Carrier Classic special for Marquette basketball's 'Army brat'
By Chris Jenkins
Photo courtesy of Marquette University Athletics
Like most of his teammates, Marquette guard Derrick Wilson was excited going into Friday night’s Carrier Classic — a season-opening matchup with Ohio State held on the deck of the USS Yorktown outside Charleston, S.C.
But the game might be an even bigger deal for Wilson’s father, Dennis, a recently retired 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army.
“He’s really excited,” Wilson says. “I’d almost say he’s more excited than I am.”
A self-described “Army brat,” Wilson was born in Germany and followed his family as his dad was stationed in far-flung destinations such as El Paso, Texas; Izmir, Turkey; Augusta, Ga.; and Anchorage, Alaska.
The military lifestyle can be a challenge for some families, especially kids: Just when you seem to get settled in somewhere, it’s time to move and make new friends in a new school.
But Wilson sees his childhood as a gift, forcing him to come out of his shell and develop personal skills at an early age.
“It’s easier for me to just go have a conversation with somebody,” Wilson says. “I’ve always had to do it, because I’ve always had to make new friends and get to know people around me.”
He also got to see more of the world than most kids.
“Not a lot of people get to Turkey in their lifetimes,” Wilson says. “Not only that, a lot of people don’t get to leave the state where they live, or out of their region, in this country. Just the traveling and meeting all different types of people from everywhere in the world, just doing those type of things — things that people don’t do on a regular basis — I think that’s a great experience that’s kind of hard to get from somewhere else.”
Wilson says his experiences growing up will help him later in life. Before coming to Marquette, he went to a boarding school in Connecticut. And because his family now lives in Anchorage —where his father works as a contractor on an Air Force base — he only gets a few trips home every year.
“Once I get done with Marquette, and have to move somewhere else, I can easily adapt because I’ve been through it four or five times in my life,” Wilson says. “It was fun, though.”
That said, he and his two brothers have decided that the military life isn’t for them.
“You have to really be focused and know what you’re getting yourself into,” Wilson says. “I don’t think me or my brothers ever wanted to do that.”
Going into the Carrier Classic, a game set up to benefit several military-themed charities, Wilson says his father’s experiences have given him a deeper appreciation for what’s required of men and women in the armed forces.
“Having a military father, you can see a lot of those things firsthand,” Wilson says. “I think that’s what makes it a little bit different for me than everyone else.”