When injuries eventually forced Wes Wilkinson to retire from professional basketball after playing 10 years overseas, he returned to his home in Nebraska and took a break from the sport.
After a hiatus of 5-6 months, Wilkinson discovered he couldn’t live without basketball, in some way, shape or form.
“It was weird,” said Wilkinson, a Grand Island native who played at Nebraska from 2002-06 under former coach Barry Collier. “It was one of those things where I realized I needed to have basketball in my life. It was just a matter of what capacity.”
Wilkinson surprised himself when discovering his avenue would be training young players. It started with helping kids of friends and family, here and there, and organically grew into his business today, Wilkinson Hoops. He leads skill development sessions and shooting clinics, mostly in Omaha, but some nights in Lincoln.
“I didn’t think I would enjoy it, to tell you the truth,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t think I’d have the patience. I never saw myself as somebody that would be a good instructor.”
Then Wilkinson discovered the satisfaction, the joy, of seeing young players learn some skill or intricacy of the game he’d been taking for granted for years and years.
“Everything I’ve accumulated and I’ve known and my knowledge,” Wilkinson said, “it’s just one of those things, ‘Oh, you don’t know how to do this. You never were taught this.’ Once you teach them and they start picking it up and then actually seeing the kid like improve, that’s the part where I’m like, ‘Oh, wow, I like this a lot.’ ”
Building relationships has also been meaningful to Wilkinson. To him, basketball is, has been and always will be bigger than a game.
“I know it sounds corny, but it’s like an avenue toward life, for life experiences,” Wilkinson said. “You grow as a person in almost every aspect. Personally, I’ve benefitted from that in so many different ways. To be able to be a conduit and kind of share that and guide players down that road and use basketball as a tool, that’s something that I really enjoy doing.”
Wilkinson is fulfilling that goal in another capacity on Saturday, when he will host the first Wilkinson Hoops 3-on-3 Showcase in the Capitol District in Omaha. Registration for the event at www.wilkinsonhoops.com closes on Thursday.