Coastal Carolina’s Elijah Wilson in rare ‘Air’

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You can literally mention Coastal Carolina guard Elijah Wilson in the same sentence with Michael Jordan.

Also Tracy McGrady, but first things first. Four years ago, on Feb. 14, 2012, Wilson scored 42 points for Wilmington, N.C.’s Laney High School in a 68-62 quadruple-overtime victory over New Bern, equaling a school record established some 32 years earlier by … yes indeed, His Airness himself.

“Anybody that can be in the same conversation with him, you’ve got to be lucky,” Wilson said, “and luckily I’m able to share something with him.”

Wilson, Coastal’s leading scorer this season, has never met Jordan, but no matter; he is linked with him for at least the time being — more so than even the garden-variety Laney player, for everyone knows that’s Jordan’s school. Everyone always associates it with him.

“It really is a great little achievement to go to the same school as him,” Wilson said. “I mean, he’s one of the greatest players ever. Everybody knows who he is. I think maybe everybody who does play at that school is kind of put on a little bit of a pedestal because he played there.”

After graduating from Laney, Wilson spent a year at Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham, the prep school that produced McGrady, the retired NBA star. Current pros Amar’e Stoudemire, Jarrett Jack, Brandon Rush and Cleanthony Early also played there.

“I guess I have a little trail of going to schools that are like that,” Wilson said with a chuckle. “That was a good thing, too, to play there. … Just playing for schools like that, we just try to honor them and just do our best every time we play to do what the legacy has always been since they’ve been there.”

That would appear to be especially true this season, in which Wilson, an All-Big South preseason first-teamer, finds himself eighth in the conference in scoring (14.1) and seventh in made 3-pointers (54).

The 6-4 junior has eclipsed the 20-point mark three times in the six-game winning streak the Chanticleers (14-8) carry into a game at Radford Saturday on ASN. That streak has propelled Coastal into a second-place tie in the conference with Winthrop, one game behind UNC Asheville.

“I think just because we’re a new team – we lost a lot of players from last year — it just took us a little while to get on one page,” Wilson said, referring to the loss of three starters from last year’s 24-10 club. “You’re not going to get that type of stuff quickly, so it took us a little bit of the season to get it, and I think we’re finally starting to now.”

The Chants began the streak with a bang, opening a 25-0 lead over Presbyterian in an 87-58 victory on Jan. 14. Wilson contributed 21 points and nine rebounds to a subsequent victory over High Point, and two games later notched all five of his team’s overtime points (and 23 in all) in a 68-66 victory over Asheville.

The game after that, CCU outscored Campbell 67-40 in the second half en route to a 97-68 runaway, with Wilson accounting for 15 of his 21 points after the break.

So never mind that he missed all 10 of his shots from the floor and was limited to four points in Wednesday’s victory at Presbyterian; he has done a great deal to honor his previous schools this season, and along with them Jordan, McGrady, et al.

According to media accounts, Wilson committed to the College of Charleston immediately after his 42-point game four years ago, but reconsidered when the man who had recruited him, interim coach Mark Byington, was passed over for the permanent job in favor of Doug Wojcik. (Byington had been filling in for veteran coach Bobby Cremins, who was on medical leave.)

After his year at Mount Zion, Wilson averaged a team-leading 15.8 points and was an all-conference honorable mention selection as a freshman at Coastal. His norm slipped to 11.3 points last season, when he came off the bench for a team that in his estimation was “stacked,” but raised that to over 20 a game while being named MVP of the conference tournament.

The Chants won that for the second consecutive year to earn an NCAA bid. Once again they lost to a No. 1 seed in the tournament’s second round — this time Wisconsin, after falling to Virginia the year before — but Wilson capped his season with another 20-point effort.

“All that really doesn’t mean anything without my teammates,” he said. “I wouldn’t have gotten that without them. I really give all the credit to them. I just used that as motivation, coming into this year, hoping to be able to do the same thing.”

His other motivation is more deep-seated. And related to a certain legendary figure.

Above: Coastal Carolina has some rarified “Air” connected to his high school and prep school days. (Courtesy Coastal Carolina Athletics)

Gordie Jones

Gordie Jones is a freelance writer based in Lititz, Pa.