Wilson helped Jaguars raise profile on court

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Bryan Wilson had to do more than simply win games -- he also wanted to try and change a culture.

Bryan Wilson: Thomas Jefferson coach led his team to the GISA Class A state semifinals, its deepest playoff run since 1989.
Bryan Wilson: Thomas Jefferson coach led his team to the GISA Class A state semifinals, its deepest playoff run since 1989.

The Thomas Jefferson boys coach knows the Jaguars are more known for their football and baseball prowess. But this year, he helped increase basketball's exposure by leading the team to its best state tournament run in more than two decades.

Wilson was named The Augusta Chronicle 's independent boys coach of the year.

"I was building for the end," Wilson said about trying for region and state tournament success. "I wasn't sure we could, but I was hoping."

The first game of the season, Thomas Jefferson lost a starter to a broken ankle. That, coupled with other injuries, forced Wilson to shuffle roles. He even had to put a post player in a guard spot.

Eleven players saw action on most nights, Wilson said, and all 11 started a some point in the season.

The losses mounted as the Jaguars entered the region tournament as the lowest seed. However, Thomas Jefferson captured the title after beating Nathanael Greene in double overtime in the final.

Chase Walden and Michael Bridges turned it on late in the season as the Jaguars posted their best state tournament run since 1989. Walden increased his scoring output to almost 30 points per game during the state playoffs while Bridges averaged a double-double in his final six games.

The Jaguars started their state tournament run by routing Providence Christian and then held on to beat Westwood in four overtimes. The win put Thomas Jefferson in the GISA Class A semifinals for only the second time in program history. The season ended against eventual state champion Memorial Day, but Wilson said the good run has helped the school's basketball culture start to change.

Wilson said he learned a lot about being a coach from Augusta Christian's Keith Walton. He played for Walton and considers him to be a mentor and friend.

Learning from Walton, Wilson said coaching is about communication and showing interest in players -- not just on the court. Wilson makes sure to show players he's sincere by asking about their family and schoolwork while also sitting with kids at a lunch table or going to see a school play. As Wilson put it, it's more than simply being there from 3 to 5 p.m. every day for practice.

Regarding finding success on the court, Wilson said it comes down to making the kids believe and then having them do it.

"This award is for our kids," Wilson said. "This award, I believe, is a team honor. It's what they did as a team."


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