Box & One with Mike Wilks

By Wesley Chism Jr
Updated: March 21, 2007

SEATTLE — After four years of college basketball success and not being drafted, dreams of playing in the NBA are still far off in the distance.

The path to the NBA has many different roads and each player has a different story but what I’ve found out is that getting to the league is the easy part, staying there is another story all together.

What do you do when you buried deep in the rotation and your minutes are limited? You stay focused, conditioned and prepared to contribute when your number is called.

Seattle Supersonics guard Mike Wilks, has put in the work. Walking by him on the street you might not notice him twice but when gets on the court, oh you better recognize or you’ll become his highlight reel on ESPN!

Don’t let the pretty face or his 5-foot-11 frame fool you, he’s a baller!Mike played in the NBDL and the D league for about a year and a half proving to coaches and staff that he could play at the next level if given the chance.

Then it happens, Coach Terry Stotts of the Atlanta Hawks made the call and as they say, the rest is history. “I remember it like it was yesterday”, he said with a grin.

“Coach told me that I would be in the starting lineup and that our opponents were the San Antonio Spurs.” He didn’t sleep; barely ate anything and mentally went over everything that he ever did on the court.

‘I can remember hearing my name for the first time over the public announcement system and stepping out on the court, it nearly brought tears to my eyes.”

Tim Duncan was looking at me like, who is this kid?Long story short, the Hawks won the game and Mike hit his first NBA shot which was a 3 pointer deep in the corner.

Mike credits his faith to his success in making it into the league. “Everyday I’ve got to go out there and change the stereotypes and opinions that people have of me.”

At first people would look at him and say that he was too little and then begin to focus on all about what they think I can and can not do without giving him the opportunity.

“If you’re not grounded some of the negativity will begin to take it’s tool on you and that’s why it’s very important to be balanced in life on and off the court.”

At this time Mike is playing behind Earl Watson and Luke Ridnour, respectfully, and knows that he must be ready when his name is called. “Those guys have earned the right to make mistakes and the coaches have the confidence to leave them out there.”

“For me practice is game time, I go all out everyday and takes full advantage of the trainers and the knowledge that the have to assist me in keeping my body conditioned to play at this level.”

On any given day, Mike can be the last one out of the gym after practice taking extra shots or working on his ball handling skills, this has earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches.

Making it to this level is a journey in itself but staying here is even harder. “I would be doing this team and organization a great injustice if I couldn’t perform up to standards when my name is called,” he stated.

It is Mike’s job to put pressure on the ball, run their sets and take the open shot. He understandsthat he’s not going to get 20 – 30 minutes a night but he doesn’t let doubt about his ability to play this game enter his mind.

It’s tough finding a balance, second guessing yourself and over analyzing everything that is done on the court with limited minutes. Some things can only be learned from game experience and then other items you can get from veteran teammates.

“My teammates understand my situation and have always been supportive and encouraging, that makes this learning process immeasurable.”

How do you measure success? Mike Wilks does it one game at a time. “I feel that as a man, if you can go out there and give it your best effort every day, you should be able to hold your head up high.”

I can tell you right now that he’s head is through the roof! It doesn’t matter if he plays 10 minutes or 10 seconds, Mike Wilks leaves it all out on the floor.