The wide-eyed 5-year-old is sitting in the locker room next to his father, who is giving a pregame speech to his basketball team. As the father wraps up his talk, he is ready to deliver his trademark ending, but the son beats him to the punch – “and have some fun!”
The locker room scene during his tenure at Tucker let Carter Wilson know his son was paying attention. And that realization would pay dividends for both years later.
Carter Wilson had been keeping his only child Nic in tow with him throughout his basketball coaching career, which included stints as a head coach at Georgia State University and Tucker High School before landing him back at Decatur High School in 2000.
A native of Decatur, Carter Wilson played basketball there and was a member of the 1972 state-runner up team. After college, he returned to his high school alma mater to coach basketball from 1979-85 before taking a job as a GSU assistant. He became the head coach at the Atlanta university in 1994.
Carter Wilson had figured to be out of the coaching business by the time his son entered high school. He had never coached his son in any sport at any level and had no intention of starting once Nic reached high school.
That plan fell apart three years ago when Nic made the varsity as a sophomore at Decatur.
“I didn’t want our paths to cross at all,” Carter Wilson said. “I wanted him to hear other coaches. I always advised him to ‘listen to your coach, this is who you play for.’
“But after having done this, it’s been the greatest experience for me personally and as a coach,” Carter Wilson continued. “When you have a guy as coachable as he is playing for us, he’s one of the reasons that has made the program into what it is in the past three years.”
Decatur (22-5) opened the state Class AA playoffs with a 58-43 win over Chattooga and faced Callaway on the road March 3. The Bulldogs have advanced to the second round two straight seasons.
“I get to go home and talk through stuff with him,” Nic said. “The most important thing is you have more time to figure out what’s going wrong.”
Not much has gone wrong for the younger Wilson as he is one of two go-to players for Decatur. He also hopes to continue his athletic career into college on the baseball field. A 6-foot-6 first baseman, Nic performed well at a recent all-American baseball camp in Arizona. He is hopeful of getting a college baseball scholarship.
Ironically, it is a baseball bond that keeps the pair close off the basketball court.
“I’m a baseball guy and my dad is too,” Nic said. “He always says it’s his favorite sport – he’s seen every one of my high school games.”
But the bond goes deeper than that. The father and son have a tradition of visiting as many Major League ballparks as they can. Together, they’ve been to games at the old Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Wrigley Field in Chicago and to parks in Houston and Arlington, Texas, Kansas City, San Diego and Tampa.
“We’re running out of time, so I told him you’ve got to do something with baseball so you can take me to some of these other parks,” Carter Wilson said.
Lessons learned on and off the basketball court have made an impact on the younger Wilson.
“Every coach has a different feel for the game and what they think is correct,” Nic said. “He’s definitely got a pretty good handle on it.”
That grasp came with the help of former Decatur and GSU coach Bob Rhinehart, who also coached his son at Decatur.
“I’ve had to learn how to hold him to the same standard as everyone else,” Carter Wilson said. “I tried to stay focused; I got that directly from Bob Rhinehart. He told me make sure there is only one standard.”
Carter Wilson not only accomplished that, but can rest assured his son was taking notice.
“He does things the right way with everything he does,” Nic said.