Duane Wilson Jr., a senior basketball player from Dominican High School, quietly checked his cell phone for updated scores in Marquette University’s opening round of the NCAA tournament against Davidson College. It was after 3 p.m. and school was finished for the day.
“Marquette is down by three with 56 seconds left in the first half,” he said.
Wilson, a key figure on Dominican’s WIAA Division IV state championship team this year, will be a member of the Golden Eagles squad next year, but for now, he’s still relishing Dominican’s second WIAA title in a row.
Dominican beat Auburndale High School, 57-44, at the Kohl Center in Madison to capture the championship on March 9.
In that game, Wilson scored 26 points and tallied seven assists while Dominican sophomore, Diamond Stone, added 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
The championship was the first for Derek Berger as Dominican’s head coach. Berger, assistant coach for four years was hired to lead the team last summer after former head coach Paul Wollersheim resigned.
Admitting expectations are always high for the team, Berger said, “I know with Dominican the expectation is always championship.”
A member of the 1997 and 1998 Dominican basketball teams that won the WISAA (Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association) state championship as a player, Berger said he knows what the players are going through.
The school has created a “rich history and tradition,” said Berger, a member of St. Bernadette Parish, Milwaukee, and St. Anthony Parish, Menomonee Falls.
For Wilson, the championship game was bittersweet.
While his main goal was to win the championship game, he realized it would likely be the last time he’d share the court with his teammates.
“It was kind of emotional, but not too much. I’ll be back around here a lot to talk to the guys,” said Wilson, acknowledging as the oldest most experienced player, he knew he had to be an example for younger students.
“This year I had a really key role in helping out the younger players … just being more mature,” he said. “Off the court, when someone is messing around… (I) let them know that’s not what being a Dominican (student) is all about. When you’re out in public, show that Dominican has good students.”
Wilson said this year’s team engaged in more team bonding activities off the court than previous teams. They went to other Dominican athletic events together, ate team meals, and occasionally studied together.
“We worked on team chemistry, that’s basically what it was throughout the year,” he said. “We always knew where each other was.”
While Wilson and Jaylin Daniels will graduate, returning Dominican players have high expectations for themselves next year.
Stone, who will be a junior, is expected to be the top player on the team. He’s being heavily recruited by college teams and according to ESPN Recruiting Nation Basketball he’s ranked second in the nation among high school players. He already has offers to play at Marquette, Wisconsin, UCLA, University of Indiana, University of Florida among others.
“What we have is a group of four or five guards who played this year as juniors and sophomores who are now going to be comfortable stepping into it right away and playing and being productive next year,” Berger said.
“I think some of those guys are going to step into leadership roles…. I think it’s because of (Wilson’s) interaction and because of the experience they gained this season playing 28 games with sellout crowds.”
Other key returning players are Jack Jelacic and Chris Topp, who combined for nine points and five rebounds during the championship game.
“Dominican as a whole is a great place for student athletes,” Berger said. “They really provide a good environment when I was here up until now of helping each student athlete be successful, whether it’s in academic programs or other sports.”
He added that Dominican has a long history of parent involvement, which is a key to its success.
“We have great families at Dominican, great administration, great teachers, I think all of that together makes it easy for the kids to know we got to get our work done and then there’s basketball,” Berger said. “I think that’s why Dominican is so successful academically and at some sports.”
Looking to next year, Berger said the expectation is for another conference and state championship.
Basketball will continue to be central in Wilson’s future, but he also plans to study business at Marquette.
“If something doesn’t work out with basketball, then I’ll have a backup plan,” he said.
Marquette was the first to offer Wilson a full scholarship and after talking with head coach Buzz Williams, he knew it would be a good fit.
“I just really wanted to stay home,” he said. “My family can come to every home game.”
Looking back at his high school career, Wilson said going to Dominican had a major impact on his life.
“I feel like if I would’ve (gone) somewhere else, I don’t think I’d have as good of a career that I had at Dominican … off the court also,” he said adding he’s talked to recent graduates about how they’ve transitioned from high school to college classrooms and he feels confident Dominican has prepared him for the course work.