The perfect man for the job

Layne Saliba

He’s seen a lot of success during his basketball career. From becoming Harrison High School’s all-time leading scorer, to ranking in the top 15 on Florida State University’s all-time career list for three-pointers made, to coaching under a legendary future hall of fame coach, Georgia Southern men’s basketball Assistant Coach Andrew Wilson has called Statesboro his home for the past couple of years.

But, basketball didn’t begin in high school for Wilson. It began much earlier.

“I started out playing when I was three or four years old,” Wilson said. “I remember shooting underhand. That’s the only way I knew how to get the ball to the 10-foot goal playing in my driveway.”

That three year old boy turned into an athlete that shaped a very successful career at Florida State and made an impact in Tallahassee. Though many memories were made, Wilson’s mind races to one moment when asked what the most memorable moment in his basketball career was.

“My senior night in college, we beat the No. 1 ranked team in the country at home playing against Duke,” Wilson said.

Following his ACC career, Wilson was able to make the transition from the court as a player, to the sideline as a coach. At 23 years old, Wilson had the opportunity to coach under future Hall of Famer, Bobby Cremins, at the College of Charleston which is also where Coach Byington happened to be coaching. After spending six seasons learning from Coach Cremins, he took his coaching career up north to Binghamton University for a year before coming to Statesboro to join Coach Byington.

“At College of Charleston,” Wilson said, “it was good for me to be able to get my feet wet working for a guy that was experienced and highly thought of as he [Cremins] was.”

It didn’t all come easy for Wilson though. Coaching is a difficult job that no run-of-the-mill basketball player can transition to easily. It takes time to learn and become a successful coach. And that’s what Wilson says was a difficult part of making the switch from player to coach.

“As a player you think you know or have a good understanding of what coaches do, but you really don’t. The only thing you see as a player is what the coaches do with you on the floor every day at practice. And there’s so much more to it,” Wilson said. “Our job as coaches is 20 percent actually coaching the kids and 80 percent everything else. And that’s what you don’t see as a player.”

The road to Georgia Southern was a winding one for Wilson. But, Byington always seemed to be intertwined in the path in some way. From the beginning of his assistant coaching job at the College of Charleston, Byington and Wilson formed a relationship that neither one could have guessed would land them in Statesboro coaching together once again.

“Coach Byington and I were good friends at Charleston. Our business relationship has changed now because obviously I’m working for him. But, there’s definitely a familiarity there between him and myself where I know exactly what he’s looking for, since this is my eighth year of being around him,” Wilson said.

As they both came to Statesboro, they knew there would be hardships and hurdles they had to get past. But Wilson was up to the challenge. Wilson came onto the coaching staff with Byington in hopes of creating a winning environment. And that’s what he believes they have been able to do.

“Things are changing right now. It was challenging when we first got here. We had a lot of things to do. But it’s always been a great place. There’s great people that work at the University here, but we definitely had some challenges when we first got here.” Wilson said. “One thing I can definitely say is thatwe’ve changed the culture here. We’ve got great kids who are in our program that have totally bought in to what we’re trying to do.”

Playing in a conference that features a higher level of play sparks the interest of recruits. Wilson says that high school kids want to play at the highest level possible, and being in the Sun Belt has enabled Georgia Southern to meet players they wouldn’t have had the chance to meet if they were still in the Southern Conference.

“You wear a lot of different hats as an assistant coach. The number one thing is recruiting. You gotta try and get out and find good players and players that want to be here. That’s one of the biggest things that we’ve tried to find is kids that want to be at Georgia Southern, want to be an Eagle here and want to help us do something special,” Wilson said.

Wilson isn’t just a coach to these players though. He’s more than that. The guys on the team respect him and believe in what he has to offer. It’s more of a family than a team.

“It’s important that assistant coaches are tight with the players on the team.” Wilson said. “Sometimes you gotta be their mentor, sometimes you gotta be their friend, and sometimes you gotta kick ‘em in the rear-end. The most important thing is having a good relationship with them and kind of understanding what’s going on in their day-to-day lives and trying to help them that way.”