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Former Mt. Tabor star holds camp and discusses final collegiate season

Longwood University basketball player Isaiah Wilkins poses with his father Bishop Melvin Wilkins Jr. at Isaiah’s basketball camp held at W.R. Anderson Community Center.

Former Mt. Tabor star holds camp and discusses final collegiate season
June 24
05:56 2022

Longwood University guard Isaiah Wilkins held a camp at the W.R. Anderson Community Center last week for the kids of the neighborhood. Over 100 kids from the surrounding area came out to learn from the Lancers star guard.

“This was actually my father’s idea and we felt like it was a good opportunity for us to give back,” said Wilkins. “A lot of guys do these camps and they make a lot of the kids’ parents pay for them, but I know that the way the world is now, not a lot of people are just willing to just give back without gaining anything from it.

“We just looked at it as a way for us to do something for the kids that will keep them off the streets and doing other stuff that they are not supposed to be doing.”

Wilkins had the kids participate in some ball handling drills early on in the day. He then shared his personal journey throughout his collegiate career, as well as a guest speaker to inspire the children. They then moved to defensive drills and finished with some shooting drills to end the day.

The ability to be an inspiration to the next generation was something that is very important to Wilkins. Showing the kids that they can make it to the next level and fulfill their dreams if they work hard enough was one of the things Wilkins wanted to stress to the youngsters.

“I was talking to a kid in a camp and apparently his mom works with my mom and he knew my story before I even started telling it …  just to hear him saying that he has been following me for so long lets me know that I am doing something right and I am going to keep doing that. I am going to keep making an impact on people’s lives; that’s what I am going to do,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins had a breakout season last year, especially during the Big South Tournament where he played very well. The Lancers made their NCAA Tournament debut and lost to Tennessee in the opening round of play. Wilkins is hoping to perform even better for his final season of collegiate play.

“We want to get back to the same thing we were doing last year,” he said about his team. “I think this year we will be bigger, stronger and we have a new strength coach who is working with the entire team and I know when we get back this week, we will hit the ground running pretty hard.

“We are going to look like a totally different team and it’s going to be a more fun year than it was last year. The ultimate goal obviously is to win the conference tournament again and get back to the NCAA Tournament and hopefully get out of the first round this time.”

Wilkins’ play this past season was somewhat of a surprise for him, but with all of the hard work he has put in over the years, he felt it was time.

“I was surprised that I received all of the accolades that I did, but I expected it because it was long overdue and my love for basketball actually came back this year,” he said about last season. “I have been through adversity and I have learned to fight through those things, and I let them keep me down all of the time.  

“When you see me most of the time, I have a smile on my face. Nobody really knows what I went through or how I thought. I keep my smile on my face for the people around me to let them know that you go through stuff, but you can’t go through life being down all the time. I looked at it as me falling back in love with basketball again; I’m having fun.”

Wilkins initially was going to attend Hargrove Military Academy after his senior year to garner more attention from higher level colleges. However, he performed so well at a camp after the season that Virginia Tech offered him a scholarship. After discussing the option with his parents, he chose to play for the Hokies.

Wilkins performed well as a freshman and was expecting to have a larger role as a sophomore. His head coach left for another job and his playing time went down when the new coaching staff came in, which prompted his transfer to Wake Forest. He chose the Demons because he wanted the opportunity to still play high level basketball, along with playing close to home so his family and friends could see him play.

Wilkins was signed by former Deacons coach Danny Manning. Unfortunately for Wilkins, Manning was fired a week after signing with Wake, so he had to endure yet another new coaching staff that did not recruit him and once again he fell down the depth chart and had to work his way back up.

The pandemic derailed Wilkins’ season as he and several teammates were affected by it. That adversely affected his playing time and his health. At his end of year meeting with the coaches, he was basically told that new head coach, Steve Forbes, was going to bring in his own players and there was no room for Wilkins on the roster.

“I was basically told ‘no matter what you do, he is going to bring his guys in; he’s going to play his guys and that’s the business part of it,’” Wilkins said about his exit interview. “It’s just a lot that goes on in the college basketball world that not many people know about.”

Following that meeting, Wilkins quickly decided to enter the transfer portal. Before he could even enter his name in the portal, Longwood University head coach Griff Aldrich contacted Wilkins about playing for the Lancers. Other schools came calling as well, but Wilkins cut his list down to Longwood and UNC-Asheville.

“It came down to one Zoom call from each school. I did the Zoom call with UNC-Asheville first, but they didn’t have the same energy as Longwood and at the end of that call it was a no-brainer that I was going to Longwood,” Wilkins stated.

Longwood finished the season 26-7 and were the champions of the Big South conference. Wilkins says he didn’t know they would have such a successful season when he first stepped foot on campus, but the connection with his teammates made the transition very easy.

Playing at Wake Forest and Virginia Tech prepared Wilkins for what he encountered at Longwood. He had to play a versatile role with the Lancers and feels he will be better prepared for that next season. Wilkins says he is thankful for his journey and would not change anything because that has prepared him for the position he is in now.

“I thought I was just going to stay at one school for four years and just go on with my life, but I wouldn’t trade anything I have been through for an easier path because I think everything happens for a reason,” he said about his journey through college basketball. 

“You might not see it as soon as it happens, but when you believe in God and have the faith that I have, it’s unreal where it can take you.”

 

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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