Monday night was one of the rare times Jalen Wilson didn’t have it going offensively (just seven points), but the Kansas Jayhawks star still found ways to contribute to his team’s 63-58 win at TCU. He pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds and contributed three assists in addition to helping hold the Horned Frogs to a new season-low in points.
The Big 12’s leading scorer (19.9 points per game) and rebounder (8.5 rebounds per game) knows he needs to do more than put the ball in the basket if Kansas is going to repeat as national champions.
“I’ve said all along, we’ve got five guys that can all go out there and play and take over the game,” Wilson said after the game. “We’re all going to have some type of effort to win. … That’s part of a championship team.”
Now in his fourth season as a Jayhawk, Wilson was the only returning player to average more than 5.4 points in 2021-22. Thanks in no small part to his leadership and stellar play, Kansas finds itself in familiar territory despite significant roster turnover: atop the Big 12 and one of the favorites to reach the Final Four.
— Kansas Men’s Basketball (@KUHoops) February 18, 2023
The victory over TCU was the Jayhawks’ fifth in a row and moved them to 11-4 in conference play, one game ahead of Texas in the win column. They were the No. 4 overall seed in the rankings released by the NCAA Tournament selection committee Saturday.
Wilson’s journey to becoming a national champion and likely first-team All-American was not without its challenges. He played two minutes as a freshman in 2019-20 because of a broken ankle. His first March Madness experience in 2021 was inside the bubble.
Then, right before last season’s opener, Wilson was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. He ended up being suspended for an exhibition game and the first three games of the regular season, and later granted a diversion in the DUI case for which he completed a rehabilitation program.
He leaned on family and friends from his hometown of Denton, Texas, following his arrest and spent two hours talking to his pastor one night. The experience became a valuable lesson for Wilson.
“I didn’t stop fighting, I didn’t stop believing, I kept going,” he told KUsports.com last March. “To anybody going through adversity of any kind, I’d say just embrace it. Don’t run from mistakes or hard times because I think at the end of it is definitely something special.”
Wilson has consistently used social media to express his faith in God, calling Him “the reason for it all” and saying in an Instagram post reflecting on 2021 that “His plan is beautiful.” Tattooed on the inside of Wilson’s biceps are the words “FEAR” and “GOD.”
View this post on Instagram
View this post on Instagram
Originally committed to Michigan, Wilson wound up at Kansas after coach John Beilein left for the NBA and he was released from his commitment. Wilson felt like God was leading him to Lawrence.
“This is the place that I always wanted to go to in my heart,” Wilson said. “I knew that I always wanted to be here. When I had the second opportunity to come here, I just felt like it was God giving me the right opportunity to come here and live out my dream as a kid, and now it’s all paying off.”
Kansas returns to the court Saturday when the Jayhawks host West Virginia at 4 p.m. ET.
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– Nate Oats embraces spiritual leadership for Alabama: ‘God uses imperfect people’
– Tony Bennett has Virginia back in top 10 with foundation of faith, a servant mindset