Jon Teitel's Forgotten Legends: Fairleigh Dickinson's Desi Wilson
Recently CHN writer Jon Teitel caught up with former Fairleigh Dickinson great Desi Wilson as part of his "Forgotten Legends" interview series. Wilson scored 1,902 points during his time at FDU and remains the school's all-time leading scorer. Wilson went on to play pro baseball in both the MLB and Japan before becoming a minor league hitting instructor.
Jon Teitel: In 1990 you led the conference with 22.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game and was named conference POY. What did it mean to you to win such an outstanding individual honor?
Desi Wilson: It was hard work. I did not get a scholarship until the summer of 1987 because I was not highly recruited out of high school. I told them that I would be the hardest-working player they had ever seen, so I tried to prove myself to them every year.
JT: You remain the all-time leading scorer in school history. Did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were, and do you think that anyone will ever break your record?
DW: At the time I did not even think about that. I was just focused on trying to get to the NCAA tourney. I think someone will eventually come along and break my record; they are meant to be broken.
JT: You were drafted by the Red Sox in 1987, the Astros in 1989 (the final player selected that year), and the Rangers in the 1991 amateur baseball draft. Why did teams keep drafting you after seeing that you refused to sign, and why did you eventually decide to join Texas?
DW: I was drafted by the Red Sox out of high school but was not yet ready mentally. I wanted to be the first person in my family to go to college. It was kind of tough to play both sports together so I did not sign with the Astros because I wanted to keep playing basketball. I have no regrets about signing with Texas.
JT: You are 6'7". What effect did your size have on your success both on the field and on the court?
DW: The key was my athletic ability. I was blessed to have the talent to play both sports. Baseball was my first love and I took less of a pounding on the field than I did in the paint! In college we had to work out several times a week, so as basketball players we were in the best shape. In basketball there is contact for four quarters so you take a beating.
JT: Danny Ainge is one of the few people to play both pro baseball and basketball. Do you think we will ever see someone excel in both sports on the pro level?
DW: Bo Jackson succeeded at both football and baseball. It is not easy but I think that someone will eventually be able to do both. Baseball is a year-round sport. You always have to get stronger and learn how to play your position. It takes a special person to play at the pro level so it might not happen in the near future.
JT: In 1996 you played 41 games with the San Francisco Giants. What is your favorite memory from your time in the majors, and what was it like to have Barry Bonds as a teammate?
DW: To see my family, friends and coaches at Shea Stadium when we played against the Mets and realize that I finally made it to the big leagues was fantastic. If you persevere then good things will happen to you. Barry was one of the premier players in the game but just made it look so easy. His numbers are what they are because he was a very intelligent player who studied the pitchers, and he was also an excellent base runner.
JT: In 1998 you played in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers. What is the biggest difference between American baseball and Japanese baseball?
DW: It is the same game but the offseason is very different. Over here you just work on getting stronger, while in Japan they practice after every game and have two full months of spring training. Japanese players tend to break down more because of the larger workload they go through. In the US we keep our pitchers on pitch counts, but that is not so in Japan.
JT: In 2005 you had a 30-game hitting streak, batted .411 to set a Golden Baseball League record, and earned league MVP honors. What is your secret to being a great hitter?
DW: Just believing in myself and being a student of the game. You have to be mentally tough no matter what league you are playing in. I was in good shape and was focused with a good approach, so the game slowed down for me and I knew how the pitchers were trying to pitch to me. My many years of work gave me confidence.
JT: After retiring as a player you became a minor league hitting coach. How do you like the job, and what do you hope to do in the future?
DW: I love my job. I get to help young players try to succeed and prepare them for playing the game. There are no shortcuts. You have to follow a routine even if you do not get a hit every day.
JT: When people look back on your career, how do you want to be remembered the most?
DW: I want to be remembered as a hard-working guy who made himself into the person I still am today. I want to get to the big leagues as a hitting coach but it will take hard work. I am currently helping out the Korean baseball team in Florida. There is no off-season for me yet!
Wilson is also on Jon's list of best fantasy players in NEC history.
Bryant: John Williams (2006) 1754 PTS (#4), 323 3PM (#1), conference POY
Central Connecticut State: Rich Leonard (1984) 1697 PTS (#4), 1001 REB (#5), 329 AST (#5), 256 STL (#2)
Fairleigh Dickinson: Desi Wilson (1991) 1902 PTS (#1), 780 REB (#5), 176 STL (#2), conference POY
Long Island: Robert Cole (1983) 1800 PTS (#2), 610 AST (#1), 274 STL (#1)
Monmouth: Ron Kornegay (1969) 2526 PTS (#1), 2-time All-American
Mount St. Mary's: Jack Sullivan (1957) 2672 PTS (#1), 1216 REB (#3)
Quinnipiac: Frank Vieira (1957) 2649 PTS (#1)
Robert Morris: Jeremy Chappell (2009) 1875 PTS (#3), 681 REB (#4), 266 STL (#4), 243 3PM (#1), conference POY
Sacred Heart: Darrin Robinson (1993) 2402 PTS (#2), 219 3PM (#2), 43.4 3P% (#2), 2-time All-American, conference POY
St. Francis (NY): Darrwin Purdie (1989) 1613 PTS (#1), 748 REB (#2)
Saint Francis (PA): Maurice Stokes (1955) 2282 PTS (#2), 1819 REB (#1), All-American, NIT MVP
Wagner: Terrance Bailey (1987) 2591 PTS (#1), All-American, conference POY