John Wilson: Former NCAA MVP still dropping bombs in the MPBL
Anton Roxas on Jul 18, 2019 10:28 AM
“As of now, kung tatanungin ako kung gusto ko bumalik sa PBA kahit may mag offer ngayon, I want to stay here in the MPBL.” - John Wilson, San Juan Knights
About a decade ago, the country’s best shooting guard in the collegiate level played for Jose Rizal University. He was the MVP of the NCAA during the league’s 85th season. The 48 points he dropped for the Heavy Bombers in a 95-85 win against the College of St. Benilde on August 26, 2009 still stands as a school record in the seniors division. It’s also the third-best single game scoring total in league history behind the 55 points of La Salle legend, Lim Eng Beng established 45 years ago and the 50 point performance put up by San Beda’s Robert Bolick last year. This player hurt opposing teams with his relentless drives to the basket and outside sniping. His hard-nosed defense was equally unforgiving. They called him, “Bad Boy” and his name was John Wilson.
Wilson was born in Binangonan, Rizal and grew up with the family of former PBL player Raul Anore, who he recognized as his uncle and guardian. Anore believed that Wilson also had a future in basketball. Initially, Anore brought his protégé to San Sebastian where he was rejected twice. After getting denied on their second attempt to enter the Recto based institution, Anore, on the same day, decided to take Wilson to Shaw Boulevard to try-out for his alma matter, JRC (Jose Rizal College) which had then changed its name to JRU. Wilson remembers that day like it was yesterday.
“With God’s grace. Dalawang three-points, isang lay-up, pinatabi na ako ni Coach Cris Calilan,” recalled Wilson. “Sabi niya, ‘John Wilson, tabi ka dyan. Sama ka sa Team A.’”
In just three possessions, Wilson was able to get the JRU coach to blow his whistle and give him an opportunity that changed his life forever.
Although Calilan would be replaced by Ariel Vanguardia just one week before the opening of Season 82, Wilson’s rookie year in the NCAA, the path to greatness was already laid out. The Heavy Bombers soon became a force to reckon with as Wilson completed a formidable first five that included James Sena, Marvin Hayes, Marc Cagoco and Cameroonian John Nchotu Njei. With the likes of Jeckster Apinan and JR Bulangis coming off the bench, JRU reached the Finals in Season 84 but lost to San Beda in a deciding Game 3. Since then, the Heavy Bombers have never come that close again to winning an NCAA Championship, not even during Wilson’s MVP season the following year.
“Kung nasa college ka, kailangan kundisyon ka. Hindi ka kundisyon kasi bata ka, kundisyon ka eh. Iba yung batang kundisyon ka, sa next level. Ibig sabihin nun, pag bata ka, mabilis yung recovery ng katawan mo,” explained Wilson. “Pero yung sa akin nung 2009, nandun yung age ko na bata ako, mabilis ako, nandun lahat. Dumedepensa ako. Pero yung kundisyon na next level. Yun yung dahilan kung bakit ko nakuha yung MVP mode.”
During that year, Vanguardia shared that Wilson was always “the first one to arrive and the last one to leave practice.” In fact, Wilson made a habit of shooting and converting a total of 500 three-pointers a day.
But, even though Wilson was playing at such a high level, JRU was eliminated in the Final Four of Season 85 by eventual champion San Sebastian, who were bannered by Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang and Ronald Pascual. Wilson still had one more year of eligibility and one last chance to capture that elusive NCAA title.
However, he was also at a certain point of his life where a very important decision had to be made.
“At that time, yung wife ko, pregnant nun. Pag PBA, nandyan ang money. Buntis yung wife ko, kumbaga, timing lang din,” revealed Wilson. “Habang mabango yung pangalan ko nagpa-draft na ako nung 2010.”
With the 7th pick in the 2010 PBA Draft, Barangay Ginebra selected Wilson, who made an immediate impact, being named to the All-Defensive team as a rookie.
He would go on to play in the league for eight straight seasons and earn a decent living to support his wife Donna and their two children, LeLouch Janna and John Marion Jr, who are now nine and five years old, respectively.
“Sobrang laking tulong nung PBA sa akin,” said Wilson. “Hindi naman tumigil yung pangarap ko na makapaglaro. Gusto ko may patunayan that time. Hindi porket nandun na ako, nakuha ko na yung dream come true na makapag-PBA. Hindi pa rin ako tumigil na ma-pursue yung gusto ko mangyari sa buhay ko.”
One thing that Wilson still had yet to experience in his career was being part of a champion team. Just like his days in JRU, a championship eluded him in the PBA. It seemed like all hope was lost when Wilson underwent an appendectomy and got waived by Ginebra.
Luckily for him, his wife’s aunt is married to Jun Usman, the Team Manager of the San Juan Knights, who immediately inquired about Wilson’s services. Almost a year later, Wilson finally got his wish as San Juan won the 2018-19 MPBL Datu Cup.
“Yun talaga ang gusto ng mga player. Ang makapag-champion. Individual is bonus nalang yun. So, ngayon masasabi ko sa sarili ko na winner ako kasi nakapag-champion ako sa team na alam mo na isa ka sa mga inaasahan ng team. Isa ka sa mga beterang nag ga-guide sa mga bata. Very happy talaga ako.”
Now 32 years old, Wilson’s career has come full circle. His coach with the Knights is Randy Alcantara, who was a teammate of his mentor Anore way back when the two played for Red Bull in the PBL. Wilson has found a home with San Juan in the MPBL.
“As of now, kung tatanungin ako kung gusto ko bumalik sa PBA kahit may mag offer ngayon, I want to stay here in the MPBL,” declared Wilson. “Nakikita yung talent ko and at the same time, yung kids ko lumalaki na nakikitang naglalaro yung Daddy nila. Kasi isa din yun sa mga tinitingala ko eh nung nasa PBA ako. Yung may malay na sila at nakikitang naglalaro ako at chini-cheer ako. Yun nga yun nangyari dito sa MPBL.”
Right now, the Knights are currently undefeated in four games in the 2019-20 MPBL Lakan Cup. Wilson is still capable of showing off that MVP-form he once had in JRU from time to time as evidenced by his game-high 25 point outing against Rizal last July 4.
“Sa linalaro namin, for me, malaki pa rin yung chance namin na makabalik sa Finals at makuha yung championship. Wag lang kami magpapabaya. Stay sharp. Kami talaga target ng mga MPBL teams ngayon eh. So, kailangan yung level namin is above. Kasi kami yung champion eh.”
With a new lease in life combined with a tireless work ethic, Wilson’s basketball journey looks like it will continue on for a very long time. Fittingly, the jersey number he wore in the past with JRU and presently with San Juan tells the story of Wilson’s future.
“Number 8 kasi wala siyang end,” says Wilson while tracing the number in the air with his right index finger. “Kailangan, yung attitude ko as a basketball player, yung wag titigil kahit may makuhang achievwments. So, paulit-ulit lang. Ganun din si Lord eh. Walang sawa din yung pagbigay ng blessings. Kaya ganito, nakapag-champion. Di tayo pinapabayaan. Ganun din si Lord. Walang tigil sa pagbigay sa atin ng biyaya.”
Today, the San Juan Knights-Go For Gold will be back in action in the 2019-20 MPBL Lakan Cup as they take on Soccsksargen Marlins. Catch the live coverage of the game at 6:30 P.M. on S+A, iWant and sports.abs-cbn.com