BRISTOL — The famous last name grabs one’s attention. It’s the combination of effort and basketball I.Q., however, which makes Isaiah Wilkins a special player according to his head coach.
Wilkins, the stepson of former Atlanta Hawks star Dominique Wilkins, scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Greater Atlanta Christian’s 68-59 victory over Memphis Hamilton in the first of four Arby’s Classic quarterfinals Saturday evening at Viking Hall.
“He doesn’t let that get to him,” GAC coach Eddie Martin said about Wilkins and all the talk about being Dominique’s son. “He’s got to be his own person and he’s got to be his own player. He totally is and his basketball I.Q., to me, is off the charts. That’s why coach (Tony) Bennett at Virginia recruited him so hard, not just on his ability, but because his basketball I.Q. is so good.”
Wilkins, a 6-foot-7 senior who is committed to Virginia, showed some of the flash asscociated with his last name on a couple of occasions. He thrilled the large crowd in attendance with a trio of two-handed, rim-rattling slam dunks. It was all part of the gameplan to bring extra energy to his team.
“I try to bring energy to the team on both offense and defense,” Wilkins said. “Those open dunks help a lot.”
Despite the big dunks, his game is much different than that of the Hall of Famer who has raised him since he was six years old. The emphasis isn’t as much about high scoring totals and being a copy of the “Human Highlight Film.” His goal is more about getting teammates involved.
It was clear in the first quarter when he dove to the floor to fight off a Hamilton defender for a loose ball.
Coach Martin said, “We really challenge our guys to play defense. When your best player gets on the floor after a loose ball, nobody else can say a word about getting on the floor after a loose ball. It’s contagious.”
In fact, Wilkins wasn’t the leading scorer for the Spartans on Saturday. That distinction belonged to 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Garrett Covington, who made five 3-point goals in a 23-point effort. With Wilkins playing so strong on the inside, it helped Covington to move around and get open looks on the outside.
“Moving around was the key for me,” Covington said. “I was creating open space from the defender to get open shots.”
The points were needed to offset Hamilton’s brother duo of Dedric Lawson and Keelon Lawson who scored 18 and 13 points, respectively.
Greater Atlanta appeared to be cruising to an easy victory, scoring the game’s first seven points and up 36-27 at halftime. A rally by the Wildcats, however, put Hamilton ahead 44-43 for a few seconds in the third quarter before the Spartans regained control.
“We just had to stay calm in that situation,” Covington explained. “We just had to keep a cool head and have the confidence that we would regain the lead.”
Wilkins’ slam in the fourth quarter which put his team ahead 62-51 seemed to end the Wildcats’ chances. It was the type of moment one might expect from a player with such a famous name. However, Wilkins called it simply going about his business.
“People expect this pressure, but I just try to go out and play my game,” he said. “I’m completely different player and I’m just trying to fulfill my own legacy.”
Oak Ridge 54, Murfreesboro Oakland 47
The Wildcats pulled out to a 30-24 advantage at the end of the first half and led throughout the second half to down the Patriots.
Isaac Merian, who recently signed with Lee University, led the way with 20 points and six rebounds. Oak Ridge coach Aaron Green was pleased his team came out with the victory on a night when he felt the pace favored Oakland.
“They got the tempo more to their pace than to ours,” Green said. “But, you’ve got to win games different ways. We found a way to win and that’s important. Those kind of games will help you come later in the year at tournament time.
“This kind of game is exactly why you bring your team to this type of tournament. You’re going to play different styles and teams and your kids can learn from this.”
Jaylen Henderson added 10 points as Oak Ridge maintained anywhere from a 6-10 point lead most of the second half.
Oakland was paced by Kyle Oliver, who totaled 25 points and 14 rebounds. Oliver, a lanky 6-foot-5 and 205-pound junior, is a highly recruited football wide receiver who recently visited Vanderbilt. Ricky Dunnaway, the Patriots’ 6-foot-7 and 240-pound post player, had nine rebounds, but was limited to just seven points.
Christ School, N.C. 69, Milton, Ga. 53
Mo Lewis IV, who has made the decision to attend the Naval Academy next fall, scored 24 points to help the Eagles sink the Greenies, and put a second Atlanta-area team in the Arby’s Classic semifinals.
Lewis was an efficient 8-of-13 from the floor and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line. In addition, Shawn O’ Connell posted a 17-point effort and Chris Lewis ended with 11 points.
Milton controlled the contest, up 38-27 at the half and 51-42 at the end of three quarters. The Eagles scored the first five points of the final period to add some breathing room.
“Our defense really set the tone for the game early on,” Milton coach Matt Kramer said. “I’ve been telling these guys we’re a really good basketball team when we pass it ahead, get on the boards and share the ball. Early, they did a great job of that and our defensive energy was terrific.”
Alex Wnuk was the leading scorer for the Asheville-area Christ School with 15 points. Lloyd Burgess, a 6-foot-10, 285-pounder who is going to UNC Greensboro, had 14 points and 11 rebounds. John Caldwell also scored 14 points in the losing effort.
Tennessee High 47, Urspring, Germany 43
Adam Mitchell had 18 points and six rebounds to lead the host Vikings to the victory over the defending tournament champion in a consolation bracket game.
Mitchell was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line as Tennessee High finished 17-for-26 as a team overall. Caleb Easterling finished with 12 points as the Viking defense held Urspring to 1-of-15 behind the 3-point arc.
Christian Sengfelder paced the German team with 13 points, followed by 10 points apiece by both Zaire Thompson and Mahir Agva.
United Faith Christian, N.C. 64, Gate City, Va. 55
Akim Mitchell led four Falcons in double figures with 15 points in the win over the Blue Devils .Ty Gadsen ended with a dozen, Nehemiah Mabson had 11 and Elijah Evans finished with 10 for the Charlotte-based team coached by NBA veteran Mugsy Bogues.
United Faith led 13-4 at the end of one quarter and 30-20 at the half.
Dylan Jenkins had a game-high 27 points for Gate City. Nick Qualls scored 15 and John Reed Barnes finished with 11. Michael Collier was the only other Gate City player to score with a single basket.
Mentor, Ohio 86, Dobyns-Bennett 70
Kyle Hagey poured in 25 points as the Cardinals pulled away from the Indians late for the win.
Kade McClure finished with 17 points and Conner Krizancic had 14 points for a Mentor program, which had finished in the top three of the Arby’s Classic each of the past three years.
Paul Gadson had a team-high 15 points for D-B. Makale Foreman finished with 14 points and John Fulkerson posted a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.