Three-pointers, a third postseason appearance and a third Bulldog scoring title all await Darryl Wilson
Excitement seems to surround him at all times. Every time he squares to shoot the basketball, the crowd holds its breath in collective anticipation. An odd hush falls briefly over Humphrey Coliseum as the ball leaves his hand and arcs its way toward the net, only to be replaced by the rush of cheers when public address announcer Dr. Hank Flick proclaims “Super D – for three,” after the made basket.
Senior guard Darryl Wilson has always been known as a scoring threat, especially from beyond the three-point arc. Last season, the Kennedy, Ala., native made more three-pointers per game than any other player in the Southeastern Conference, averaging 3.1 per contest. He was fourth in the league in three-point field goal percentage, connecting on 41.4 percent of his 227 attempts and was second in the SEC in three-pointers made with 94.
Even in high school, it seemed that Wilson could almost score at will. He won the Alabama scoring title both his junior and senior campaigns at Millport’s South Lamar High School, averaging 36.1 and 37.8 points per game, respectively.
Wilson has also led the Bulldogs in scoring each of his first two years at Mississippi State. During his first season of play, he averaged 16.2 points per game to finish in eighth place among the SEC’s top scorers. Last season he paced the Bulldogs with 17.8 points per contest, finishing fifth among the conference’s leading point producers.
However, with the talent on the 1995-96 edition of the Mississippi State basketball team, Wilson could finally be outscored by someone on his own team. While that might bother other players, Wilson barely acknowledges the thought.
“I don’t really worry about being the leading scorer on the team,” Wilson said. “If you do that, then you are worrying only about your individual goals. I want to do whatever it takes to help this team make it as far as we can in the tournament.”
This season, Wilson has taken on new roles to help the team. In addition to being the SEC’s No. 2 returning scorer behind LSU’s Ronnie Henderson, Wilson serves as a Bulldog co-captain, along with senior Jay Walton. It is a role he has developed over the course of his collegiate campaign.
“My sophomore year, I came in as a first-year player and I didn’t really have a big role on the team,” Wilson said. “I got an opportunity to play and when I did, I was able to step in and hit some big shots. The coaches saw that and, as a result, my playing time increased. My role was really just to score points, defend and rebound. During my junior year, my role was a lot of the same thing, but I became more of a leader on the team.”
It was not until this season, however, that he began to fully assume the role of ream leader, a responsibility he learned from his junior-year roommate, former Bulldog Marcus Grant.
“I watched Marcus for two years,” Wilson said. “He is a great guy and a good person. He is an intelligent young man and he is always talking about the game. I think it was a great opportunity for me to live with him. I paid attention to the things he did, both in practice and in the games, keeping everybody together. That is really my role during my senior year. If things aren’t going well, I have to try to help bring everybody together so that we can focus on the goals we are trying to accomplish.”
One of those goals is a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, where the Bulldogs reached the Sweet 16 last season after registering their highest win total since the 1962-63 campaign with a 22-8 overall mark. Another goal is to win the SEC Championship after claiming a share of the SEC Western Division crown a year ago with a 12-4 league record.
“Last year was the first time Mississippi State ever went to the Sweet 16,” Wilson said. “Now everyone is expecting us to do the same thing again.”
However, much has changed from last year’s team. Gone are starters Grant, T.J. Honore and Brian Price. Replacing them in the starting rotation have been sophomore point guard Marcus Bullard, senior power forward Russell Walters and junior college all-American Dontae Jones at small forward. To once again reach the NCAA Tournament, the 1995-96 Bulldogs will have to reassemble around the nucleus of Wilson and all-SEC center Erick Dampier.
“Our biggest change on the court has been at the three spot (small forward) with Dontaé Jones,” Wilson said. “Last year, we had Marcus Grant, who was a great outside shooter. This year, we have Dontaé, who is very athletic. We also had a big change with T.J. Honore leaving. He got us into the offense and kept everybody under control. This year we have Marcus Bullard, who is a point guard who likes to run the fast break.”
There have been changes off the court as well. The NCAA recently passed a ruling stating that schools were no longer allowed to have dorms reserved exclusively for athletes. As a result, the Bulldogs can no longer simply go next door to see their teammates. They often have to go across town.
“Last season, we were all in the dorm,” Wilson said. This season everybody is spread out all over the place and we can’t spend as much time together as we did last season. It is kind of hard to get around to see everybody. Last year, when we were all in the dorm, you could go next door and see what the other guys were doing.”
