In 2009, Wilson senior Blayke Hunziker was just a smallish freshman, suiting up for the Eagles basketball team in a low-lit gym.
Time flies on the court. Hunziker is a senior now — a four-year starter and potential All-Stater — and Wilson is opening its season Thursday in a brand-new gymnasium against Turner.
"The first game when I started, I was kinda scared," Hunziker said. "But over the years, I've become more of a leader on the court, knowing what needs to be done during the game."
In Hunziker's freshman year, Wilson passed a bond issue that included its new basketbal-specific facility. The overdue homecourt upgrade and the bump up to Class 2A for Wilson coincides with a rise in the Eagles' lineup.
Wilson returns four starters, including 6-foot-7 senior C.J. Ramsey and 6-6 junior Keedric Emerson, from last season's 18-10 team which qualified for the Class A area tournament. All of Wilson's starters are 5-10 or taller, including Hunziker, a 6-1 guard who averaged 18.3 points, 3.6 assists and 2.3 steals last season.
"Competitively, we feel like we can play with anybody on any night," Wilson coach David McGuire said of the Eagles' moving up to 2A. "Blayke, Keedric and C.J. bring it every night, and that's just huge for us.
"If we can put it together as a team consistently every night, we have a chance to make the season special."
Hunziker and Ramsey said the biggest improvement and strength of the team has been chemistry. The Eagles also return sophomore guards Josh Houchin and junior guard Reno Raines, who each saw starting time last season.
The Eagles also implement a key player in junior Logan Newby, who adds even more height to the rotation at 6-5.
"Houchin has improved as a sophomore and we're expecting big things out of him," McGuire said. "And part of our rotation at one time will consist of 6-7, 6-6, 6-5 on the court at the same time. That's hard to matchup against at any level."
Ramsey, a 2011-12 First-Team All-Ardmoreite selection, averaged 12.9 points and paced the team in rebounds per game (7.9). Emerson (7.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg), who can play both the forward and guard positions, grew an inch in the offseason and added weight.
"We put in some work in the summer," said Hunziker, a two-time All-Ardmoreite Super Team selection. "We went to some tournaments, traveled around to some camps in the state and in Kansas. I think that we've got enough experience coming back and we've picked up some young guys that we'll start pretty much where we left off from last year."
The new Wilson gymnasium has 1,000 extra-wide seat backs, NBA-style goals and a scoreboard that hangs over center court. Wilson opened the facility doors to its first games on Tuesday, when the junior high played Thackerville.
"It's a beautiful facility," McGuire said. "It's something that we're proud of and the community is proud of. We're excited to show it off not just to those who've seen it, but those outside of the community."
Wingfield takes over girls program
Brian Wingfield takes over a Wilson girls program that has struggled in recent years, but is brimming with optimism.
The first-year head coach spent last season as a volunteer assistant boys basketball coach at Durant. He's been working with the girls team since May.
"We've been working hard," Wingfield said. "They're looking forward to starting a new season. They had a pretty tough time last year, but they're looking forward to putting that behind them and looking ahead to this season."
The girls return five returning players that have starting experience, including team captains Kandice Cain and CayCee Griffin.
"We're gonna hopefully win some games," said Cain, a senior and three-year team captain. "It's gonna be a lot better — better attitude just all-around within the players, too."
Griffin, a sophomore, said Wilson made strides in several areas this offseason, particular at the free-throw line. The Eagles have set goals in various areas entering the season.
"Our shooting percentages, rebounds, we've tried to work on those to make those better," Griffin said.
Wingfield said, above all, he's looking to improve on fundamentals in his first season at Wilson. He'll get a good test Thursday against Turner (1-1), a state tournament qualifier last season in Class A, which already had two games under its belt this campaign.
"I'm more of trying to teach how to play instead of teaching plays," Wingfield said. "I'm all about working hard, 100-percent effort all the time. That's what I've been preaching to the girls, and so far they've been listening to me. It shows on the court."