One thousand points.
Only 21 UCSB women’s basketball players in program history had ever reached that mark, and last Thursday, senior guard Jessica Wilson became number 22.
In a game against conference rival UC Riverside, Wilson had the ball in front of her teammates on the bench, faked her defender out of position and drove baseline for a historic layup that would place her among the Gaucho elite.
“I was happy that I made it,” Wilson said. “I was just happy I got to that point because I never really thought about it coming in as a freshman, sophomore or junior. So knowing that I was close to it in my senior year, it made me start thinking. It feels great knowing that I’m in a club with a lot of great Gaucho athletes like Mia Fisher, Kristen Mann and [senior center] Jenna Green, since those people were in my class.”
Four years and 1,003 points ago, Wilson was a three-year varsity letterwinner coming out of Laguna Creek High School onto a UCSB team loaded with talent. The Sacramento, Calif., native looked on as the aforementioned Mann and Fisher commanded the spotlight in their respective senior seasons. However, J-Rock, as she is known to fans and teammates alike, did make a name for herself by earning a spot on the Big West’s All-Freshman Team and played an integral part in the second half of a win over the University of Idaho that sent the Gauchos to the NCAA Tournament. With all that said, it was forward Brandy Richardson, one of Wilson’s mentors, who helped give her the opportunity in the first place.
“I played behind Richardson, the team’s best defensive player, so I learned a lot from her,” Wilson said. “[Head] Coach [Mark French’s] thing is defense, so as a freshman, I did like playing defense because that was the only way you could play.”
Wilson was able to turn that defense into offense in the 2005-06 season when she averaged a conference-leading 2.44 steals per game. Prior to Big West play, Wilson had one of her most memorable moments as a Gaucho against UCLA in mid-December. Santa Barbara came back from 16 points down in the second half, and Wilson nailed a layup at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. That’s when Wilson took over. After scoring 11 of her 21 points in the extra period to go with a team-high 11 rebounds, she proved her ability to play well in the clutch.
“When it comes to overtime, you just play and have to be mentally ready,” Wilson said. “You just play not thinking about anything. Just stay calm and poised.”
After netting a career-high 30 points against Portland State to begin the 2006-07 year, Wilson would eventually combine with Green to become the seventh best-scoring duo in school history with 951 points between them. However, Wilson continued to do more than score, as she led UCSB in assists and steals for the second consecutive season. Her highlights included an incredible 12 assists in a victory over UC Irvine and, less than a week later, she amassed seven steals en route to a win against Utah Valley State.
“She’s always been able to do a lot on the court,” French said. “But she’s really developed into an outstanding person on and off the court. She has done a good job of handling the responsibility of being a star player, and no one on the team begrudges her. She has handled it all with style and class, and it probably helps with all those assists she deals out, too.”
Wilson has a great deal to be proud of this year, despite the loss of her teammate Green to a season-ending back injury. The Gauchos are undefeated in the Big West, and Wilson has kept her team alive through overtime contests against both Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis.
“She was very talented when we recruited her,” French said. “But she’s a lot more consistent now. She’s really stepped it up for extended periods of time both in the game and in practice. She’s not just our leading scorer, but she led us in assists last year and she’s leading us in rebounds this year. She is very multitalented.”
All of Wilson’s success over the last three seasons culminated with her performance against the UCR Highlanders last week, but some business remains unfinished. At this point, one thing is still very much on her mind.
“Winning a championship and going back to the NCAA,” Wilson said.
The future of J-Rock remains to be seen, but at least now she has an exclusive membership to the 1,000-point club.