect to see him excel with the Mustangs next season.