Thanks in a large part to junior guard Jessica Wilson’s success filling in at the point position, the UCSB women’s basketball team is riding a six-game win streak that has sent the team into second place in the Big West. For her recent performances, including 19 points and five assists on Saturday, she has been named the Daily Nexus Athlete of the Week.
A natural at either wing or the point, Wilson has consistently proven to be extremely versatile throughout her career. Last year she was the Gauchos’ best-shooting guard, averaging 10.3 points per game on 35.5 percent shooting. She was also at the top of the pack defensively, grabbing 6.8 rebounds and a team-high 2.4 steals per game. This year the song is the same – Wilson has just turned up the volume. Her scoring output has only increased, averaging 13.5 points off 42.1 percent shooting from the floor and 32.5 percent from beyond the arc. Her defense has been as solid as it’s ever been, and she is still averaging two steals a game. And yet, despite her excellent play on her own, one of Wilson’s best attributes is her ability to help her teammates contribute.
“It’s interesting that although we value her so much as a scorer, the biggest contribution she’s made in the past few wins have been her assists,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “One of the side benefits of Jessica playing the point is that she has gotten a lot more talkative. Her responsibility at point guard has forced her to share her passion for playing with the rest of the team, and she has done that well.”
With a recent injury to sophomore guard LaShay Fears, Wilson has been shifted from the wing to the point guard, the position she played all through high school and is comfortable with. But unlike the wing, a large part of how a point guard is measured as a player is in their ability to make their teammates better. That means that Wilson’s high scoring average and ability to make clutch shots is only a small part of the contribution she makes to the Gauchos. Wilson leads Santa Barbara in assists at 4.4 a game, and in the first week of January she dished out an amazing 12 against Irvine. The performance came in the middle of the Gaucho’s current streak, and is currently the best in all of the Big West. With the shift to the point, Wilson has continued to rake in assists as well as improve in areas that stats can’t be kept for, like being vocal on the court to lead the team.
“I do miss playing at the wing, but I really enjoy plays like a fast break and getting those assists,” Wilson said. “After I got 12 assists that one game, I thought I should just keep doing it.”
Described by French as a very unselfish and sincere person, Wilson was quick to pass much of the credit for her success on to the rest of the team. With a natural personality for a point guard, it’s no surprise that she gets so many assists – she believes fully that the team will be more successful if they are all working together.
“It’s not a one-person game. We can all score, and we can all create for each other,” Wilson said. “It’s nice because we don’t just depend on one person every night – we can have confidence in each other to win.”