Late last week our staff had the opportunity to ask Indian River State College head coach Charlie Wilson some questions about the state of his program. Last season Indian River won the Southern Conference with an impressive 22-8 overall record and 11-1 in league play. This was Coach Wilson's 5th season as head coach and he has built Indian River into a respected program nationally that produces division one players year in and year out. This past season the conference leading scorer Miles Coleman signed with NJIT, Drew Lamont a division one transfer signed with Wyoming & Jai Clark signed with in state division one FAMU. Read below for the interview with Coach Wilson.
What made this past season so special?
This past season was a very challenging year that turned into a very special year. We only returned 4 players total from the season before and only 2 of them really played substantial minutes so we had an entire new team basically. We started out 4-6 in our first 10 games. It took us a while to figure some things out, get players in different positions and honestly just figure out who we were going to be. The team then rattled off 13 straight wins and an 18-1 record over the next 19 games which included an 11-1 conference season. Our players just continued to find ways to win no matter who was out injured or the challenges they faced. It was one of the more impressive streaks that honestly nobody talked about.
What players will you miss the most? Who are you most excited to coach next year?
The group of sophomores was a unique group. 3 of the 6 were with us for 2 years. Drew transferred in at semester so he was with us for 3 semesters. Miles and Daniel both transferred in for their sophomore years. I will miss them all collectively. With the unfortunate circumstances that the world faced with the virus we never got to celebrate the season. The players didn’t get to see the banner get put up, we didn’t get to have our end of the year banquet so to be honest it feels a bit incomplete. As far as who I am looking forward to coach this coming season, honestly I am just hoping we are able to coach. We did not get a spring or summer of working with our players, so outside of our first year this is probably the biggest feeling of unknown that we have faced. When players go home under normal circumstances you are never really sure what or how much they are doing to prepare for the upcoming season. Add in the not normal circumstances and the fact they have all been home since the middle of March this coming season is full of unknowns. I am excited to finish the roster and get everyone to campus and then see who has actually been working and who was just talking about the “Grind”.
With Broward College leaving the conference how does scheduling in the Southern Conference change? Will you be open to playing more geographically located prep schools this year?
There has been major changes at the State level for both men’s and women’s basketball. Before Broward made their unfortunate announcement the State/Region had already agreed to realign so our conference was already adding Florida Southwestern and State College of Florida Manatee. Working out the conference schedule has been a several month challenge that just got finalized this past week. We will still be playing everyone 3x’s for a 15 game league schedule that now will start in the beginning of December. We just added the two top teams the past few years in the Suncoast Conference so our league will be extremely challenging moving forward. The level of players on every team top to bottom in this Region is what makes our Region the best in the country. As far as our non-conference schedule goes that is still up in the air. We have had several juco teams cancel on us, so we are still trying to find teams who can and will play. Our administration has a rule that we are not allowed to play prep schools. So, if you look at our 5 years here we have only played 2 prep schools. One was at a tournament and the other was a last second game that thankfully my AD allowed us to play due to a team canceling on us. There a tremendous benefits to playing prep schools and Florida has so many high quality ones that are being recruited extremely hard by all levels across the country.
What changes do you expect to see in NJCAA and all of college basketball this coming season due to COVID-19?
This is the million dollar question. I think right now we are just hopeful we can have a season while keeping everyone safe. I think if we have a season that is a win to start with. As far as changes I do think we will see drastic alterations to how we are used to operating. I am not sure you will see fans at games which will be extremely unfortunate and vastly different. I think travel and the routines we all do before games will have to change and honestly I think the biggest adjustment is going to be the inevitable pauses or breaks we will experience. I think we will all have to be very good at adapting and adjusting because this season will not be smooth, easy, or incident free. I think the players, coaches, and institutions who can adapt to the challenges thrown at them will have a leg up. Practices, weights, film, class situation, and game schedules will all be vastly different and full of challenges that I am not sure any of us have faced.
How does the new law in the state of Florida allowing college athletes to accept endorsements effect the junior college student athlete?
I am not sure how this will work at the NJCAA level. I am all for student athletes having the opportunity to get what they earn and deserve. The NJCAA level is full of student athletes who use this route to make their dreams come true. Without Junior Colleges and Junior College athletics the world would be missing out of some tremendous accomplishments that were made possible solely because that individual had the opportunity to start their education at this level. I hope the leaders at the NJCAA Level as well at the Institutional level can find a way that our athletes can take advantage of the new law, but I hope it is a way that is fair and can be enforced. To allow the student athletes at the small junior colleges the same opportunities as the athletes at the top 5 program would have. If this new law makes it to the NJCAA Level I just don’t want it to increase the gap between programs even more. Each athlete deserves the same opportunity.
Who would be in your ALL-TIME Indian River starting 5?
I feel you are trying to set me up on this one ! I am not sure I can answer this question. I think each season and each team has its own identity and each player on that roster has a huge piece in that. Each player is a part of the River Family as a whole, but their journey and impact is each different. The 2015-16 team that I coached here will always be special to me. The returning players bought in and that group has been the foundation of what we are trying to build here. That group led by Desmond Mitchell, Melton Sanders, and Coy Patterson set the tone and did whatever was asked of them. They had a rough freshman season going winless in conference play and they were determined to be a part of the turn-around. Their work ethic and leadership for me that year is something I will never forget and they led that team to 17 wins, 7 conference wins, and to the second round of the conference play-offs. The 2016-17 team continued the success. We beat Eastern Florida that year when I think they were ranked #7 in the country and had opportunities to upset a couple other teams that were highly ranked. Willy Nunez signed to play at FIU and Shaun Willet signed at Queens University and went on to be an All-American for them and put together one of the best senior seasons ever. The 2017-18 team was our first conference championship team, the first team in a long time to make it back the State Tournament and finished with 22 wins. That team will always be extremely special personally for me. Anthony Brown was the POY in our league and is one of my all-time favorite young men I have had the pleasure of coaching. All of our sophomores signed off of that team to continue their career at the next level. The 2018-19 team had the challenging of following that up. I think that team was the first team we have that had faced the challenge of no longer being overlooked. Teams actually starting preparing for us and that group was able to meet the challenge and get us back to the state tournament for the second year in row. Kimani Binder had one of the best seasons in our programs history and ended up scoring over 1,000 points in his career for us. Then this past year again was a very meaningful season. They wanted to leave their mark on this program and validate the success of the past couple of years. We beat both Chipola and Gulf Coast when they were both ranked #7 in the country. We went on that crazy 18-1 streak and they hung the 2nd banner in the past 3 seasons. Miles Coleman and Drew LaMont both transferred in for their final season and both were extremely high level players for us. DeJuan Lockett and Jai Clark returned after great freshman seasons and again had very good sophomore years. We had freshman step up and have very good seasons. Each player from each team over the past 5 years has had an impact in the progress our program has made. Hopefully on some level we have had an impact on them as well.
Coach Wilson and his program are class personified. We are grateful for him taking the time to answer some questions and shed light on his program located in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Below is a video of the 2018 JUCO Cookout!