On the eve of the 2016 National Junior Classic hosted by Basketball Victoria on the Queen's Birthday weekend, we managed to catch up with talented Victorian guard Tom Wilson who earned just before he departed for his freshman college basketball season in the United States.
Victorian Tom Wilson has experienced success at every level he has played, whether it has been for his club, state or his country.
Tom Wilson | Credit: FIBA via Basketball Australia
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, with that success traced back to his first experience at the National Junior Classic (NJC).
The now 6’4 guard fondly recalled of his time in playing at the NJC, explaining that he played with Sandringham at U12 level, a year in which 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 the Victorian State Championship (VC) and the Australian Club Championship – dropping just the one game for the entire year.
“That first year at Melbourne, we were expected to win,” outlined Wilson. “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 NJC 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, an event that his Victorian Metro side dominated.
“Making the state side for the first time was pretty special,” added Wilson. “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. In early 2016, he would go on to lead Victoria to the U20 Australian Junior Championship title and earned the Bob Staunton medal as the tournament MVP in capping a brilliant junior state representative career.
While Wilson had been excelling at state and national level, the international stage beckoned. Wilson managed to stand out as one of 25 players taking part in the three-day Australian Development Camp, earning selection to the Australian U17 team in the 2013 FIBA Oceania qualifiers.
“That was a great experience to represent my country for the first time,” shared Wilson. “We won too [against New Zealand], qualifying for World Championships.” 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. 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 semifinals.”
Awaiting 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,” recalled Wilson. “Yet we took it right up to them, pushed them all the way, and only went down by 7 points.”
Wilson would deliver in 21 points with 6 rebounds and 7 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. 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. He would perform well and be selected to the All-Star team.
“That was another unreal, awesome experience,” expressed Wilson. “It was everything you expected it to be plus more! It was amazing to be at Madison Square Garden.”
At the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships in Greece, Australia finished seventh, with Wilson injuring his knee in a tough quarterfinal 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,” explained Wilson. “We upset Serbia in the round of 16 which was massive. Against Turkey, another highly ranked team, I literally broke my knee. I was out for the rest of the tournament and 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 The American Conference of 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 4 years. 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 fully 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.
Thanks to Basketball Victoria and Tom Wilson for making this interview possible. You can follow Tom Wilson on Twitter: @Tomwilson734