This season ArkansasRazorbacks.com will be running a weekly feature series highlighting a member of the 2012-13 team. This week the series focuses on freshman Dominique Wilson.
For most college freshman, there is a natural learning curve. Adjusting to the rigors of college life, and for student-athletes, the demands of being part of a college team, are all things that take time to get used to. For Razorback freshman Dominique Wilson, she has had to deal with all of that while stepping into the starting lineup for the women's basketball team. Yet as the season progresses, it is becoming clear that Wilson is a future star for the Razorbacks.
A very highly regarded recruit, Wilson concluded her college decision process last December, deciding to come to Arkansas because of how comfortable she felt with the team and coaching staff. Before coming to Fayetteville, she was a part of one of the most successful high school teams in the nation. Playing for the McEachern High Indians in Powder Springs, Georgia, Wilson averaged 13 points per game and went to three straight state championships. Wilson was ranked as a top 100 national recruit, and was a crucial piece to replacing the starting guards who graduated last season - C'eira Ricketts and Lyndsay Harris.
"The transition was hard," Wilson explained. "Our high school team was ranked number two in the nation, but we never really ran set plays, and our defense was much different than it is in college. It took me a long time to get used to it, but once I got used to it, I started to get comfortable."
Initially, Wilson backed up redshirt senior Kelsey Hatcher at the shooting guard spot. She started slowly, but her talent and shooting ability impressed the coaches. Wilson earned the first start of her career against Pepperdine on December 2nd, coming after she scored a combined 20 points in the previous two games. She has started 11 games this season, settling into consistent minutes in conference play.
"It really wouldn't have mattered to me if I came off the bench," Wilson explained. "But getting the opportunity to start as a freshman is pretty cool. I don't let it get to my head at all; my focus is all about helping the team."
Wilson is primarily a scorer, but she also possesses a strong all-around game. When point guard Calli Berna is pressured by defenders, Wilson has helped out the team as a secondary ball handler. She also has grown as a rebounder and a defender, stepping up on the glass and forcing steals in addition to her role as a scorer. For Wilson, these elements are something that comes naturally to her as a player, allowing her to remain calm and just go out and play.
"I like to play quick and try and score as soon as possible," Wilson said. "I just take a breather, calm myself, and go out and play. The coaches have wanted more rebounds out of me, so I've tried to go out and do that also."
The most impressive trait that Wilson has displayed as a freshman has been her ability to step up in big moments and big games. She has shown a willingness and a desire to have the ball in her hands at big moments. Down three points at Mississippi State, she collected a defensive rebound in the final seconds, calmly dribbled down the floor to attempt a tying shot at the buzzer, nearly sending the game into overtime. In the past two games, the Razorbacks did go into overtime, and Wilson has a huge part of the team's success. Against No. 8 Kentucky, Wilson set a new career high, as her 17 points were the most by any Razorback freshman since November of 2009. The following Sunday in Alabama, the Razorbacks and Crimson Tide were locked in an epic duel, when Wilson hit the biggest shot of the season and her career. In the second overtime period, Arkansas fell behind by seven points, but rallied back, with Wilson adding some key free throws. Once again down three points in the final seconds, Wilson calmly knocked down a game-tying three pointer from the wing, sending the game into a school record third overtime. The Razorbacks prevailed on the back of another career high scoring output from Wilson who had 19 points, 11 of which came after regulation.
"I just wanted to beat them so bad," Wilson said. "I knew we had a chance to win so I just tried to give it my all. I've gotten used to that spot with the level I've been playing against since I was younger. I wanted to go out there and try and execute it, go out and get the win."
Wilson has had an excellent freshman season so far for the Razorbacks, and has truly emerged as the season has gone on. With three years of eligibility remaining, Wilson's talents have the Arkansas coaching staff very excited over the potential for the future.
"I don't think there's any question that Dominique Wilson is going to be a great player for us someday," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. "From day one we thought we had a pretty good recruit and we had pretty high expectations for her. When she's on, she's spectacular. We are just starting to get glimpses of how good she can be for us. Down the line we're going to get 15 and 10 out of her every night. If we do, she's going to be a fine player for us."