- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

Georgetown's Wesley Wilson is that rarest of college hoops commodities a true center.

Take a look at the men manning the post for most of the nation's top programs and what do you see? A parade of glorified power forwards, beefy 6-foot-8 types like Maryland's Lonny Baxter, Virginia's Travis Watson or Xavier's David West who have no chance of playing the position at the next level.

The sculpted 7-footer with back-to-the-basket skills is fast becoming the dinosaur of the college talent pool, mostly because the top prep centers no longer need to spend several years honing their games before validating their NBA tickets. All five high school players taken in last year's NBA Draft were projected as college centers. And this season's top high school star, 6-10 Orlando native Amare Stoudemire, already has tossed his name into the NBA lottery hopper.

With such a dearth of talented size left in the college game, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the few pure pivots who do remain are flourishing.

"There just aren't that many true centers around, and we're lucky enough to have one of them," said Georgetown coach Craig Esherick, who named Western Kentucky's Chris Marcus and UCLA's Dan Gadzuric along with Wilson as college centers who fit the NBA prototype. "Wesley is one of the few guys out there who has it all in terms of size and the ability to block shots, rebound and score in the post.

"We had quite a few NBA scouts around last season looking at Lee [Scruggs], Ruben [Boumtje Boumtje] and Mike [Sweetney], and Wesley caught all of their attention because of his attributes and abilities. He's definitely got a future in the NBA."

If Wilson continues to blossom on the low blocks for the 19th-ranked Hoyas (5-1), who play at South Carolina (5-2) tonight, that professional future could materialize in a matter of months.

The 238-pound junior has quickly developed into a force in his first season as a starter. Though Sweetney and senior point man Kevin Braswell were preseason All-Big East selections, Wilson has been the Hoyas' most consistent contributor.

With Braswell sacrificing playing time to the acclimation of freshman point guard Drew Hall and Sweetney nursing a bruised bone just above his heel, Wilson has emerged to lead the Hoyas in scoring (16.3 points), rebounding (9.0) and blocks (2.3).

With Sweetney resting on the bench in Georgetown's last two games, Wilson has completely taken over the frontcourt load, averaging 22 points and 11.5 rebounds.

"That's why I chose Georgetown, because this is Big Man U.," said Wilson, a top-10 center in the high school class of 1998 who picked the Hoyas over Michigan. "There's obviously a great tradition of centers playing a major role here, from Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo to Jahidi [White] and Ruben. … It does surprise me a little that I'm leading the team in scoring, but not that I'm leading in rebounding and blocks, because defense is my favorite thing to do and my top priority on this team."

You wouldn't know that from watching Wilson's last two offensive outings. Skeptics would immediately point to the smallish, overmatched competition in the Hoyas' blowouts of Grambling and Bethune-Cookman and dismiss Wilson's efforts as the work of a bruising bully among runts.

But the vast majority of Wilson's points in those games didn't come on dunks or layups, the no-skill shots White and Boumtje Boumtje used to pad their stats against patsies in past years. Most of Wilson's points came on turnaround jumpers, hook shots and fallaway flips from the baseline.

These are skill moves, NBA moves, moves that are as effective and available against Syracuse and Connecticut as they are against Grambling and Bethune-Cookman. And most impressively, Wilson executed these shots with NBA-type efficiency, connecting on 15 of his 21 field goal attempts in the two games. In fact, Wilson ranks 11th in the nation in field goal percentage (.661).

"He's playing great right now, he really is," Esherick said. "He expanded his game over the summer, staying here and working out with some of his teammates and our former players, and I think that's bearing fruit for him. He's playing with a tremendous amount of confidence, and that makes him a real handful."

Tonight Sweetney returns to the starting lineup, joining Wilson in the middle against a South Carolina team that lacks both frontcourt size and production. If Wilson and Sweetney can learn to share the paint, something that bedeviled the Mourning/Mutombo combo at Georgetown, the Hoyas could have the most potent frontline scoring tandem in school history.

"I'm not worried about us getting in each other's way at all," said Wilson. "We played together all summer, so we developed a lot of chemistry together and really got to know one another's games. I just can't wait to have Mike back so we can see what we can do together. I think it could be special."

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