|No need to translate basketball for Wilkins|
|Written by Ashley Schrader, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Tuesday, 07 December 2010 23:54|
Prior to transferring to Illinois State, sophomore John Wilkins was a “joueur de basket.” But after playing in his first American collegiate game on Doug Collins Court Nov. 28, Wilkins was a “basketball player.”
Wilkins, who grew up in Antibes, France, had never played basketball in the United States before playing at Redbird Arena, but the newer, more physical game of basketball came with relative ease and in his third eligible game as a Redbird, Wilkins tallied 16 points.
The 21-year-old was raised far from Normal, Ill., but was very aware of the atmosphere and history surrounding the Redbirds since his father Jeff played basketball at ISU in 1974-77 before playing with the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs.
“Obviously, [Wilkins] comes from tremendous bloodlines, as his father was one of the greatest players in school history and an NBA player for six years,” ISU head coach Tim Jankovich said.
Wilkins’ dad, who had an 18-year professional career in Europe, has told him numerous stories about Redbird basketball, with the biggest ISU rival, Bradley, being the most memorable game story.
“[My dad] told me when he played against Bradley, he took a rebound and drove to the other basket and dunked it and showed a finger to the Bradley bench,” Wilkins said.
However, the family connection to ISU, even after hearing the Bradley story, was not the driving force for Wilkins to make the move from Belgium to Illinois.
“The big push was the coaching staff and the players. When they met me, I was very impressed with how much they care about everyone, and the players too; they make me feel like I’m at home,” Wilkins said.
No matter his reason for coming to ISU, Wilkins never anticipated a future as a Redbird basketball player. And due to playing five games with a Belgium professional basketball team four years ago, he had to miss the first five ISU games of the season.
“I didn’t think I was going to be here, so I took a chance and I was really on my own when I came here and the basketball team took a chance on me,” Wilkins said.
In his debut, Wilkins scored four points and grabbed six rebounds against Jacksonville State. The sophomore sank two points against UNLV Dec. 4, but his standout performance came on Dec. 8 when he scored in double digits against Montana State when his father was in the crowd.
“John is someone that can really come in and shoot for us,” Jankovich said.
While Wilkins’ father attended his third game, the rest of his family, his mother, brother and sister, were in Belgium. The distance from his family, though, is not an aspect Wilkins thinks a great deal about.
“Since I was 16, I went to boarding school and was away from my family, then I came back to France and then I came here,” Wilkins said. “Sometimes I feel homesick, but the guys on the team are here for me; they are like my family.”
Wilkins will join his ISU family tonight to play Ohio at Redbird Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.