Basketball is a funny sport sometimes. In a world full of statistics and "numbers don’t lie," there are just some guys’ games that you flat out like. WMU freshman Thomas Wilder fits that mold. Stuffing the stat-sheet matters, and should matter, to a lot of folks but there are just some non quantifiable pieces to the game that make a player complete. And simply "liking" a guy’s game is one of those intangibles. What I’m saying is that Thomas Wilder’s game is not explainable by the numbers, but it will be soon. What Wilder brings to the WMU basketball program is a sort of electricity missing from the WMU back court. His electricity doesn't come from soaring dunks over unwilling defenders, but it comes from an intelligence and creativity with the basketball that is unrivaled by others from his recruiting class. It is only a matter of time before Wilder begins to light up the scoreboard in Kalamazoo. Oh and by the way, he plays lock down defense; much to Coach Hawk's liking.
I remember the first time I saw Wilder play on TV. It was the Broncos first big road test of the year vs the always tough Oakland Grizzlies. Man, was a star born in that game. Sure, Thomas was a little out of control at times but he was fast, athletic and slashing to the basket and completely broke the mold of what WMU point guards have been for so long. It was one of those games where I had myself telling friends, "You guys have to watch this kid play. He is for real." Maybe this is the new norm in Bronco basketball. Is Thomas Wilder a sign of players to come? Or is he just a blip of tenacious, relentless offense on the time-line of Bronco guards?
That Grizzly game is one of those non-stat-stuffer games I was referring to. Thomas ended with 8 points and 1 assist. But if you dare to look closely, maybe there is a more telling story. He also logged 3 steals, went 3-4 from the field and perfect from the stripe (okay, it was 2-2 but bear with me). His turnovers, 4 of them, are what doom him to the bench, that and Austin Richie’s three point barrage that is the 2015 season. Wilder had a tough west-coast road trip, logging as many or more turnovers than points in two consecutive contests while logging fewer than 20 minutes on the court.
I know, I’m making this hard to justify, but on a Saturday afternoon vs Akron in what was a must win game to keep pace with the surprisingly good MAC East, Wilder had his best game to date. Forget the points (Wilder had 6), because there is much more to his game than that. He was a freshman, starting for the defending MAC champions, against a hungry Akron team that has WMU’s number, and put on a stellar performance as a freshman point guard allowing the Bronco scorers to do their thing. Logging 4 assists and turning the ball over just once, Thomas was more of a weapon than a liability.
Just three days later, Wilder was turned loose against Shannon Evans of Buffalo who he held to half of his season average point output (that game was the Justin Moss show anyway). The turnovers are there, and they are going to be, but playing with this experienced team is only going to cultivate the electric talent that Wilder can be. I do not think that I am off-base when I say to look out for Thomas Wilder, the MAC’s next great point guard. If you're not watching MAC basketball already, you may be crazy. If you don't take the time to watch Thomas Wilder, you may require assistance.