“Dribble, dribble, cross, cross, between the legs, hit the three!”Basketball practice is just starting as the men’s team starts their first drill of the afternoon.
“Get hot, Ryan!” Coach Roderick “Rod” Wilmont yells to a first-year during their next shooting drill.
A lot of NAIA basketball practices may sound like this, but the man yelling these phrases is not your average coach.
Wilmont grew up in the Miami area playing basketball. He said he did not start playing the game until he was seven or eight years old.
“My mom played basketball at Baylor University and my dad was all about football,” he said. “I just started playing basketball because it was fun.”
Wilmont starred as a 6’4 two-guard for Miramar High School in Florida. As a senior, Wilmont averaged 40 points per game and was named co-Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida alongside Amar’e Stoudemire. Stoudemire was a six-time NBA All-Star.
Coming out of high school in 2001, Wilmont had many offers to play Division I basketball: Florida, Boston College, Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and NC State. Wilmont chose Indiana.
“I knew Indiana was one of the top traditions in college basketball,” he said. “I took my visit to Indiana and there is no other place like it. 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, averaging 12.6 per game. Wilmont still holds the record for most three-pointers in a single game at Indiana.
“I hit 10 in one game,” Wilmont said. “I got warm.”
Wilmont knew he wanted to play at the next level: the NBA.
“I always knew I was good enough,” he said. “It was just a matter of what my route was going to be to get there.”
So when the New York Knicks invited him to a workout, in the summer before the 2007 NBA draft, he sought to impress the scouts.
“I had an unbelievable workout with the Knicks,” said Wilmont. “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. The general manager and head coach at the time, Isaiah Thomas, said that they were thinking about drafting him in the second round.
“It’s either going to be between you or Demetris Nichols; he was in that same workout with me and I killed him,” said Thomas.
Wilmont did not get the news he was hoping for. The Knicks selected Nichols with their second round pick over Wilmont. The team 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. Although Wilmont bounced back and forth between the D-League and the NBA, he was very pleased with himself.
Wilmont also played out some of his professional career overseas: in Spain, Italy, Greece, Sweden and China.
“I got to travel the world, something that a lot of people will never do in their lifetimes,” he said. “I think that is probably one of my biggest accomplishments of playing professionally: just getting to travel the world.”
Once his playing career was over, Wilmont made up his mind that coaching was the next step.
“When I was playing, I never thought I’d be a coach,” said Wilmont. “God has definitely given me a gift to do this.”
Wilmont has utilized and taken advantage of his coaching skills.
“I have actually had more success in coaching than I did in my playing career,” he said. “I have already won more championships as a coach than as a player.”
Wilmont coached for the Fort Wayne Flight, a team in the Central Basketball Association (CBA), for six seasons. The CBA is a semi-professional league right under the D-League. In his tenure as a head coach there, he took his team to three straight championship wins.
Wilmont made the transition to high school basketball next.
“I was the head coach at Lakewood Christian High School, a school that has never won, ever,” he said. “The team never had a winning season. We finished 21-6, won the school’s first-ever sectional championship and went to the regional championship and lost. It was an unbelievable experience for those kids and for that school.”
During the off-season while Wilmont was at Manchester, he met Jon Tropf, head coach at Goshen College, on the recruiting trail.
“I was very impressed with his effort and persistence in staying in touch with me,” Tropf said. “We developed a relationship before he was hired. That was only possible because he made sure to stay in contact with me regularly.”
Wilmont has since been hired and is now here at Goshen College after just finishing up his last coaching job at Manchester University.
“The reason I picked Goshen was because I want to change the mindset to a winning way,” he said. “That means more than anything to me.”
About Wilmont in his short time with the team, senior forward Alhassan Barrie said, “Wilmont brings a different view to the game since he has played at the highest level. He makes us all see the game from a different perspective. He makes us all play to our fullest potential.”
Wilmont is now through his first game on the sideline as a Maple Leaf assistant coach.
“I love winning,” Wilmont said. “When I talk to these guys, I tell them, ‘When you taste winning, that is all you’ll ever want.’”