Of course, new housing situations often mean new roommates, and Wilson was no exception. This season, Wilson lives with football standout Eric Moulds. The two met during their freshman year while playing pool and developed a friendship that has lasted throughout their collegiate careers.
Moulds was also a standout basketball performer who averaged more than 30 points per game as a senior at George County High School in Lucedale, Miss. Though the two played with each other on an intramural team their freshman year, Wilson says they don’t really compete with each other on the hardwood.
“We haven’t really played against each other since our freshman year,” Wilson said. “We talk every now and then about basketball when it is on the television, but we never talk about playing each other.
“I think he knows I can get him,” Wilson added with a smile.
The Bulldogs have also had to change as a team, as they have adapted to the skills and talents of a highly touted recruiting class, and as the newcomers have adapted to the veterans.
“Dontaé and Bart Hyche, along with Tyrone Washington and Early Smith, are going to develop and become good ballplayers by playing behind us and watching what we do,” Wilson said.
Through the early days of the season, Jones has stepped into the starting spot vacated by Grant, while Hyche, a freshman guard, has provided quality minutes for both Wilson and Bullard.
Wilson knows that the team has to be prepared for a long, tough season, and that preparation begins in practice.
“The way you practice is the way you play,” Wilson said. “If you come out in practice and execute the offense, defend and rebound, it is going to carry over into the game. Sometimes we have mental breakdowns and we don’t come out and practice the way we are supposed to. Jay and I, as team captains, try to tell the young guys that the team has to come in every day and focus on what we have to do. If we don’t, we can lose at any point during the season.”
Although this year’s Bulldog contingent is perhaps the most talented in recent memory, the changes will make the season interesting to say the least. Several players can play different positions, including Wilson, who could be called on to play some point guard during the season.
“I think this team is more talented than last year’s team,” Wilson said. “You have Marcus Bullard, who is a versatile player who can play point guard, shooting guard or small forward. Then you have Dontaé Jones on the wing, who can just about do it all. Russell Walters is a power forward who can make the 16-foor jump shot and can post up, too. And you have Erick Dampier, who is just a dominant force in the middle. Plus, we have Whit Hughes, who comes in off the bench and who is just amazing. He is a great defender, a great passer and a great rebounder. You just can’t say enough about Whit.”
And of course, there is Wilson. Whether it is knocking down a three-pointer, driving to the basket for a lay-up or a foul, hitting clutch free throws at the end of the game or diving over tables, chairs or other players to get a loose ball, Wilson does indeed try to do whatever it takes to help his team win.
“’I’m a very competitive player,” Wilson said. “I hate to lose and I want to win in everything I do. If it takes diving over tables or on the floor…”
Wilson’s progression through the years has been unusual to say the least. Not heavily recruited out of high school, he faced the decision of sitting out a year at State to establish NCAA eligibility requirements or going to a junior college. Fortunately for Mississippi State fans everywhere, Wilson hit the books as a Mississippi State freshman in 1992-93 before hitting all those three-point shots as a Mississippi State sophomore in 1993-94.
Even after he began his playing career at MSU, Wilson suffered through back and leg ailments that might have sidelined other players.
He ended his junior campaign as just the second-ever Bulldog to score more than 1,000 points in only two seasons, joining former MSU great and NBA standout Bailey Howell after finishing with 1,006 points through his sophomore and junior seasons.
Now a senior, Wilson was a preseason John R. Wooden All-America candidate after having been selected to the All-SEC squad following his sophomore and junior campaigns.
Through it all, steady as a metronome, Wilson keeps scoring baskets.
Through the first part of the 1995-96 season, he has been steadily climbing up the school’s career scoring list in addition to replacing Tony Watts as MSU’s most prolific three-point shooter.
With as much talent and versatility as the 1995-96 Bulldogs possess, Wilson may indeed not lead the team in scoring, but he will definitely lead the team in other ways. Yes, it appears as if excitement does seem to follow him.
Though Dampier, Jones, Bullard or anyone else may outscore Wilson on any given night, Dr. Flick’s “Super D – for three,” will still have special meaning. It may not necessarily be in reference to Wilson’s third MSU scoring title in as many years, but instead could represent his third straight trip to postseason play and a third consecutive all-SEC award, feats previously unmatched collectively by any other Bulldog.
This story, which I wrote as a senior in college, appeared in a Mississippi State basketball program during the 1995-96 season. I’ve reposted it here as it originally ran… warts and all.