“Dribble-dribble. Cross-cross. Between the legs. Hit the three!” said Roderick Wilmont, an assistant coach. This is how afternoon basketball practice begins for the Goshen College Men’s Basketball Team.
“Get hot, Ryan!” Wilmont yelled to a first-year during a shooting drill.
This may sound typical of a college basketball practice, but the man yelling it is not your average coach. Wilmont grew up in the Miami area playing basketball, where he did not start playing the game until he was 7 or 8 years old.
“My mom played basketball at Baylor University and my dad was all about football,” Wilmont said. “I just started playing basketball because it was fun.”
Wilmont starred as a 6’4” shooting guard for Miramar High School in Miramar, Florida. As a senior, Wilmont averaged 40 points per game and was named co-Mr. Basketball for the state of Florida, alongside famed NBA player and six-time NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire.
Coming out of high school in 2001, Wilmont had many offers to play Division I basketball, including offers from Florida, Boston College, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and NC State. In the end, Wilmont chose Indiana.
“I knew Indiana was one of the top traditions in college basketball,” Wilmont said. “Coming from south Florida, it’s all about football. I wanted to come to a place that was all about basketball. It was a no-brainer, coming on my college visit sitting next to Isaiah Thomas.”
Wilmont committed to Indiana under head coach Mike Davis and finished his time at Indiana under head coach Kelvin Sampson. In his four years at Indiana, Wilmont averaged 7.3 points per game. He had his best season as a senior, where he averaged 12.6 points per game.
Wilmont still holds the record for most three-pointers in a single game at Indiana.
“I hit 10 in one game,” he said. “I got warm.”
Wilmont knew he wanted to play at the next level: the NBA. In 2007, when the New York Knicks invited him to a workout, he sought to impress the scouts.
“I had an unbelievable workout with the Knicks,” Wilmont said. “I kind of opened their eyes. They brought me in with some other guards they were looking at drafting and I was the best guard there.”
On draft day, Wilmont received a call from the Knicks organization. Isaiah Thomas, the general manager and head coach for the Knicks at the time, said that they were thinking about drafting him in the second round.
“It’s either going to be between you or Demetris Nichols,” Thomas said.
“He was in that same workout with me, and I killed him,” said Wilmont.
Wilmont did not get the news he was hoping for, and the Knicks selected Nichols with their second-round pick. The Knicks contacted Wilmont right after they selected Nichols and said that they would like to sign Wilmont as an unrestricted free agent after the draft.
After going undrafted, Wilmont said, “At the end of the day, it was almost a blessing not to be drafted because I became a free agent for everybody instead of being owned by one team.”
Wilmont would go on to play his NBA career with three teams: the New York Knicks, the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks. Wilmont also played overseas in Spain, Italy, Greece, Sweden and China. Although Wilmont bounced back and forth between the D-League and the NBA while in North America, he remains very pleased with his career.
Once his playing career was over, Wilmont made up his mind that he wanted to coach.
“When I was playing I never thought I’d be a coach,” he said. “God has definitely given me a gift to do this.”
Wilmont has already won more championships as a coach than he ever did as a player.
Wilmont spent six seasons coaching the Fort Wayne Flight, a team in the Central Basketball Association—a semi-professional league—right under the NBA’s D-League. He took the Flight to three straight championship wins.
Wilmont then made the transition to high school basketball. There he led the Lakewood Christian High School to an impressive 21-6 record, winning the school’s first-ever sectional championship in the process. Wilmont then moved to coach at Manchester University in North Manchester, Indiana. It was while he was there that Wilmont met GC basketball head coach Jon Tropf.
“I was very impressed with his effort and persistence in staying in touch with me,” Tropf said of Wilmont. “We developed a relationship before he was hired. That was only possible because he made sure to stay in contact with me regularly.”
“The reason I picked Goshen was because I want to change the mindset to a winning way,” Wilmont said. “That means more than anything to me.”
“He makes us all play to our fullest potential,” said Alhassan Barrie, a senior forward for GC.
After his first game on the sidelines for the Maple Leafs, Wilmont shared this thought during his post-game interview: “I love winning. When I talk to these guys, I tell them, ‘When you taste winning, that is all you’ll ever want.’”