- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Georgetown's Wesley Wilson may never live up to the great Hoyas centers, but he's raising his game at the right time.

Over Georgetown's past four games, the 6-foot-11 Wilson has averaged 11.5 points and 8.7 rebounds. Wilson's increased production comes at a vital point of the season as Georgetown (8-1) takes on top-ranked Duke (9-0) tonight on national television at Cameron Indoor Stadium and then opens Big East play Sunday against surprising West Virginia at MCI Center.

Regardless of how well Wilson plays, the senior center seemingly always will have to fight the label of someone who never played up to his potential. After all, Hoyas fans were spoiled for years watching Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning patrol the paint.

To his credit, the classy Wilson can live with the comparisons to Georgetown's greats.

"We all like critics because they help us improve on our game, and criticism is not a bad thing," Wilson said. "Actually, it helps me push on and play harder and helps our team play harder. We do need people to get on our backs so we can compete against a good team like Duke. On the positive end, it's a great tradition for me to be a part of. If I'm not playing up to par, it's right for them to get on me."

Wilson arrived on the Hilltop as one of the top 10 high school centers in the nation out of Maine Central Institute, where he averaged 12.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks as a senior. The hype from his prep days fuels most of the criticism toward Wilson these days.

Wilson's domination in high school naturally should have carried over to college ball, or so say the critics. Casey Sanders, Duke's 6-foot-11 senior center, is practically in the same boat. Duke faithful and media expected Sanders to be the next Christian Laettner or Carlos Boozer when he arrived in Durham four years ago, but the steady Sanders hasn't lived up to his early billing and has been pegged as a classic underachiever.

"Some people take big people for granted because you don't see that a lot in high school ball getting to play people your size," Sanders said. "You have to go out and play your game. That is your potential. You try to max out what you can do. Personally, I'm looking forward to this game as a measuring stick."

After redshirting his freshman season, Wilson's numbers have shown sharp increases each season. Wilson went from averaging 5.5 points and 3.3 rebounds as a freshman backup to Ruben Boumtje Boumtje to 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds last season.

After nine games this season, Wilson is averaging 8.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. Not bad for a guy who plays just 19.8 minutes a game.

"The taller you are, the more is expected out of you," said Duke's Shavlik Randolph, a 6-10 freshman phenom who possesses rare perimeter skills for a player of his size. "College is a much different game. Strength matters so much down low."

Strength and athleticism are the least of Wilson's worries. Recognizing double-teams and taking comfortable shots are a bigger concern. Wilson is tied for second on the team with 17 turnovers. Some are Wilson's fault, and some are not. Wilson could do a better job of establishing his position in the lane, and Georgetown's guards could give their low-post tower easier entry passes to handle.

The Blue Devils boast five players 6-9 or taller. These are the games in which Ewing, Mutombo, Mourning and Co. always rose to the occasion big-time players in big-time games.

Wilson's rise the last four games is not by coincidence. Hoyas coach Craig Esherick appears to have finished tinkering with his rotation against inferior opponents. Esherick and the Hoyas are now getting down to business, and that starts inside with Wilson.

"Some of that is because the coach is playing him more," Esherick said. "Earlier in the year, I wanted to get Courtland [Freeman] and Victor [Samnick] as much possible time as I could because of how much time they missed last year because of injuries. I know what Wesley can do, and I know what Mike [Sweetney] can do. Wesley is going to play more now. Part of [Wilsons increased production] is that I'm leaving him in the game longer because we're going into the Big East and he's got to play longer."

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