Super D's Shot Is Still On-Target

Well, yes, there admittedly are a score more pounds to carry around. And to be honest the hairline has retreated a bit over these last dozen winters. But the eye is just as sharp, the touch just as sure, and the shot… "The shot is always good," Darryl Wilson grins. "That's natural, I think that's a talent God gave me."

A talent Wilson has parlayed into a profitable professional career since leaving Mississippi State and taking his game to Europe. For most of the calendar he is popping nets and lighting up scoreboards in Italy, where he anticipates returning for yet another season with a club to be decided later this summer. The other, summer months though Wilson and family are to be found at their home in Saltillo, Miss.

Or, sometimes, in Humphrey Coliseum. Such as this past week when Wilson lent a helping hand—not to mention his name and shot—to Coach Rick Stansbury's boys basketball camp. Some might call that work. Not the hot-shot still known to and beloved by fans of his era as ‘Super D.' Working camp is just another way to have fun.

"I'm on vacation. I play ball for ten months so when I come home in the summer it's a vacation. I'm relaxing, spending time with my family, with my kids." Which in this camp's case was the same thing because son Darius was enrolled this year. "He knows I can play just off my mouth," says Pop, "but coming to the camps he can understand!"

Of course if anyone can justifiably run his MSU-mouth about how he did it back in the Dog-days, it's Wilson. After all, his name is first—and sometimes second, too—in four record categories. Wilson still owns the State standards for three-point goals made and attempted both in a season and over a career…and he did his damage in just three seasons, from 1994-'95-'96. No wonder every time he returns to campus Wilson is instantly at home. Court, that is.

"Walking into The Hump it's like, I guess I made shots from every spot on this floor. Every angle you can think of I've been there. So it's really fun. And my son is getting to experience some of that."

Speaking of ‘experience,' that's something Wilson puts to good use for the benefit of the boys watching. After all, he notes, "A lot of these guys don't even remember me and Mississippi State going to the Final Four. Then they find out this guy is 34 years old and can still play!" If that sounds like boasting, well, remember another fact: Wilson admits that even at his advanced age he's still just a kid having fun on court. And pity the current collegians who dare challenge Wilson and MSU teammate/now coach Marcus Grant for a quick two-on-two session while the campers head for supper.

"I think me and my sidekick Grant could take on anybody for a nice horse game," Wilson boasts, legitimately. But for true entertainment follow this pair out to the nearest links. Grant, a fanatical golfer, was able to convert Wilson to the game "for a couple of years. Then I kind of faded away." Perhaps because his heaven-sent gifts were invested in the large orange ball, sinking that little white one is a more frustrating matter.

"I want to try to control the ball," Wilson admits. "The three-pointer is more consistent! I can drive it 300 but I don't know how straight it's gonna be. My putter is kind of like a free throw, it takes touch."

Touch? He has plenty of that with the basketball, enough to hold his professional own for a dozen years…and counting. "I still can go out and perform and play with the guys that just finished college now. I'm not as fast as I used to be but I know how to play the game. That's the advantage I have, so it's really fun knowing I can compete with guys 23 and 24."

What Wilson is waiting to hear is where he'll compete this coming season. He might be back with Legia Scafati in the Italian premier league, or wearing yet another jersey for an eighth year in Europe's bootheel.

"Right now I don't know. I have offers in Italy so I'm waiting to see what it looks like. I was in the second league last year and jumped to the first league and it was my first year experiencing that. And I played very well, so right now I'm just waiting to hear from my agent to see how everything is going."

Naturally Wilson would prefer staying in the top-level league (where he got to play against teams like Benetton which feature former State center Mario Austin). The uncertainty is that L.S. had a rough season and were almost demoted to second league, standard practice in European sports. "When I got there they were on the verge of going down. The president really liked me and wanted to bring me in to try to help save them. Before I got there they'd won maybe three games, when I left out we'd won six more." Which he says was still under-achieving for a club with good talent. Thus, the waiting game of this summer.

"But something I know, when it happens it happens quick. I get an offer, I sign, the stress is over with and my family is OK. All that waiting around and trying to get this and this…nah, uh-uh. It's security. By the end of July I should know something."

