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Wilson’s Season in D-League Helps Prepare for Shot in NBA

After going undrafted last summer, Jamil Wilson spent a season in the D-League to help him make it to the NBA.

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Sometimes a player has to take a step away from his dream in order to achieve it.

Jamil Wilson’s goal is to play in the NBA. After four years of college basketball (one at the University of Oregon, three at Marquette University), he went undrafted in 2014. Wilson, who was waived by the Phoenix Suns during training camp, played last season in the Development League, positioning himself for another run at the pros this summer.

“Last summer I had a lot going on,” Wilson said. “There was just a lot coming at me, I had to adjust to a lot of things. Now, after being through it, the space is clear. Now, I don’t have much to think about, just go in and work every day and try to get better at what it is I’m setting on.”

There is a learning curve for first-year players in the NBA. The sport is the same, but there are differences in the game from college. Many rookies encounter ups and downs, and struggle with things like the speed of the action and the hectic schedule as they transition. Spending a season on the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA D-League helped Wilson work through those adjustments. Wilson picked up on different basketball terminology, watched the day-to-day routines of his teammates and took away lessons from his experiences.

One of the biggest changes was the pace of the game. In college, Wilson had a 35-second shot clock. In the NBA, it is only 24 seconds. Wilson had to find the balance of playing at a quicker pace while still staying under control.

“Eleven seconds is a big difference when you think about it,” he said. “Even though the game is faster, you have to figure out how to slow it down in your mind and not rush [it] so much.”

Wilson also worked on his endurance. His conditioning was influenced by hearing a Hall of Famer talk about its long-term benefits.

“When I went to the Portsmouth (Invitational), John Stockton was there as a guest speaker,” Wilson recounted. “He bragged about how he was never the biggest player, never the fastest, never the strongest, not very athletic, but the one thing he could control was his endurance and his conditioning, and he took advantage of that. That was the big thing I learned last year, that your endurance will carry you past a lot of things.”

The 6’7 forward averaged 10.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists last season for the Jam. He appeared in 41 games, and logged significant minutes (26.2 per game) that gave him the reps he needed to continue progressing.

“I think it’s a path most young, rookie guys have to take even though most of us don’t want to,” he said of the D-League. “It’s something where you get good experience under your belt playing against older guys that have been there before and younger guys just like yourself trying to make it. But it’s definitely a grind. It teaches you the true values of work and how much work it takes to get to the level above that even though you’re almost there.”

This offseason, Wilson has been training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. He has focused on losing weight to be able to maximize his athleticism and versatility so he can be effective in multiple facets of the game. Wilson says he has a better understanding of what teams are looking for from him. He believes his basketball IQ, ability to defend, switch and knock down open shots can help fill a role on a roster, as he has seen other players his size do.

Competing at IMG against current forwards such as Rodney Hood (Utah Jazz) and Moe Harkless (Orlando Magic) has given Wilson firsthand experience in playing who could be his future opponents. In doing so, he has seen different styles and worked on how to adapt to them.

“You get to learn really,” Wilson said. “Moe’s going to be an elite wing in the NBA, you figure out what it is to defend and how to separate and things like that. Then Rodney, one of the better shooters to come out of his class, you figure out how to play against him and create space. Being out here working with them and seeing how they get their shot off against other players and create space or defend, it really helps because those are guys that have been through it and walked through it already.”

Wilson has his sights set on Summer League to prove to NBA teams how he has improved after his season in the D-League. Last year, he played for the Washington Wizards squad, and this time around he has more to show.

“Last year I was just taking it for the experience it was – being a part of the NBA program, organization, just trying to be a sponge and soak everything up,” he said. “Now this year I’ve been through it, I’ve gotten my feet wet and I really know things I should work on or what teams what me to work on. (I’m) trying to get in the best position and capitalize on it.”

Jessica Camerato is a bilingual reporter who has been covering the NBA since 2006. She has also covered MLB, NHL and MLS. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Jessica is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

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