Wilson fighting through freshman moments, becoming cornerstone for Marquette

Marquette guard Duane Wilson ranks second among Big East freshmen at 11.8 points per game, while his 25 made 3-pointers and 40 assists ranks third among the league's rookies.

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MILWAUKEE — Representing Milwaukee as a kid from the city who stayed home to play college basketball has always been something close to Duane Wilson’s heart. There’s passion in his voice when he speaks about what it means to him to don a Marquette uniform.

But sometimes that burning desire to do well can hurt a player, especially when it is mixed with inexperience.

Wilson’s redshirt freshman season has been an overwhelming success, but it has also been a battle of figuring out how to channel a longing of wanting to do too much at times to help a struggling offense.

"I always try to talk to Duane because I have been where he is at," Marquette senior guard Matt Carlino said. "He wants to play well so badly because he cares so much. I’ve told him sometimes that will get you. I told him to just focus on doing the little things, and that will be the best thing for him in the long run."

After breaking out with a 30-point game against Tennessee, Wilson hit a bit of an offensive rut at the end of nonconference play. He averaged just 7.3 points and shot 31.3 percent from the field during a six-game stretch that included his first three Big East games.

 "For most young players, the way they feel they can find their identity is on the offensive end," Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. "So when things aren’t going as well on offense, it affects a younger player much more than it would an older player. I think you can see that on a number of our guys.

"This is Duane’s first season of college basketball. He’s had some really bright moments, but he’s also had some moments where he hasn’t played as well. That’s typical of freshman. I think he has to fight through it."

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Wilson remembers conversations he had with all three of Marquette’s seniors, but his talk with Carlino stood out.

"The best advice I got was from Matt," Wilson said. "He told me, ‘It is always hard when you are a freshman. You want to do well so bad that sometimes you don’t do as well because you just want it so bad.’

"He was really just telling me to let the game come to me. If you let the game come to you, it is likely you are going to play better."

In Marquette’s last four games, Wilson is averaging 15.5 points and shooting 46.5 percent from the field. He’s also knocked down 52.2 percent of his 3-point attempts during his recent offensive resurgence, including going a perfect 5 for 5 from distance in the second half of a 26-point effort against Georgetown last Saturday.

Wilson is making less of the freshman mistakes that plagued him early in the season. 

"I think the game is starting to feel more comfortable to me," Wilson said. "The physicality was a thing that really shocked me at first, but I’m starting to get used to it. Letting the game come to me has helped me play better."

The Golden Eagles are in desperate need of finding a consistent second option so Carlino doesn’t have to shoulder the entire offensive load.

Wilson seems like the player most likely to fill that role, especially since Big East teams have done all they can to take sophomore center Luke Fischer out of the game on the offensive end.

He ranks second among Big East freshmen at 11.8 points per game, while his 25 made 3-pointers and 40 assists ranks third among the league’s rookies. 

"We’ve been trying to have a whole team effort," Wilson said. "It is really hard when just one person is scoring. We’re trying to get the whole offense flowing to get everybody going."

I’m glad I stayed here. I just love the city and feel good to be a kid from the city to stay here and do good things.

Duane Wilson

Wilson is a significant reason why there’s substantial optimism surrounding the future of the program despite the fact the Golden Eagles are on their way to missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight season.

While his collegiate debut was delayed a year thanks to a stress fracture in his left leg, the Dominican High School product is in the running to be the Big East’s Rookie of the Year.

"He can be really good," Marquette senior guard Derrick Wilson said. "In my four years, we haven’t had a freshman come in and be that consistent at the age he is at. I think he can be really good if he keeps on working."

Wilson never wavered in his decision to sign with Marquette or to stick with the Golden Eagles through a coaching change. While two members of his signing class have moved on, Wilson seems to be laying the foundation for what could be a special collegiate career.

"I’m glad I stayed here," Wilson said. "I just love the city and feel good to be a kid from the city to stay here and do good things."

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