As Potomac High School administrators, coaches and family members shared their thoughts on Dion Wiley at the Maryland-bound shooting guard’s signing ceremony Wednesday, one phrase came up again and again.
“It takes a village,” his coach, Renard Johnson, and two of his aunts reminded him, tears in all of their eyes as they watched the 17-year-old guard sign his national letter-of-intent to join the Terrapins, part of what recruiting analysts are calling a loaded 2014 recruiting class.
Administrators, coaches, and family members spoke for over a half hour about Wiley, whose grandmother played the major role in raising him before she passed away during his freshman year.
Aunts raised Wiley — described as “humble,” “unassuming” and “unselfish by those who know him — and took him in. AAU coaches for the Maryland Rough Riders, for whom he played since age 7, and Team Takeover, with whom he played this summer, pushed the once-chubby youngster on the court. Carla Pierce, his grade-level administrator, and several other Potomac administrators and teachers helped Wiley get his grades in shape to allow him to qualify for college after he was academically ineligible as an underclassman at Potomac. All of them broke into tears as they celebrated Wiley’s signing.
Johnson told the story of his first days on the job at Potomac, when he didn’t know much about Wiley, the player he’d been told was “a little awkward, a little chubby — okay, a lot chubby, but a pretty good player,” and the “fourth-best player on his AAU team.”
“We had a scrimmage against Coolidge High School. They were kind of beating us pretty badly. … Dion took it upon himself to make it respectable,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘Who is this guy!?’ He hit another shot. I said ‘Franchise, keep shooting.’ From then on I called him Franchise and said, ‘Keep shooting, keep shooting!’ ”
Johnson said Wiley’s stats “will never reflect how talented he really is” because he’s the most unselfish player on the court, a scary thought given that Wiley led Potomac (20-4) in scoring at 17.9 points per game with 60 three-pointers in 2013.
“I try to get my teammates involved as much as possible, then I’ll score second,” Wiley said. “The only time I really try to score is if they need me. But if it’s a close game and somebody else is open for a better shot, no question I’ll pass it.”
Wiley barely cracked a smile through the ceremony, listening stoically as friends and family praised his character, looking uncomfortable as the focus of so much attention.
“It wasn’t really that awkward,” Wiley said after everyone had gotten a hug, his teammates taken a smile-less picture with him and as the chairs were being put away. “It was all positive things — if it had been negative stuff, that would’ve been awkward.”
Whether about his on-court prowess or off-court personality, no one in Potomac’s gym had much negative to say about Wiley, who’s unquestionably the pride of Wolverines basketball after opting to stay in public school and win at Potomac, rather than make the jump to a private-school powerhouse as so many others have. Another notable player to make that choice is former Suitland standout Roddy Peters, who will be Wiley’s teammate next year at Maryland.
With the signing out of the way, Wiley said he now wants to give something back to the Potomac community that helped Wednesday’s signing happen: a state title.
“It took a lot of people [to get me here]. A lot of support,” Wiley said. “We want to win our county and win states. Nothing less.”