Doug Mitchell has coached a few special players in his 22 years at North Central.
Kris Wilkes is near the top of the list.
“He’s 6-8 and has all the skills,” Mitchell said. “He has the ability to handle the ball and pull up and hit the mid-range jumper. He has another gear when he explodes up the floor and to the basket. Guys that big don’t have those qualities.”
There aren’t many, anyway. Which is why Mitchell mentions Wilkes in the same breath with previous North Central IndyStar Mr. Basketball winners Jason Gardner (1999) and Eric Gordon (2007). Wilkes, who averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and shot 58 percent from the field as a sophomore, is ranked No. 21 nationally in the 2017 class by Rivals.
Mitchell likens Wilkes as a player to a piece of clay.
“Let’s see how good we can help him become,” Mitchell said. “He’s already a good person. How high can he go as a player?”
Wilkes isn’t exactly a hidden gem. He started for North Central as a freshman and was the lone sophomore named to the 15-player Super Team (he was third team) by The Star after last season. Wilkes’ list of scholarships is impressive: Butler, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Kansas, Vanderbilt and Xavier.
Maybe more impressive is that Wilkes, the son of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer Gregory Wilkes, is just as concerned with the academic side of his recruitment as the basketball program.
“I’d like to get into engineering so when I visit schools I try to see if they have any players doing it,” he said.
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Mitchell said he doesn’t have to worry about anything with Wilkes away from the court.
“Kris is a guy where when you walk through the cafeteria in the middle of the winter and guys are trying to get dates, he’s eating lunch with his buddies doing homework,” he said. “That’s the kind of student he is. It’s not like I have to worry about anything as far as keeping him grounded.”
Wilkes most recently visited Illinois, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. He said Ohio State and Michigan are likely next up on the list, although he hasn’t set dates for those trips.
“I really look at the relationship with the coaches,” Wilkes said of his recruitment. “I also look at the players they are recruiting and the playing style.”
Even as a freshman, Wilkes had the ability to knock down mid-range shots and score in transition. His thin frame, at times, hindered his effectiveness around the basket. But as he’s continued to add weight — he’s now up to 190 pounds — his physical maturity has allowed him to add another dimension to his game.
“I’ve packed on a little muscle in the weight room,” he said. “During (my sophomore year) I started noticing that I feel stronger when there is contact and (the defender) now might bump off.”
The next step in the progression for Wilkes has more to do with intangibles than physical attributes. Wes Stowers, now a freshman at Marian University, was the leader of the team last year. Now it’s time for Wilkes to take over that role.
“He has to be the hardest worker in the gym,” Mitchell said. “When that happens, it’s easier to be a great leader. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t work, he just has to take it to that next level. I don’t leave (the gym) and go shoot pool because I don’t care how good I am at pool. But if you want to be great at something, you have to hone your skills and work at it. I think he’s ready to do that.”
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
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