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Wilson's growth as senior helped Leilehua hit new heights

Mar. 5—The day Twain Wilson landed on Oahu with his family, he was already on campus at Leilehua High School.

The day Twain Wilson landed on Oahu with his family, he was already on campus at Leilehua High School.

He and younger brother Tyree were going to their classes. Word got around that they like basketball. Mules coach Chad Townsend, a teacher, got wind.

"I saw him in the hallways the tail end of his sophomore year, March or April. The kids said there's two brothers who came and they play basketball. I heard stories before about other kids and it didn't turn out what they expected, " Townsend said. "I wanted to see. We were going to start training for Posse (club team ) after the (coaches ) blackout."

Wilson was in school clothes, wearing Crocs, when he did some work on the hardwood.

"I said, that's not bad. After about five minutes of doing drills, I'd seen enough. He said 'Coach, can I get a dunk ?' I thought he was just tooting his horn. He went up and dunked it. In Crocs, " Townsend said. "It was a pleasant surprise."

Tyree Wilson wasn't into basketball quite as much at the time.

"His brother didn't even want to train that ninth-grade year. He was more of a free spirit, play video games. By his sophomore year, he jumped on our JV team, " Townsend said. "Since then they've never missed a practice except for family things. They're always there."

That summer of 2022, Twain Wilson began playing year-round with Posse, one of the toughest club teams in the islands. Ever since former assistant coach Joshua Jumawan founded the club nearly a decade earlier, hoopsters from Wahiawa had a way to compete for their community, train nearly every day. That fit the plans that Wilson had. This year, with Wilson averaging 20 points per game in OIA play, Leilehua won the league championship, the first since 1988. They finished third in the state tournament and closed the season 24-5 overall.

Work ethic made the difference. So did having a basketball family. Wilson instantly bonded through a love for battle on the hardwood.

"They just had the competitiveness, the chip on their shoulders. Something to prove. I liked how they're all high intensity and just want it, " he said. "I built bonds with all the players. We ate out together, did everything together. We got close and built chemistry."

The Mules came close in 2023, and despite Zelston Militante graduating, there were big hopes for'24. Wilson put in thousands of shooting reps a week, and there was room for more.

"Now, he's not afraid to pull it with a hand in his face. High-percentage contested 3s and jump shots, " Townsend added. "The biggest thing he lacked his junior year, his killer instinct. He was a little too unselfish. I saw senior year, it's time. Carry the load and be a little more selfish. Even senior year some games, I'd get on him. Ten seconds before the half, he defers. I want you taking the last shot."

Wilson took the chat to heart.

"He just told me this is the year I have to be a leader. However far I go, the team will go. I had to do everything in my ability, whether it's talking on defense, showing the others, getting them energy to be in the game, " he said.

Wilson's ascent to a new level kicked in during the postseason. He poured in 31 points with five steals in a 73-67 double-overtime playoff win over Kailua.

"The tape I scouted did not show his true ability, " Surfriders coach Walter Marciel said. "When he played us, it showed. His quickness, pull-up jumpers, leadership on the court, penetration and jumping ability. He has the skills to play at the next level for sure."

Campbell coach Wyatt Tau agreed.

"This season, he became more of an all-around player. His defense became more aggressive and, with that, his offense became more of a threat, " Tau said.

In the OIA championship game against rival Mililani, he pumped in 25 points during the first three quarters, and delivered the ultimate assist to teammate Trystin Stevens, whose corner 3 in the final seconds lifted the Mules to a 49-48 win over Mililani.

He turned in a 32-point performance in the state quarterfinals as Leilehua ousted Kahuku 58-57.

It was one of the most efficient stretches for a high-scoring guard in recent memory. Wilson shot 8-for-13 from the field against Mililani and a scintillating 12-for-14 from the field against Kahuku—74.1 % from the field. That included a combined 8-for-12 from the arc.

One day later, Leilehua's dream of winning a state championship melted. Punahou's persistent defenders were on a mission to limit Wilson's open looks. He came back down to earth just a bit with 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting from the field, with three assists and four steals. The Buffanblu advanced to the state final with a 67-49 win.

Leilehua took the third-place game against Kalaheo 55-44. Wilson shot 8-for-10 from the field, including 3-for-4 from deep, and finished with 19 points and six rebounds.

"He's athletic, plays hard and can score at all three levels, " Kalaheo coach Rob Pardini said. "He has patience and poise, had to adjust to different defensive looks like face guarding, box-and-1."

Wilson, ever consistent, was calm, even stoic. If there was heartbreak, he kept it under wraps. A week later, it was time for some fun and new friendships. Wilson scored 26 points, swishing six 3-pointers and throwing down two alley-oop dunks in the Damien Farias Senior Classic at Saint Louis. For the record, his prep career ended with a win as Team Blue outscored Team Red 120-114.

His sense of responsibility comes from his mom, Daisha, and step-dad, Levi Keeve. The latter is a former sharpshooting hoopster who is a sergeant at Schofield Barracks.

"My dad is an E-7. He was a drill sergeant for a little bit. Now he just helps organize everything around the base and keep everyone in check, " Wilson said. "He's been in the military since I was 1 or 2. Both of my parents are hard-working. My dad has been playing sports all his life, so I take the most from him. He's helped me the most."

Levi and Daisha Keeve bought Wilson a basketball goal when he was 5.

"He would shoot on it all day and night shooting 3-pointers, " Daisha recalled. "When we lived in Colorado, he turned 8 and he started to want to know the game more."

It was at Richland Northeast where his confidence in scoring began to soar.

"Back in my school I had a couple games where I would just be on. Just got moved up to varsity. I earned my spot and dropped 25, " he recalled.

Daisha Keeve wasn't surprised, but the thrill was electrifying.

"He was on fire shooting 3s and the. crowd would stand up every time he would shoot. He even splashed a halfcourt 3 right at the halftime buzzer, " she said.

A modest, focused countenance separates Wilson from the pack.

"He won't pump up his teammates, more lead by example and the guys follow his lead, " Townsend said. "When the guys come in late, he'll joke around, get your shoes on, what you late for. They get their shoes and follow his example. They see him as one of their leaders without having to say much."

"We are proud that he takes pride in his school work and becoming a leader. He's a very humble and respectful kid. At home, he takes care of his siblings, " Daisha Reeve said. "Oh yes, and his sense of humor is unmatched."

It just won't be quite the same once Wilson embarks on his next chapter.

"I'm going to miss his demeanor, his attitude. No moment's too big for him. His calming nature even before the game, it looks like he's ready to go to sleep during warmups. He's 'I'm good, ' and it rubs off on the team. Smiling and relaxing, that's what I'm going to miss. Even keeled all the time, " Townsend said.

Mom and dad realize it's only a matter of months before the oldest son in the house will be off in the world.

"I will miss him sitting with me on the couch watching my crazy reality shows and laughing, " Daisha said.

"I will miss him making me laugh, " Levi said.

Tyree Wilson will be a senior next season, a 6-3 forward with a lot of potential.

"I want him to stay focused, don't let any distractions affect you, don't give up, " Twain said. "Even with one bad game, it doesn't define you. Keep working hard."