This story originally appeared in The South End's Winter 2019 Back to School print edition.
Warriors fight, and Wayne State basketball center Tristan Wilson has battled season-ending injuries in back-to-back years before returning to the court this season.
After recovering from a serious shoulder injury in 2016-2017, Wilson suffered a catastrophic knee injury during the basketball team’s second practice last season.
“It’s hard to put into words that feeling when Andrew Stoll, our trainer, told me I wasn’t going to be able to play because I tore my ACL,” Wilson said. “I didn’t know what to feel for a little while, but I knew that if I wanted to come back the following season I would have to put in just as much work as I had to do with my shoulder.”
Wilson said he briefly wondered if he’d ever get back on the court after his second injury, but he credited Stoll with helping him get through rehabilitation.
“I was down in the dumps and doubted myself at first, but Andrew really pushed me,” Wilson said. “We (did) rehab every day for months and he gave me confidence (because) I didn’t have the confidence when he cleared my knee, but with him telling me ‘everything’s going to be alright,’ it really helped me out a lot.”
When he returned to the court in the 2018 season opener against Ohio Dominican University, Wilson said he felt anxious being back in action.
“To be honest I was very nervous because I haven’t played an actual game in two years and (coach David Greer) didn’t let me play in open gym over the summer,” Wilson said. “I didn’t really have five-on-five (experience) until the first game, but after I got my first bucket and first rebound, I settled back down.”
Hoop dreams to collegiate athlete status
Wilson’s interest in basketball sparked at the age of nine when watching his older brother hoop. Wilson said his brother’s success and love for basketball motivated him to give the game a try.
“My brother was really good at a young age, and one day I decided to pick up a ball and drop all my action figures,” Wilson said.
The efforts of head coach David Greer and assistant coach Lorenzo Neely during Wilson’s recruiting trail helped pave his path to WSU, he said.
“(Greer and Neely) really recruited me hard. They showed an interest in me,” Wilson said. “I was originally committed to Eastern Michigan University, but that didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, so I decided to come to Wayne State.”
Wilson’s big break on the court came during his sophomore season. He had a few breakout performances that enabled him to make the starting lineup, which Wilson said was surprising.
“I didn’t think I was going to get a chance to start that year since we had Mike Lewis, Joel Ndondo and Chuck Key playing very well. I was (going to) come off the bench and be a role player,” Wilson said. “But that all changed when I came off the bench in the Walsh game and had 19 points and (coach Greer) started me the rest of the season. I guess it was a lucky break.”
Wilson said his favorite moment at WSU was seeing last year’s seniors win the division title.
“I know how hard those guys worked over their four years here and seeing them win something over the hard times we’ve had was a rewarding feeling for myself even though I wasn’t able to play,” said Wilson.
Matt Williams is sports editor of The South End. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover photo by WSU Athletics.