Wilson overcomes multiple surgeries to help UNCA try for third straight title
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) —
The 2015 recruiting class has paid huge dividends for the UNC Asheville women's basketball team. The two most highly publicized members of the class, Bree Fitzgerald and Khaila Webb, have become some of the most productive players in recent program history. Aside from personal accolades, which includes both being named All-Conference this season, the team has enjoyed two consecutive Big South Conference Tournament titles in their careers with a chance for a third this weekend at Liberty University. There was a third member of that class, however, who is just coming into her own.
Tiffany Wilson began an injury-riddled journey back in high school when she tore her ACL and meniscus in the right knee as a sophomore. That would be the beginning of a journey that led to three more knee surgeries over the next six years. "It's definitely a heart-check and it reminds you where your priorities lay and where your love for the game lies," Wilson reminisced before practice on Tuesday. "It's very humbling but its a great experience to have because it definitely builds perseverance and character."
It got so bad that Wilson was faced with a decision this past November. After a setback during her recovery from the latest meniscus tear in her left knee, she had to decide whether or to continue playing the game she loves. "She chose to put her team first and she understands [she's] not promised ten years from now," said head coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick. "You're promised what you have right in front of you."
Wilson made her season debut on December 21st, logging 11 minutes off the bench. She's now played in 20 games, earning 12 starts. She was slowly worked into more minutes once she became comfortable with the workload off of the latest surgery that cost her the entire 2016-17 season. "A lot of it's a lot more strategy instead of just pure strength and will, but that of course has evolved as well," she explained. Wilson now averages 17 minutes a game, garnering just under five rebounds per contest. "I think Tiffany's role is most needed and has expanded on the defensive end," said Kirkpatrick. "Bree Fitzgerald is our starting center, and we have started Bree and Tiffany together. Bree leads the league in scoring right now, but on defense it's great to have Tiffany come alongside her."
The Bulldogs will begin the quest for a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament this Friday against Campbell in the quarterfinals round of the Big South Tournament. "Our kids are smart enough and mature enough to know you can't get another banner unless you take it one game at a time," Kirkpatrick emphasized.
If there's one person that will never look past a single game a time, it's Wilson. She knows what it's like for a game to be her last for a season four times over. "I think definitely part of that was my faith, my faith in God and just being able to it's not the end of the world," Wilson said of her ability to bounce back time after time. "Of course I love basketball, but my value is not in the fact that I can put the ball in the basket. It's in who I love and that's God and my teammates."