Like most young men at the age of 13, Donte Wilson had a knack for trouble. Alongside his classmates at Faubion Middle School, he wasn’t afraid of stirring up shenanigans in the name of fun. But what restraint he may have lacked in the classroom, he had control of on the basketball court. Just ask his coach, Darryll Craft.
Fast forward 24 years and Wilson now has to deal with discipline of his own as the head coach of the Mansfield Lake Ridge boys basketball team (pictured at top, with Wilson on top right, second from left). With a 19-6 record this season, his success in the program is apparent, but that doesn’t make him any less nervous about playing Craft, his former coach, when McKinney North faces Lake Ridge tonight. But while both teams’ seasons ride on this game, there’s still plenty of time for a friendly rivalry.
“I have to keep reminding myself that he’s not a kid anymore, but that’s how I remember him,” Craft said, “I’m just so excited that this young man grew up, joined us in our profession and I know he’s making a big difference in his players’ lives.”
Craft, who was an assistant coach at Faubion during Donte’s formative years, still has trouble calling his former player “Coach Wilson,” but that doesn’t mean he respects him any less. Wilson’s team is still competition for Craft’s undefeated Bulldogs, so pre-game prep hasn’t changed. But even watching film of the Eagles, Craft can’t help but see Wilson’s own playing style in the players on the court.
“If you watch this team, they are just the spitting image of Donte,” Craft said. “They are fundamentally sound, hard nosed and play great defense. I watch film and I just see how Donte used to play in high school in all of his players.”
Wilson appreciated the compliment, but insisted his players look much better than he did at their age.
“He’s probably watching our guys defend, because I didn’t score very much when I played ball, but I could defend,” Wilson said. “Fortunately we’ve got some guys on our team that can score way better than I could.”
Whether those players win or lose, Wilson said the game’s final score will be bittersweet. Despite the outcome, Williams is excited to play his former coach and proud to pass along what he has learned.
“I try to do and say the same things that I was taught, but the main focus is what I try to make apply off the court. That’s the main thing we want to send to these kids,” Wilson said. “I think basketball is just what we use to get their attention, but once we have it things like character and responsibility are the stuff they’re gonna need later down the line.”
Wilson obviously learned those things. He went on to play for McKinney High and then later played collegiately for San Diego State.
McKinney North will take on Mansfield Lake Ridge on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Grapevine High School in the Area Round of the Class 4A Playoffs. North (25-5) beat Marshall 85-65 in Tuesday’s bi-district round. Lake Ridge (19-6) beat Tyler John Tyler 53-38.