Josh Wilson traces a lot of his basketball success to workouts with Lower Columbia College assistant coach Roosevelt Smith, Jr. while in high school at Mark Morris.
It was those workouts, the 24-year-old Wilson said, that allowed him to improve his game. He didn't play AAU until his senior year — driving to and from Seattle for practices and games just to get scoped by college coaches.
That training helped Wilson earn an offer from Northern Arizona University. By the time he graduated, even with an injury-shortened senior season, he had already claimed the program's career assists record.
More recently, basketball has taken Wilson to professional leagues in Germany, Hungary and currently Finland. Now, as his professional career winds down, the game is calling Wilson back home — to Longview.
Wilson wants to return to where his basketball career began — high school kids training in a gym to better their game. He wants to do for other players what Roosevelt Smith, Jr., did for him.
He wants to make Roots Basketball, his training academy, the next phase of his basketball career.
Wilson has done well in Europe. As a rookie for Erdgas Ehingen Urspringschule in Germany's Pro B League from 2009-10, he averaged 15.2 points and 5.5 assists per game. As the starting point guard with Kapsovari KK in Hungary's First Division Pro A, he made the all-star team and scored 20 points per game.
Wilson now plays for Finland's Torpan Pojat and averages 14 ppg.
He's picked up a little bit of German and Hungarian along the way. They speak mostly English in Finland, mercifully. Wilson dealt with a little culture shock in Hungary after hitting a deer with his car.
"That was a crazy experience because of the different laws," he said. "I was going exactly the speed limit — probably under the speed limit — and I ended up having to pay for the car, for the deer I hit and killed. They said I was lucky I didn't have to pay for my teammate who was with me, his medical expenses.
"It was just pretty crazy, how different it is."
Wilson's wife, Dominique, his four-year-old daughter, Kamryn, and his one-year-old son, Ray, have accompanied Wilson on his European trek. Ray was born in Budapest.
If there is a next stop in Wilson's playing career, it will have to be good the entire family.
"A good situation in terms of living," Wilson said. "A good country where my family would be comfortable. Or, of course, back in the States, which would be pretty hard to do. But maybe I can get some workouts this summer and see what happens. Then, of course, money-wise."
All those factors depend on how Torpan Pojat, or ToPo, does in the playoffs, which begin April 10. Should ToPo win the championship — they were hovering around fourth or fifth place in mid-March — Wilson could get some enticing offers. Should ToPo peter out, it'd likely be back to the U.S and the end of his playing days.
Wilson has already been mentally preparing himself for that possibility.
"My wife, I told her it will be like someone died, probably," Wilson said. "I don't think she really likes that statement, but for me it will be pretty hard to take."
Returning to Roots
Getting his basketball academy off the ground was always part of Wilson's plan, regardless of whether he continues playing.
Last summer, Wilson mentored around 15 kids. This summer he'll host camps in Longview and Vancouver and continue his individual training. (Information can be found at rootsbasketball.com, although specific locations and dates have yet to be determined.)
He's added other trainers to the Roots Basketball program — former University and current Euro league player Nik Ravio, former LCC player Doug Dietz and current Oregon State guard Mollee Schwegler among them.
"Everybody working the camp would have either played in college or professionally," Wilson said. "I think that would be a great opportunity for everyone in the area to pick their brains."
Wilson is always thinking about the future of Roots Basketball. He'd like to have Roots AAU teams in place by the summer of 2013, and would eventually like to institute a scholarship program for local basketball players.
He'd like to make Roots Basketball his full-time job, if he can swing it. Otherwise, he'll work for his father in Vancouver. He's considered joining the coaching ranks, and would be more interested in high school hoops than college. But mostly, he wants to help individuals achieve their basketball goals.
"I'd rather help kids get to college," Wilson said. "It's more important to me to really see an individual game grow and really help a person out individually rather than a team as a whole. It's something I could get into eventually, maybe, but I'm way, way more interested in the workouts with kids.
"It had a huge influence on me more than anything else, so I would like to do the same for others."