There's a comfort level with Italian ball to Wilson after seven seasons. "It's like a big fraternity, that's all it is. I mean, in Italy everybody knows everybody." Certainly it's warmer than those four years in Iceland. He had brief stops in Argentina and Germany. "I've been to Israel twice, and that's nice. Real nice. Not basketball-wise but as far as living, the culture, the people, it was very nice."

Italy is nice as well…but also has a special danger. As in, coping with the calories. "I weigh twenty pounds more than I did when I finished school. I know how to control…" he starts, then, "I know how to play with it! I know how to use that extra ‘muscle' I've added. It's pasta, bread, and wine." Well, perhaps not what would be called ‘breakfast of champions' over here, but over there? "You can't go wrong!"

Or can you? Some of his Italian teams have another odd ‘training' policy: no soft drinks before games because of the sugar. "But you can have two glasses of wine," Wilson says. "Sparkling water or wine, but no Coca-Cola. I don't understand that!

I like to see what another country's mentality is like, but I ask them "are you going to tell me I can't have Coca-Cola but I can have wine and get tipsy before a game?" Of course the suggestion that maybe giving Coach Williams a couple glasses of vino would have allowed more freedom to fire shot draws a big grin. "Well, I didn't have that problem."

No, the real problem was getting the ball from Bulldog teammates just as capable of scoring it themselves. Those 1995 and '96 State teams are still and rightly regarded as the ‘modern' era standards. Wilson signed on in 1993 but sat as a freshman for grades, and to this day former Alabama Coach Wimp Sanderson still grumps to Williams that he let the Kennedy, Ala., native go to State for that reason.

"That was just a blessing," Wilson says. "I got in here and don't think the expectations were high for me, but Coach Williams gave me the opportunity and I took full advantage of it. I came in with Vandale Thomas, Marlon Dorsey, T.J. Billups; I found myself going down the year I sat out, but I got my opportunity. I worked, everything I got I earned it. And I really thank God for the opportunity, Coach Williams and the staff and Mississippi State for the opportunity to come here and play. It was great."

Just how great Wilson, Grant, still discuss. Because both believe that they had a shot at the '95 title—the big one—if not for a tournament bracket that matched State against eventual national champs UCLA in the ‘Sweet 16' round. "If we had got by UCLA we would have done something!" Wilson says. "But it didn't work out."

"Then you turn around the next year, you're in the Final Four and you wonder what's different about this team and last year's team? It's got to click at the right time, especially in the tournament because if you lose you go home."

Alright then, let's ask the unanswerable: setting aside timing, which team was the better? Which would win in a showdown of 1995 vs. 1996? "Ahhhh…it would have to be a series!" Wilson laughs. "I can't say, I've got to make somebody mad!" Well, go ahead and do it, Super D.

"The two teams had mostly the same players. You can say the one team had a stronger bench, but there was something about the other you can't really put your finger on. And you can't give all the credit to Dontae Jones (in '96)." A long pause, then…

"Our junior year. That's my team," he declares. "It was really good, we just had to run into UCLA. Three three-point shots and it killed us." And not to be forgotten is the team he didn't play for knows something about. He'd love a mythical matchup with the 1991 team. "They had chemistry, they were loaded. Tony Watts, Greg Carter, Cam Burns…that would have been fun to see."

There's lots of fun left on a court, somewhere, for Wilson. He had no idea the playing career would last this long, but as long as he can wake up without hurting and enjoys reporting for morning practice Wilson wants to stay in the game. "Now when the season winds down and the team is doing bad it makes it long. But that one month that you're not playing, I miss it, miss the competition.

"My wife loves to come over on trips to Europe. And it's something the kids can experience in other countries and that's great." They'll stay home this winter as the wife will start assistant teaching at Baldwyn. In elementary school, which of course she is well-prepped for after all these years coping with the biggest kid in the Wilson household. "She's stuck with me so she's alright! One of a kind!"

So is Super D, still pulling on the cape…umm, the jersey and sticking those sweet shots with the flair and fun of his college days. It has to come to an end someday, of course, but Wilson isn't thinking of leaving the sport behind.

"I'd really like to coach. But I want to see my son play. I'm playing and away, when I come back he's starting junior high school and I want to see him play. I know jobs here at Mississippi State are kinda limited right now! But we'll see how it goes. I think there will be some Bulldog fans that would like it if I came back here. They'd let me slide."

Let him shoot, too.

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