When Eastern New Mexico University senior Curtis Wilkinson describes playing against NCAA Division I basketball schools, he certainly sports the right attitude.
Especially for a guy that has not given up the dream of playing professionally just yet.
“They’re regular guys just like us, they just have a different logo on their chest,” said Wilkinson, who sat out ENMU’s game at Long Beach State in December with an injury. “They just have a different logo on their chest.
“And they’re bigger. A little bit.”
Not many are much bigger than Wilkinson, however. At 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, the Greyhounds’ post player is averaging 11.3 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for ENMU (13-8, 6-6 Lone Star Conference), which has had an open week and returns to action on Wednesday at Angelo State.
Despite playing with a fracture in his shooting hand, which is heavily taped and makes it difficult to flick his wrist, Wilkinson seems to be getting better as the season progresses. In the Hounds’ last contest against Incarnate Word on Jan. 28, Wilkinson score 19 points and hauled down an LSC season-high 20 rebounds.
“You don’t often see numbers like that,” ENMU coach Andrew Helton said. “He’ll have an opportunity, because of his size, to play after college.”
Wilkinson remains optimistic.
“If everything goes well, hopefully I can make it to the D-League or the NBA,” said Wilkinson, who will graduate with a degree in university studies with a concentration in business. “If that doesn’t work out, then I plan to get a job in marketing — hopefully use this degree.”
On film, Wilkinson has been sort of a highlight kind of guy as most photos feature him dunking the ball. However, the senior would prefer more shots of him doing something else.
“I like blocking shots, helping my teammates out,” he said. “They think they’re going to get an easy two points and I come out of nowhere to block it – and we’re going the other way with it.”
It’s been a cross-country trek worthy of Jack Kerouac that has brought Wilkinson to New Mexico.
He grew up in Kirby, Miss., before his family relocated to southern California. Wilkinson went to high school in Rialto and then initially attended San Bernardino Valley Junior College.
Wilkinson eventually parlayed his JC experience into a shot at the D-I level and chose to go to East Tennessee State in Johnson City, Tenn. — near the state borders of Virginia and North Carolina.
It didn’t take long though before Wilkinson was on the move again.
“He just wasn’t playing a lot (at East Tennessee),” Helton said. “He wanted to play, and he can play as many minutes as he wants with us.”
Other than dealing with the hand injury, things have worked out well for Wilkinson, who transferred to ENMU just before this season.
“Coach Helton seemed like a down-to-earth coach,” he said. “Two other guys (Aaron Edwards and Maurice McGee) I played junior college basketball with have played here, too. I was like, ‘I already have played with these guys, so I’ll know a couple of guys on the team.’”
While the situation on the court has met his expectations, Wilkinson admits another element wasn’t quite what he was anticipating. Befitting a guy who eventually wants to live in the warm climes of southern California or Florida, that would be the weather.
“I thought New Mexico would be hot all the time, because every time I went to (Las) Vegas it was really hot,” Wilkinson said. “I figured that Vegas was hot, this would be hot.
“It’s the total opposite — it’s always cold here. When it first snowed, I was like, “Really? What’s going on?’”