Moments after the Cougars’ 72-66 upset victory Tuesday night at home against Missouri Valley College, Terren Wilson’s head bobs up and down with the vigor of a boxer who has just knocked down the heavyweight champion of the world.
The game is over, but the jolt of electricity that fueled his team’s improbable victory is still running wildly through his veins.
And after the year he’s been through, the childish glee is perfectly understandable.
“I’m feeling young,” Wilson says breathlessly, his feet moving to the beat of his words. “You know, I’m in my 20s, but I feel like I’m 16 today.”
Weeks ago, after a heated argument with coach Bob Burchard, Wilson was ready to put his basketball days behind him. He decided to leave the team and focus on life outside the game he loved.
And for a while, it worked.
“I wasn’t even thinking too much about basketball,” Wilson said. “I was thinking about my future. I didn’t think I was really going to be back on the court.”
With the absence of Wilson and a cast of other veterans, the Cougars’ season spiraled out of control. Frustration mounted as the team failed to develop chemistry.
“I’ve never been through a start of a season like that,” senior guard Ryan Steinhoff said.
Stumbling to a 2-6 record quickly sucked the life out of Southwell Complex. The magic that had once given the Cougars such a distinct home advantage over the years was gone.
“I think we’ve had one dunk this year,” Burchard said. “We just hadn’t done anything for people to get excited about.”
As the Cougars suffered through their season, Wilson stayed away from the team. The helpless feeling of not being able to rescue his teammates was unbearable.
“I couldn’t watch them,” Wilson said. “I went to the girls games, but I couldn’t go to the guys games because it would’ve hurt me seeing them messing up, and I couldn’t mess up out there with them.”
Thanksgiving passed, and Wilson was still at home, light years away from mending the gap with Burchard.
Then, almost out of nowhere, Burchard called Wilson.
The conversation was brief and to the point.
“He told me to come in his office to talk,” Wilson said. “And we settled our differences right there.”
Flash forward to Tuesday’s game against the Vikings. After sitting on the bench the first seven minutes, Wilson finally enters the game for the first time this season.
As soon as he gets in, Wilson uses his pent up anger to play relentless defense and dazzle the crowd with his circus shots.
Feeding off the newfound energy of the screaming fans, the Cougars play their most inspired game of the season.
This, Burchard said, is what he’s used to.
“You start seeing their faces change out there,” he said of his players. “Our teams have always been fun to watch, making big plays. But we hadn’t seen it because they hadn’t been together.
“We’re back to playing ball again.”