By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — When Emmanuel Wilson finished his basketball career at Norman North High School, he thought he would have a small chance at going to a large Division 1 school. Even though he hadn’t made the varsity starting lineup until his senior year figured he may have done enough to garner a few looks.
However, it didn’t work out that way. The 6-4, 190 pound Wilson had a couple of offers from some smaller D-I programs, but ended up signing with Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee.
For most athletes, that is where the story would end. They go for four years, have a nice career and prepare themselves for their next career.
But Wilson didn’t let the disappointment derail his ambition. He turned his five years with the Bison into the best decision he could ever have made.
“As a college career overall, it kind of exceeded my expectations,” Wilson said. “I think I did make the best decision as far as what I was given. Like most kids do, I do have a dream of going to play D-I basketball in college. But OBU has a great tradition and they were winning at the time and it was close to home. All that went into my decision.”
Wilson, the son of Paul and Princess Wilson, ended his college career earlier this year by leading his team to the NAIA national championship game for the second time in three years. He won the championship as a sophomore, but injuries to DeAngelo McIntosh kept the Bison from taking home the trophy in his final campaign as they lost to Concordia 72-69 March 20.
“We set the bar for what OBU basketball is supposed to be, in terms of heart and character,” former Norman coach and current Bison Coach Doug Tolin said. “I can only speak for the last 12 years, but this is the standard by which we measure what Bison basketball should and will be.”
But when the game was over, Wilson got a surprise. He was named NAIA Player of the Year and First-Team All-America. It was a honor he couldn’t fully appreciate until the next day.
“I kind of had mixed feelings about it,” Wilson said. “They didn’t let me know until after the championship game, which we had lost. When I heard my name called, I was a little bit surprised. It felt good to be recognized with that high of an honor. Right at the moment I had mixed feelings because I wanted to win.”
Wilson averaged 17.3 points and 4.4 rebounds this season as he led the Bison in scoring. He’s the second Player of the Year OBU has produced in three seasons and is the seventh NAIA All-American for the Bison in as many seasons.
When he first arrived at OBU, he had high expectations for himself. But being named the best player in the nation was not one of them.
“It’s not that it was out of the question,” Wilson said. “But I didn’t think I would go here for five years, win yourself a national championship and be named player of the year. It’s not really what I sought out. It started to become clear at the beginning of my senior year that it could happen.”
However, Wilson said he may not have made it to the point of garnering national honors, if he hadn’t learned from riding the bench his first couple of years at Norman North.
“I would say that it kind of gave me a little wakeup call,” Wilson said. “I felt like it was something I was doing wrong, maybe those first couple years when I wasn’t getting to play. But that kind of just got me to play harder and work on my game to get to the point to where coach can’t overlook me. That kind of fueled my aspirations of playing.
“It was kind of like a blessing in disguise.”
Wilson hasn’t got basketball out of his blood yet. After graduating this weekend with a major in Sports Management, he plans to sign with an agent then play basketball overseas in Europe. The NBA is not out of the question if they want him.
When WIlson does hang up his sneakers, he will look back on the past eight years as the most formidable in his life.
“I’d tell people that anything is pretty much possible,” Wilson said. “Don’t let anybody tell you are not good enough or you can’t do certain things. You can do anything if you work for it. It’s been a wild ride and I’m just thankful that I’ve been able to go through it.
Michael Kinney 366-3537 firstname.lastname@example.org