By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.—Standing at six-foot-four-inches tall, Tristen Wilson sticks out in a crowded room by his shear height and his muscular frame.
But, watch closely during a game at number 24 and you’ll see him lead with a sense of focused leadership to help his team win and better his team in game situations.
Come out to practice and you can hear the senior getting his team motivated and pushing them during practice to become better.
“He has great leadership, he pushes us and helps us a lot,” said Israel Garza on Wilson. “He’s pushed me a lot, he just encourages me to make big plays.”
Wilson described how he looked up to the varsity player like a Micah Sanders, who graduated following Wilson’s sophomore season, who taught him to be a leader and compared it to their big 65-61 victory over Grants Pass Tuesday night.
“He really kind of taught me how to become kind a leader and helping these guys come along,” said Wilson on Sanders. “These seniors are trying to become leaders themselves because in certain situations like tonight, it shows your leadership if you stay composed and stay calm and I think we did that tonight.”
What Sanders and the other senior leaders before taught him prior to this year is that they’re always an eye on him.
If he’s goes lazy on a play, the younger guys will do the same because they think that it’s ok; so Wilson wants to lead by example while he’s on the court.
“I got to lead by example, I got to do everything the right way,” he said. “What I need to work on is hustling at all times and showing that I really want to win and I really want to do this thing this year. If I keep working hard, I think these guys will follow.”
Scots Head Coach Dean Sanderson has seen a dramatic change in Wilson’s leadership traits and his ability to lead the squad has improved from his junior season to his senior season this year.
“This year has been better than last year,” said Sanderson. “He has his moments where he loses it and he isn’t a good leader.
“That’s been a positive, he’s been a better leader for longer periods of time and that’s what we’re looking for guys to step up and really teach some of these younger guys.”
Sanderson also added that he needs the seniors, like Wilson, to step up to help the team in tight situations like late in the Grants Pass game.
“Look at today,” started Sanderson. “We had a kid who blow it at the end there and get a technical foul in a close game under two minutes to go. So we’re looking to our seniors especially Tristen to figure out a way to help us win.”
For assistant coach Jack Martino, who’s been slowly getting to know Wilson since last year after coming back to McKay, has noticed that Wilson has the drive to be a leader.
“I think he desires to be a leader,” said Martino. “I knew him a little bit last year. Obviously I got to know him a lot more this year, he’s making a conscious effort to be a leader and as a coach you’re always looking for that.”
Even fellow seniors like Darrell Woods describes how Wilson even motivates them while they motivate him as well.
“We feed off each other,” said Woods. “He motivates me when I’m down and I motivate him when he’s down. But we try to keep each other us. We try to stay happy and just have fun on the court and just play basketball”
At the end of the day, Wilson can always look back and know he has given back to the “McKay Way” and ‘Lift As You Climb’. And with the new offense and defense that Sanderson and company put in this year, it just adds to it.
“Every play is just scrappy for us,” he said describing both. “This new offense and defense for us that we have shows that no matter how much you’re down by, you’re always willing to come back.
“You just have to show your fight and you can’t give up at the end.”
Wilson, unselfishly, said that it’s up to him and the other seniors to leave a lasting impression on the youngsters like a Garza, to make them work harder than them when they are gone.
“If they see us really want to work hard to win, then I think they’ll work even harder to win even more,” said Wilson. “So it’s good to have us five seniors coming together as a group to be leaders for these young men.”
Jeremy McDonald is a professional sports journalist in the Salem/Portland area and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalist in Oregon with B.S. degrees from Southern Oregon University in Journalism (2011) and Health/PE (2013). Got a story idea? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @J_McDonald81!
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