Arlington Martin boys basketball point guard Jay’Len Wilson was the eager understudy a year ago.
Now, the senior has become the veteran leader. Wilson’s maturation into his new role has helped Martin position itself as one of the top contenders in District 4-6A. Wilson’s pressure defense and savvy play on offense helped secure a 58-44 Warriors road win at Fort Worth Paschal on Jan. 3, improving the team’s record to 11-7 and 2-0 in district play.
“His effort and intensity is always there,” Martin coach Clint Schnell said. “I never have to question him. He’s another coach on the floor, to be honest. He knows what we want to try to accomplish and what we want to do.”
I’ve gotten better vocally. Last year, I didn’t talk. I wasn’t very active with the team. I didn’t feel like it was my place.
- Martin senior guard Jay’Len Wilson
Schnell expects a lot out of Wilson, who scored seven points against Paschal, including a big 3-pointer to key a second-half run, but he doesn’t ask the point guard to be perfect, of course. Yet even the point guard’s miscues often turn into a net positive for Martin. Wilson takes it upon himself to remedy his errors.
“Even when he makes a mistake, he knows what he did,” Schnell said. “I don’t have to correct him very often. He knows what he did wrong and how to fix it. He’s a big part of what we do, and I knew he would be going into the season.”
Last season, then-senior Kam Malbrough was the starting point guard and unquestioned leader. Wilson, who was a backup, admittedly blended into the background a bit. “I’ve gotten better vocally,” Wilson said. “Last year, I didn’t talk. I wasn’t very active with the team. I didn’t feel like it was my place.”
Wilson learned from Malbrough how to handle teammates, especially the younger guys. One thing Wilson’s mentor did was provide constant feedback — even when Malbrough was taking a breather on the bench and the younger players were on the floor.
“He talked to us and guided us,” Wilson said. “When we got our chance to play and he was on the bench, he was still talking to us.”
Now it’s Wilson’s turn to take on the role of teacher. “And that’s what I’m trying to do with the younger people under us. I’m trying to lead them and get them back to where we came last year.”
Yafet Alefnew, a junior guard, appreciates Wilson’s leadership. “I look up to him a lot,” said Alefnew, who chipped in five points against Paschal. “He gives me good, constructive criticism whenever I do something wrong. It’s just a learning process. He helps me throughout the whole game.”
Wilson’s complimentary of the younger guard, whom he describes as an athletic playmaker. “He’s good,” Wilson said of Alefnew. “He takes his shots when he needs to take them. He looks to penetrate and be aggressive.”
As with any team leader, though, Wilson has a bit of wisdom to impart to Alefnew. “He knows how to make plays,” Wilson said. “He has that down, but when he knows how to make the critical decision at the right time, he’ll be scary.”
Wilson knows what he’s talking about. The senior is demonstrating this season that he’s learned how to handle pivotal moments in games. “I feel like I’ve gotten better at making decisions at critical times of the game — just leading,” Wilson said.
Bowie and Lamar had perfect 4-0 starts to district competition before their Jan. 6 matchups — Bowie facing North Crowley and Lamar facing Arlington.
The Lady Colts, along with Martin, split their first four games in district. The Lady Warriors were scheduled to meet Mansfield on Jan. 6.
Martin has Sam Houston and North Crowley up next, while Lamar takes on Mansfield and has a Jan. 13 meeting with Bowie. Bowie’s early week game is against Arlington.
Seguin also went 4-0 to start district. The Lady Cougars faced Burleson Centennial on Jan. 6 and take on Cleburne and Crowley next.
There have only been a few games in district play thus far for the boys, but already, Martin and Mansfield look to pace the field as both started 2-0 before their Jan. 6 clash.
With just over five full weeks left to play, Martin takes on Sam Houston and North Crowley next. Arlington and Bowie square off on Jan. 10, and the Colts face Fort Worth Paschal after that, with Bowie and Lamar playing Jan. 13 after Lamar’s early-week clash with Mansfield.
Seguin also began district 2-0 before its Jan. 6 game against Burleson Centennial. Seguin has Cleburne on Jan. 10 and takes Jan. 13 off.
Stephen English: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sbenglish74