Coach and mentor expands his reach with social media
(Photo Left) Basketball coach Delgreco Wilson with ballplayers in North Jersey. He will be starting a basketball program in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of Delgreco Wilson.
Millions of African Americans debated for months whether Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump had their best interests at heart during this contentious and divisive presidential campaign.
Locally, there is no question about the merits of one gentleman who has dedicated his life to helping provide better outlooks for young black athletes. Delgreco Wilson, 51, a Darby Township native, has battled the likes of the NCAA and the standardized testing companies to bring awareness to the deficit in the hiring of minorities for sports positions.
During the past three decades he has mentored basketball players on how to secure college scholarships via grades and test scores, and ultimately providing them a path to a better future.
Among his success stories are St. Joseph’s University men’s basketball coach Mark Bass, his first de facto client. Gene Teague, D.J. Newbill, Junior Fortunat, Jameer Nelson, Dion Waiters, Langston Galloway, Derrick Jones, Marcus Morris and Markieef Morris have all been counseled by Wilson on academics and life. It’s not a coincidence that those last six names excelled and made it to the NBA.
“When Mark Bass was freshman player at St. Joe’s, then head coach John Griffin asked me to tutor and mentor him as he made the transition to college,” Wilson recalls. “There hasn’t been a week that has gone by since, in these last 24 years, that I haven’t talked to Mark. I attended his wedding. His mother is one of my dear friends. His children get excited when they see me. I’ve had an opportunity to watch him carve out a career as one of the top college assistants in the country. I feel very good that my academic counseling helped him become a eligible and solid player, and a great man with a great job, who in turn helps young people himself every day now.”
Wilson’s SJU ties helped land him relationships with Jameer Nelson and Langston Galloway, two of the school’s all time best. The coaching staffs believed in him to teach them good study habits, mental focus, preparation for tests and papers, and to encourage hard work in the classroom as well as on the court.
“I met Langston Galloway when he was about 10 weeks old,” said Wilson. “I’ve known his mother, Geri Galloway, for at least 40 years. His grandmother introduced me to Lincoln University. His uncle Geoffrey Arnold is one of my very best friends. Langston is my nephew. His father Larry is like my brother. Langston would come to Philly and work diligently every summer on his academics and his basketball. He played a little in the Sonny Hill league. I was able to make it to his first NBA game in Washington, DC and spend some time with him afterwards. To share in his NBA success is heartwarming to me.”
Derrik Jones’ story may be the best. When the 6-foot-8-inch forward was suddenly declared ineligible by the NCAA, just prior to the NCAA Tournament, Wilson helped him and his family fight it to the end. “He had the score. They just wanted to contest it and make his life miserable,” said Wilson of the NCAA. “It’s very unfair what they did to the kid. So we charted out a plan, and he got himself physically and emotionally ready for the NBA, and he’s [now] with the Phoenix Suns. I am very happy about that. After the NCAA challenged his test score and took away his eligibility with a few games left, I watched him work extremely hard to qualify, only to have it taken away at the end of his freshman season. Many wrote him off. To see him make the league was really special.” Wilson said his concern for his fellow African Americans and student athletes in general who were not being treated fairly, or were having trouble understanding the processes needed to meet the requirements of the NCAA, weighed on his mind for years. He also knew at a young age that education was the way to make his community sound, and offer dreams besides sports for the kids.
“At the start of my junior year playing basketball at Lincoln U., I was offered a Fellowship to attend Graduate School at the University of Delaware. It was then I realized that academics would take me much further than athletics,” he said. “But, I have never for a second forgot that sports kept me engaged when I could have wavered off course. That’s how I view youth, collegiate and grassroots sports: they are a vehicle to keep young black boys engaged with educational institutions and become socialized in a positive constructive manner. Poor boys can end up middle class men by mistake. And that’s a good thing.”
In recent years, Wilson has embraced social media to expand his platform. He promotes racial equality in high school and college hiring practices and provides exposure for black athletes using Twitter and Facebook. He also gives young athletes on-air exposure though his popular “Black Cager” internet shows. His forums provide education and guidance for parents and kids who are dealing with a difficult and pushy recruiting system.
“It started as a written blog,” he said of Black Cager Sports. “Within a year, I was able to generate over 100,000 views. I just try to call balls and strikes as I see them. I want to give voice to the voiceless. If I played a small part in helping Jason Harrigan getting an interview [and ultimately the job] at O’Hara, I am extremely proud. I simply felt he was the best candidate for the job and encouraged him to apply.” His next venture is to start a black college basketball hall of fame in Philadelphia. “[Legends:] Claude Gross, Tee Parham, Ray “Chink” Scott, Dave Riddick, and Fred Douglas are friends of mine,” he explained. “These guys, along with John Chaney came of age during and era when the Big 5 was a Jim Crow institution. As great as they were on the court, they will never be memorialized in the Big 5 Hall of Fame. I just want to honor and thank them while they are still healthy and able to participate in the ceremony. Moreover, I want to introduce their legacies to the young people playing today. It’s important to help kids understand the history of those that came before them. I have always admired the way the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame does this for their great athletes. I want to do the same here.” He has also received praise for working with everyone in a competitive basketball climate. “Youth Basketball has become commercialized,” he said. “The kids are viewed as commodities. I think this has had a distorting and detrimental effect on the game at that level. I just want to be the guy that tries to do the right thing as much as possible.” There’s little argument that he has been doing just that.