Lake Wales' Wilson Is Sheriff of Basketball Court
Sun. March 25, 2012 at 3:30 a.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
By RICK BROWN | THE LEDGER
LAKE WALES | For most of his life, Russel Wilson was one of the smallest kids in school, so the nickname given to him from his mother's best friend as a child — "Lil' Baby" — was appropriate.
Even after a growth spurt in high school, the moniker stayed with him.
That was until his senior year, when Wilson's prowess on the basketball court helped lead the Lake Wales basketball team to a state title. His nonstop, doggish defense earned Wilson another more intimidating nickname — "Grady Judd" — after Polk County's own sheriff, who is known for locking up criminals.
Wilson did the same to opponents.
"I've never seen anything like it, and I've been at it for a long time," Auburndale coach Eric Robinson said. "Defensively, he locks guys down. I absolutely think that on both sides of the ball, he is Lake Wales. He is the reason they were state champions."
Wilson is the 2011-12 PolkPreps.com boys basketball player of the year.
The 6-foot point guard scored just 17 points total in the two games of the state championship tournament. But his defense on the guards of American Heritage and Terry Parker led to numerous turnovers that allowed Lake Wales to get into its transition game.
He averaged 13 points, seven assists, six rebounds and 3.5 steals per game for the season.
"He did what we asked him to do, and that was to make his teammates better," Lake Wales coach Billy Dee Washington said. "He demanded that from them night in and night out and he usually got it. We wouldn't be the same team without him."
While many basketball players loved the attention of scoring, Wilson loved the challenge of preventing others from scoring.
"I take pride in it," Wilson said of playing defense. "Most people don't like to play defense. That will always be a part of me. Anybody can score, but who can lock down somebody. That's what I keep in mind. I like playing defense, and I go hard all the time."
He did it all season.
Lake Wales won 30 games, most of them by at least 15 points, many by 20 or more. In the playoffs, all of Lake Wales' games ended with a running clock, meaning the Highlanders jumped out to a 35-point lead.
Wilson was the catalyst.
"He affects play on both ends of the court," Bartow coach Terrence McGriff said. "He gets them into what they want to do transition-wise, they score off (their) defense and he's the linchpin for it."
Now, he has to decide what's next.
The senior has a 3.3 grade-point average but has not been actively recruited by Division I schools. He does have a couple of Division II schools (Tuskegee in Alabama and Clayton State in Georgia) interested, as well as several NAIA and junior colleges. He hasn't decided which avenue he wants to take just yet.
Wherever he decides to go, Washington knows one team will be extremely happy and the rest of the conference had better be prepared.
"That kid had determination like no other," Washington said. "Everyone said he was too small or he wasn't good enough, so he always was out to prove everyone wrong.
"I haven't seen anyone play defense like him," Washington said. "He was the heartbeat of our team."
And the sheriff of the hardwood court.
Coach of the Year: Billy Dee Washington, Lake Wales
Washington led his team to a Class 5A state title and a 30-4 record, and he did it with one of the stingiest defenses in the nation. In the state title game against Terry Parker, Lake Wales had 11 steals and forced 19 turnovers.
Player of the Year: Russel Wilson, PG, 6-0/Senior, Lake Wales
Wilson averaged nearly 14 points, seven assists and three steals per game, but it was his defensive effort that helped Lake Wales dominate teams this season.
Marcel White, F, 6-5, Senior/Lake Wales
White led the state-champion Highlanders in scoring (15) and rebounding (8). He came up big for Lake Wales in the state tournament, scoring 21 in the semis and 15 with 11 rebounds in the title game.
Devon Walker, G, 6-6/Senior, Winter Haven
Walker averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds and four assists per game for the Blue Devils. He also helped Winter Haven get to the Class 6A state semifinals.
Eric Moody, G, 6-3/Senior, Lakeland
Led his team to the Class 7A, District 7 title and to a regional semifinal showing. Moody also led his team in scoring with 21.4 points.
Terry Rose, SG, 6-4/Senior, Ridge Community
Led the county in scoring with 25.1 points per game. Was also a 40 percent 3-point shooter who led his team to a Class 7A regional final, the deepest Ridge Community has gone in the post season in school history.
Elmo Stephens, F-C, 6-6/Junior, Auburndale
Stephens averaged a double-double with 23.5 points and 15.7 rebounds per game. He helped the Bloodhounds get to the regional quarterfinals, a game Auburndale lost in overtime.
Second Team | All-County
Chris Burgess, Senior Guard, George Jenkins
Jerrick Stevenson, Senior Forward, George Jenkins
Kendrick Holland, Sophomore Forward, Winter Haven
Alante Fenner, Senior Guard, Lake Wales
Douglas Brooks, Junior Guard, Lake Wales
Karlos Odum, Junior Guard-Forward, Tenoroc
Third Team | All-County
Joby St. Fleur, Senior Forward, Lake Region
Mike Wright, Senior Guard, Ridge Community
Chris Perry, Junior Center, Bartow
Corey Sanders, Freshman Point Guard, McKeel Academy
Oliver Green, Senior Point Guard, Mulberry
Rashaad Jones, Junior Point Guard, Auburndale
Honorable Mention | All-County
All Saints Academy: Reggie Evans, Andy Moats
Auburndale: Chad Cullop, Daryl Henry
Bartow: Ricky Williams, Kerry Jones
Haines City: JAck Tisdale, Akeem Martinez, Jarrell Harbison, Jarrod Brown
Kathleen: Will Brown
Lakeland Christian: Will Portlock, Phil Wilsman
Landmark Christian: Keland White, Josh James, Jawuan Mathis
McKeel Academy: Dwayne Bacon
Mulberry: Tyrike Johnson
Ridge Community: Donte Clifton, Richard Richardson, Skykeem Pitts, DeJon Jones
Santa Fe Catholic: Devonte Drisdom, Tim Cotto
Tenoroc: Travis Tucker
Winter Haven: Change McSpadden, Jontrell Hawkins, Demetrick Jordan, Vivian Morris
Vanguard: Theirry Frederick
Players of the Year
2012: Russel Wilson, Lake Wales
2011: Chris Burgess, George Jenkins
2010: Jeremiah Samarrippas, Bartow
2009: Richie Edwards/Quinton Everett, Lakeland
2008: Miguel Paul, Kathleen
2007: Dominique Jones, Lake Wales
2006: Brandon Giles, Auburndale
2005: Marvin Williams, Lake Wales
2004: A.J. Jones, Winter Haven
2003: Chris Richard, Kathleen
2002: Rashad Anderson, Kathleen
2001: T.J. Waldon, Kathleen
2000: Willie Williams, Lake Wales
1999: Theron Smith, Auburndale
1998: B.B. Waldon, Kathleen
1997: Alvin Jones III, Kathleen
1996: Art Salary, Haines City
1995: Roy Leath, Lake Wales
Coaches of the Year
2012: Billy Dee Washington, Lake Wales
2011: Alvin Pearsall, Tenoroc
2010: Terrence McGriff, Bartow
2009: Terrence McGriff, Bartow
2008: Don Grant, Winter Haven
2007: Drew Taylor, Kathleen
2006: Deron Collins, Lakeland
2005: Jimmy Johnson, Lake Wales
2004: Don Grant, Winter Haven
2003: Don Grant, Winter Haven
2002: Deron Collins, Haines City
2001: Drew Taylor, Kathleen
2000: Collins Smith, Mulberry
1999: Gary Meyer, George Jenkins
1998: Keeth Jones, Lake Wales
1997: Alvin Jones Jr., Kathleen
1996: Eric Foister, Haines City
1995: Jim Morrison, Winter Haven