Rodney Wilkerson, a junior point guard at North County High School, was named the U.S. Army Impact Player of the Month.
Wilkerson was nominated by North County assistant athletic director Shawn Behegan.
“It’s just how he carries himself on and off the court. He’s the same guy on and off the court,” Behegan said. “He’s very approachable by any of his classmates, anybody in his school. He’s well-known, but he’s very humble with that as well. On the court, he’s definitely a leader beyond anybody’s imagination. The basketball team really relied on him solely as motivation, that even in times of disarray he was a calming influence.”
For Wilkerson, being the point guard made leading on and off the court particularly poignant.
“It’s important to me because I feel like at point guard, it starts with me,” Wilkerson said. “I’m the leader, so I feel like if I’m down and my energy is not positive, then they don’t have anything to feed off of and nobody to look at like, ‘Oh man, we should be that way, too.’ I just feel like it’s important. It’s a big role for me, and I’m just glad it’s me that’s able to do it.”
North County finished the 2019-20 season 17-6. The Knights were the No. 1 seed in the 4A East region in the MPSSAA state tournament, but fell in the second round, 73-70, to Meade. North County went 4-19 a year prior. The key to the Knights’ turnaround was Wilkerson, who was given the reins to the offense before the season by head coach Trumaine Johnson. Wilkerson averaged 9.7 points and 6.6 assists per game.
Johnson sensed the tide was turning with his program when North County won the Winters Mill holiday tournament for the first time in school history in late December. The Knights beat Hereford and Joppatowne to win the trophy. Johnson recalled Wilkerson gathering his ecstatic teammates in the locker room and setting the tone for the rest of the season.
“He was like, ‘I know that there’s more to come. What we have in this locker room, we always supported each other,’” Johnson said. “… They all went there smiling, laughing and clapping it up. To everyone in the locker room, he’s like, ‘We want more. Let’s get back to work.’ Like, man, I just thought it was astounding, just the fact that he was actually willing to speak up like that.”
Wilkerson’s impact is very visible on the court, too. Wilkerson says he likes to drive, attract double-teams and find open shooters. He calls himself a “pass-first guard,” but he’s comfortable taking over the scoring load in crunch time. This was particularly evident when North County won at Benjamin Franklin, 52-47, Jan. 15.
“He took over the game — physically, mentally, motivational-wise and his athleticism on the court,” Behegan said. “… He just literally took over the game. They were down I think 10, and then he brought them back with probably a 12-point run on his own to kind of take them into the lead and then propel them into that victory against Ben Franklin.”
Wilkerson wants to play basketball at the Division I level and study business and marketing in college thanks to his interest in real estate. His character should help him achieve both of those goals.
“Rodney’s an exceptional kid. His leadership qualities on and off the floor, he’s always one of those guys who makes sure everybody’s good, makes sure everyone’s smiling,” Johnson said. “He’s the type of kid who’s willing to sacrifice his own happiness for others. He wants to make sure everything’s good. Even off the court in the classroom, he’s strives to do his best at all times.”
To nominate a student-athlete for the U.S. Army Impact Player award, visit PressBoxOnline.com/Impact.
The Impact Player of the Month award is given to an individual who has impacted his or her team in a positive way, both on and off the field.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jaiden Ballard