At the beginning of the semester, I sat down with senior Rich Williams to talk about his decision to apply for a medical redshirt.
Right before I left, I asked him about Tyler Wilson, who would go on to be the only senior finishing his career this season. Williams took a moment and responded with genuine words about his good friend.
“Tyler’s one of the greatest kids I’ve ever met in my life,” Williams said. “He’s the most selfless guy.”
Rich Williams was on the court with Wilson’s family for Senior Night – in the ultimate tribute to the career of his roommate. Wilson built his career off moments like this: moments where his hard work and dedication to his team have earned him the respect of both his coaches and his peers.
Former team manager Tim Bibaud is one of the few students at Manhattan College, not currently associated on the basketball team, that has a full understanding of Wilson’s unparalleled work ethic. Lucky enough to be a part of the team’s second consecutive MAAC Championship in the spring of 2015, Bibaud admired the commitment Wilson showed on a day-to-day basis.
“Watching [Tyler] Wilson in my three years at Manhattan as a fan and a former manager has been an absolute pleasure,” Bibaud said. “His preparation and IQ on the court were unmatched; he epitomized what it meant to do the little things.”
Above all else, Wilson found his biggest fan in head coach Steve Masiello. Even during Wilson’s freshman year, Masiello saw great potential in Wilson; and made him a key component of the championship runs of 2014 and 2015. Before the senior night game, Masiello took the microphone at half court and gave high praise to someone he considered a true Jasper.
“I’ve been proud of a lot of guys, but there is no one I’ve been prouder of than Tyler Wilson,” Masiello said to the Draddy crowd.
Just before tip-off, Masiello inserted him in the starting five, and just before the clock expired, Wilson was taken off the floor as the crowd chanted his name.
For Tyler Wilson, a legacy of toughness and grit was not built overnight. The process began long before he was a champion, and long before he was a Jasper, and is rooted in a life that was directed by just a kid’s desire to play the game of basketball.
Ironically enough, Tyler Wilson’s story starts right where it ended: the Bronx. As seven-year-old boy, Wilson found himself traveling to the northern borough with a passion to hoop.
He started participating in the weekend program that the New York Gauchos ran, and after a few Saturdays and Sundays playing ball near the Grand Concourse, the team noticed something special in Wilson.
“They saw me, thought I played hard and was tough, so they decided to put me on the team,” Wilson remembered.
That was only the start of Wilson’s career. The Gauchos are one of the best travel AAU organizations in New York City, and are well represented around the country. For Wilson, even at the age of seven, this meant a lot of traveling and competing a high level. His first stop? Tennessee.
“I remember my first game, I got in. I didn’t play the whole game.” Wilson recalled. “When I check in, they passed me the ball, and I had never been in a game before, so I threw the ball to the other team.”
At a young age, learning is mostly done through experience, and Wilson accrued more life experience than most as he traveled the country playing basketball. Most important was the constant presence of his parents, who have established a reputation for being at every game Wilson’s team has played since he was a kid.
“We could be playing in another planet and they would find a way to get there,” Wilson said. “They’ve seen me play since I was younger so they know how I play. And they know how I feel about things. They could read me without saying a word.”
A desire to play and a concrete support system helped Wilson learn from his mistakes as a kid, and he grew on-and-off the court and put himself on a path to success.
Every child dreams. For Tyler Wilson, years of hard work in Gaucho Gym had his heart and mind set on attending Rice High School. A native to Harlem, Wilson had many friends and teammates attend Rice, and none more well-acquainted with Jasper Nation than former small-forward Emmy Andujar ‘15.
Like many goals in his young life, Wilson made it happen and was lucky enough to attend the school he wanted while playing the sport he loved. Unfortunately for Wilson, along with many other students, Rice shut down at the end of 2011 school year, crushing the dream of a seven-year-old from the neighborhood.
“When I found out Rice shut down I was heartbroken,” Wilson said. “That was always a place I had dream of being at since I was a young kid.”
Lost and unsure of what to do next, Wilson found himself back in the borough where it all started. He decided to attend Cardinal Hayes in the South Bronx for the remainder of his high school career, a move which helped him stay on the path he wanted to be on.
“Coming from a new school, they embraced me with open arms,” Wilson said. “It just felt like home…it was a fun place to be”
The environment at Hayes is what made it special for Wilson more so than anything else. Several of his classmates and teammates from Rice were disappointed when their school shut down just as Wilson was, but Cardinal Hayes welcomed them and turned around a situation that affected many young men in a negative way.
