As a teammate grew angry after Lewisburg was awarded an extra fourth-quarter free throw last Wednesday, Roger Wilson walked over, grabbed him, talked to him and calmed him down.
It was something small and many might have missed it. But it told so much. It told the story of a player, a person who has completely transformed himself and become the consummate team leader. Wilson, the player who once battled himself as much as opponents, has become Loyalsock's rock.
Wilson has been Loyalsock's best player this season. The senior center recorded his third straight postseason double-double and 18th this season Saturday as Loyalsock defeated Wellsboro, 57-37 and captured the District 4 Class AA championship. Had Wilson not come so far personally, though, this season, this championship might have never happened. Had Wilson not made the transformation, Loyalsock probably would not be playing in Saturday's state tournament against Mid-Valley.
"I pulled Roger aside and told him his attitude is unbelievable," Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. "He's just a different human being and it's a pleasure to see a kid like that with that ability come out and play like that on the court."
Wilson always had the talent. He is 6-foot-5 with a tremendous wing span and terrific jumping ability. From the first time he stepped on the court as a varsity player, one had the feeling Wilson could dominate. At times he did. At other times, Wilson was his own worst enemy.
In the past, Wilson might sulk after picking up a foul. He might grow angry after missing a shot. Instead of working harder, he might try to slide by on pure ability.
Make no mistake, Wilson still was an impact player. He helped Loyalsock reach states as a sophomore and his strong play down the stretch last year was instrumental to Loyalsock capturing both the HAC-II and District 4 championships. One always wondered, however, how good Wilson could be.
Now everyone knows.
Wilson has been sensational during his senior season. He is averaging 15 points, 11 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 3 steals and 2 assists per game. Wilson might have a double-double in every game but the rare times he has not have come in blowouts when he sat for most or all of the fourth quarter. He has come up big in Loyalsock's biggest games and has displayed a knack for making his best plays at the most opportune times.
Lewisburg (22-4) has been ranked among the state's top 10 teams most of the season. Loyalsock is the only team to beat it, going 4-0 in four fiercely contested games. Each time, Wilson came up huge, recording four double-doubles while going for 21 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in the semifinal win.
Saturday, Wilson picked up two fouls in the game's first minute but never buckled. He stayed in the game, stayed calm and scored 11 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Loyalsock rallied from a nine-point deficit and outscored Wellsboro 40-11 in the game's final 18 minutes.
"He has been just fabulous," Vaji said. "In years past he might have jawed a little bit and done some things. We played them four times and I've never seen him run his mouth, question an official or take a cheap shot at any of our guys. He just went out and played very hard. Ron (Insinger) should be very proud of the performance that Roger has put forth and the way he's turned out as a complete player."
The player who once was so mercurial is now a calming influence. He is the one teammates look up to. He is the undisputed team leader.
"Our whole team is full of underclassmen and all our starters are sophomores and I know when I was that young you're looking up to people, you're trusting them," Wilson said. "That's what I've tried to do this year. I've tried becoming a leader."
Wilson has succeeded. Whatever Loyalsock has needed, Wilson has delivered. And that goes beyond what the stats say. Those are impressive but more important are the intangibles Wilson provides. Watch Wilson play and one cannot tell if Loyalsock is winning or losing or whether he is hot or cold. He has become a model of calm, shaking off adversity like a bee sting and shining under all circumstances.
Several times in the Lewisburg semifinal, Wilson grabbed players and settled them down in tense situations. When Lewisburg took its only lead early in the third quarter, Wilson responded by scoring the next six points. Loyalsock never trailed again.
"Every single day Roger exhibits senior leadership, whether it's a kind word he says to someone or a pick-me-up after I'm critical of something," Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger said. "He's done a lot of great things. I think he's one of the best kids."
Any time Insinger's grand children come to watch practice, Wilson is one of the first to greet them. Wilson gives them high-fives and then it is back to work. Insinger used to question Wilson's work ethic, but now he uses him as an example of what hard work produces.
Wilson has embraced his senior year and made the most of it. He has become a role model and has even spent time talking to elementary school players about what not do to do and what to do. These days those associated with Loyalsock basketball look up to Wilson literally and figuratively.
Wilson is not just a complete player now. He is a complete person.
"Roger has done a 180 and just transformed himself into a terrific player," Insinger said. "I can't say enough about the kid. He's not only developed into a great basketball player, but also a well-rounded citizen."