Induction Year: 2010
Soft-spoken Wilson scored in bunches for Trojans, Colonels
By Bill Bumgarner
You could accurately describe him as a small-town kid with big-time skills, as a young man given a common name to go with an uncommon touch, as a stellar athlete whose court presence energized the bayou-area communities of Mathews and Thibodaux to unprecedented heights.
In his final two years at Central Lafourche High and during a four-year stint at Nicholls State, Larry Wilson wore out basketball nets and crammed gymnasiums like no one before him; he established new scoring records and collected awards and citations by the dozens.
Although an inexcusable oversight curtailed his hopes for a career in the National Basketball Association, Wilson's deeds on the prep and collegiate levels have earned him enshrinement into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, as selected by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. He will be inducted during ceremonies June 26 in Natchitoches.
Recounting all of Wilson's achievements on the basketball court requires a lot of time and many words. Here are some of the highlights:
As a junior at Central Lafourche, he averaged 32.1 points per game, a figure that grew to 33.5 points as a senior. He was selected to the 1974 and ‘75 Class 4A (highest class) All-State teams and was cited as the All-State Most Valuable Player in 1975, a unit that included Calvin Natt of Bastrop, who starred at Northeast Louisiana and in the NBA during a career that carried him into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.
At Nicholls State, Wilson scored a school- and Gulf South Conference-record 2,569 points, averaging 25.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per outing. The 6-foot-5 sharpshooter led the conference in scoring for four seasons and was its Player of the Year twice. He was a three-time All-American who led Nicholls State to its first conference championship in school history under Coach Don Landry in 1975-’76 with a 22-4 mark. As a junior in 1977-’78, Wilson enjoyed a banner season by averaging 28.1 points and 11 rebounds per game. He set a school scoring mark with 48 points against Jacksonville State.
Those are among the credentials that earned Wilson election to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s eight-man 2010 Induction Class. On Saturday, June 26 in Natchitoches, he will be formally enshrined. For more information and to purchase tickets to the Induction Dinner and Ceremonies, visit the www.lasportshall.com website or call 318-238-4250.
Wilson played for Ron Pere’ at Central Lafourche, a coach whose brother Ralph Pere’ led South Lafourche to the state football title in 1977. When Wilson was a senior, the Trojans defeated Hammond and Nicholls High in the postseason before losing to L.B. Landry 80-70 in Wilson’s final prep appearance (except for an all-star game).
Although Wilson competed in neighborhood basketball as a youth, his first taste of organized basketball did not take place until he was 12.
“I was always taller than the other players but on every level, it became harder and harder to score inside. So Coach Pere’ began to take the time to work with me, starting from the inside out.“
Wilson recalled that many of his friends and teammates would take part in Mardi Gras celebrations in Thibodaux.
“I never went one time to a parade,“ he said. “I spent that Tuesday behind the school, shooting by myself.“
Although Wilson had the opportunity to select just about any major college in the nation as his next destination, he made an early commitment to LSU. But a few weeks later, Landry received a phone call, inviting him to the Wilson household.
“He told me he had a made a mistake,” recalled Landry of Wilson’s original choice. “You can only imagine my elation. He signed a conference letter with us that night and then the national letter later on.
“He had come to our basketball camp for five years,” said Landry. ”He was kind of quiet and shy and I think he just felt comfortable around us. His family came to every game for four years.”
“I was all about my family,” said Wilson of his switch. ”I love LSU but I just liked the environment at Nicholls. Coach Landry never pressured me. He told me to talk to everyone else and he would come around when I wanted him to.”
Landry coached the Colonels for 13 seasons but none more memorable than those four with Wilson.
“He was the easiest person to coach I ever had,” said Landry. “He was modest and so consistent. If he was averaging 27 points a game and he had seven at halftime, he would score 20 in the second half. His strength was his outside shooting which he did against every gimmick defense you could imagine and he did it with no shot clock. On the high school and college level, few could match him. He packed our gym.”
Wilson said that, in the subsequent NBA draft, he had all been assured by the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) that he would be their choice. Instead, he was tabbed by the Atlanta Hawks with the 34th selection. Later, during a routine practice with the Hawks, his fortunes would change forever.
“It was just a drill,“ said Wilson. “I was backing up and I stepped where two guys had fallen and had left a pool of sweat. My leg bent backwards.“
Although surgery was not required, stretched ligaments did major damage to his leg, a pain that still exists today. “I had never had an injury before. I tried to come back but I just could not push off with my leg.”
He would later try out with Washington but his pro career had been terminated in just two seasons.
“At Nicholls, we had a person in charge of drying the court when it was wet,” said Landry. “I still cannot believe something like that could happen in the NBA.”
Wilson has worked for the past 22 years with Bollinger Shipyards and he still lives in his hometown of Raceland with his wife Betty and three children.
“The biggest mistake I made was not finishing at Nicholls,“ he said. “Two of my children have graduated from college and the other is one hour short. They are not going to make the same mistake I did.”
Wilson still retains the fondest of memories from his amateur basketball days.
“At Central Lafourche, the people -- black and white -- were so very close. The same at Nicholls. The teachers were like family and the people treated me so well.”
Now he will be treated as a Hall of Famer.
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