After two more years of competitive New York City basketball, Wilson set his sights on Manhattan College for play at the collegiate level. While he had heard of Rhamel Brown, Michael Alvarado, RaShawn Stores, and his former Rice teammate Emmy Andujar, Wilson was drawn to Manhattan for the same reason he was drawn to Hayes.
“I’m big on family and feeling like home,” Wilson said. “It just felt like the place for me, so I knew it was the place to come to.”
Ready to take the next step, Wilson arrived on the campus of Manhattan College in the fall of 2013 with the same fire he had walking into Gaucho Gym. His hard work caught the immediate attention of the team, and he began to contribute as soon as he arrived.
As soon as Wilson arrived at Manhattan he positively impacted the team. He played in all 33 contests his freshman year while averaging nearly two points and two assists as a freshman.
After contributing the to Manhattan’s first MAAC championship, Wilson followed up his strong freshman season with an even stronger sophomore year as the Jaspers repeated their championship feast. He was top ten in the conference for steals and assists while shooting 40 percent from the floor in 20.6 minutes per game.
As a junior, Wilson continued to improve, and although the team did not three-peat, Wilson was one of the leaders for the Jaspers. His 5.2 assists per game, 1.5 steals, and 2.0 assist/turnover ratio were good enough to land him second, fifth, and third respectively in the conference.
“Every year is a new challenge,” Wilson said. “I’ve tried to grow as a leader each season.”
All his life Tyler Wilson has welcomed challenge. So even with the emergence of junior transfer Zavier Turner in his senior season, Wilson did not hesitate to fill the role that was he was called upon to fill.
“As far as my role or how much time I play, it’s irrelevant,” Wilson said. “You help the younger guys to learn what you learn and it carries over, that’s how you build the program.”
After the Wilson’s impact on the team in his first two season, it seemed like he was poised to lead all along. However, the now 22-year-old man can look back on his college career and can credit one man for helping his development: Steve Masiello.
From the moment men’s basketball players arrive on campus, they are welcomed into the tight brotherhood of Manhattan basketball. Most of them live and train on campus year-round, take class together, and can be usually be seen with one or two other teammates at any given time.
This is all rooted in the culture Masiello has instilled within the program. Seniors like Wilson are raised through the program to carry themselves as leaders, and as they build relationships with the younger players, the cycle repeats itself.
“Coach Mas taught me a lot, I could go on for days,” Wilson said. “He taught me that if your teammates are like your family, how big of a difference it can make on the basketball court, he just showed me how to be a leader.”
Masiello’s aggressive personality has become an iconic trait of his. He rarely holds back and is always the first to assign accountability on himself and upon his players. Wilson took the lessons that Masiello taught him on the basketball court and translated them into his life off the court.
“Mas always says, ‘sports reveal character,’” Wilson said. “He helped me become a man. He helped me develop thick skin, knowing things aren’t always going to go your way, you have to be able to adjust.”
15 years of competitive basketball taught Tyler Wilson that nothing is earned. From his days as scared AAU kid to leaving Manhattan College a two-time MAAC Champion, Wilson learned that the only way to see results is to put in the work: a philosophy that applies to life both on and off the court.
On Thursday night, March 2, 2017, the Jaspers were eliminated from the MAAC tournament by the Rider Broncs in what was their most heartbreaking loss of the season. The final was 69-68, and in a game where the Jaspers were trailing for most of the time, they looked to their senior to lead them.
Wilson played his style of basketball, drew a charge and nabbed a steal before any points were scored, and added 10 points of his own to help the team compete until the end. After the game, an emotional Masiello poured his heart out for his lone senior.
“I’ve already offered him a spot on my staff, you know, I just want him around,” Masiello said. “I love him, I wish I had him for 20 more years.”
Even as he faces the end of his career, Wilson was crushed by the devastating loss more than anything else. A player who built his legacy on winning, Wilson was disappointed that his career ended on a loss but was confident in Manhattan’s ability to return to championship form.
“I love all the guys on the team. I think we got some great young talent. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next year with Rich [Williams] coming back,” Wilson said post-game.
In his final press conference, Wilson was asked how he wanted to be remembered as a Jasper. Like he had over the course of his career at Manhattan, Wilson made focus on his work ethic rather than personal results.
“As far as being remember, I just hope everyone though I played as hard as I could every night, and I gave it everything I got.”
Selflessness, pride, and hunger: three traits that Tyler Wilson has learned while at Manhattan and has poured out on the floor of Draddy Gym. Finishing fifth in school history in assists is remarkable as is being a part of two championship teams but what makes Wilson proud to be a Jasper is knowing he passed on what he learned to the next generation of Manhattan basketball.