Damien Wilkins Brings Professional Experience
Damien Wilkins has played basketball internationally as a professional. He’s played professionally in the NBA too. But at the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s Pan American Games Team training camp he is a rookie, one of 21 players vying for a chance to represent the USA.
“It felt great (to be asked to participate),” said Wilkins, the son of NBA veteran Gerald Wilkins. “It doesn't get any better than this as far as the competitiveness and pride.
“When you play on other teams you go out there you compete. You go hard. You do all those things that help your team win. But you are playing for a certain group of people, so to speak. With USA on, you are playing with a lot more on your back, more on your shoulders, because you are representing a lot more. It is humbling. I am trilled to be apart of it.”
As a member of the Puerto Rican professional team Indios de Mayaguez in 2014-15, Wilkins averaged a team-high 17.3 points per game.
Prior to playing overseas, Wilkins competed in the NBA Developmental League. With the Iowa Energy, who drafted him with the 16th overall pick; he averaged 20.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 27 games. He was also named to the 2015 D-League All-Star team.
In his nine years in the NBA, Wilkins played for six teams, including the Seattle Supersonics (2004-05 to 2007-08), Oklahoma City Thunder (2008-09), Minnesota Timberwolves (2009-10), Atlanta Hawks (2010-11), Detroit Pistons (2011-12) and the Philadelphia 76ers (2012-13). In 563 games in the league, he averaged 6.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and shot 42.7 percent from the field.
“I have played a lot of basketball. I have been blessed to play a lot of basketball. I am still doing it. I still have the opportunity to come here, it says a lot about the things I have done, the hard work I have put in.”
To add to his accomplished career, Wilkins wants to make a USA team like his relative, Dominque Wilkins, who was a member of 1994 USA World Cup Team that won gold on a perfect 8-0 record. Coincidently, the ’94 USA team competed in Toronto, Canada, which is where the 2015 Pan American Games is being staged.
“My uncle played for team USA during his career, since then I have wanted to be a part of it some how,” said the 6-foot-6 forward who is participating in his first USA Basketball team training camp. “I never knew when or if I would have the opportunity, but it is here now and I am going to take full advantage of it.”
Since accepting an invitation to camp in Colorado Springs, Wilkins says he prepared for the camp with his usual training.
“I prepared like I prepare for everything,” Wilkins said. “It was no different than the preparation I had over the course of my 12 year career playing professional basketball.
“I worked on mid-range stuff and putting the ball down before I take a step because FIBA rules are different. Other than that, I was prepared,” Wilkins said.
Now in the gym at the United States Olympic Training Center, Wilkins is determined to showcase his talents, which he believes are a by-product of his 12 years in professional basketball.
“Experience is the best teacher. I remember going into the NBA my rookie year. I was on a team full of veterans. They were doing things that I was like, ‘damn that was so simple how did he do that; how did he create that space; how did he know that was going to be open’; things of that nature.
“It was just simple basketball IQ from the experiences that they have been through. I will use my experience to my advantage when playing against these guys, against anyone, use the things, the tools that I have picked up from playing against veteran guys, and apply it in the game.”
Wilkins also wants to help the other participants, 16 of which recently completed collegiately, while at training camp.
“To prepare, to help the team as much as I can, to put my thumb print on this team,” Wilkins explained as one of his goals. “As far as helping the coaching staff, being a coach on the floor, because a lot of times guys get tired of listening to the coaches’ voice, they want to hear it from a player’s perspective, someone that is actually out there with them.
“I try to utilize the knowledge that I have gained over the years, show them the way the best I can, and hopefully we all get better from it. We all learn from each other, then ultimately come back with a gold medal. That is the only reason we are here.
“To win gold, that's it. That's the only game plan.”