Wilson making an impact for Denver women’s basketball

Mary Wilson’s initial exposure to the University of Denver was with a Zoom call and accessing campus photographs on her cell phone.

Not the traditional recruiting procedure, but an effective one.

Wilson, a 5-foot-10 guard who finished her Center Grove basketball career with 1,056 points, was unable to make the trip west for a campus visit due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She nonetheless committed to play for the Pioneers in November of her senior year.

“One of the biggest things I wanted was a good academic school, and I really appreciated the degree I was going to get,” Wilson said. “And I kept looking at pictures of the campus, and was, like, ‘Wow.’”

There are, after all, worse things than having the Rocky Mountains as life’s backdrop.

“I love it here. It’s awesome,” Wilson said. “I love the people here, I love the university and I love my coaches and teammates.”

The sophomore, who carries a double-major (finance and philosophy), and is minoring in business ethics, is impacting the Pioneers on the basketball court this season.

Denver held a 7-11 record entering Thursday night’s game at home against South Dakota with Wilson, a starter the past eight games, averaging 6.3 points. This includes her career-best 25-point outing in the Pioneers 73-60 victory at Kansas City in which Wilson buried seven of her 10 attempts from behind the three-point arc.

Now consider she accounted for 28 points all of her freshman campaign.

“Mary had what I would call a typical freshman year,” third-year Pioneers coach Doshia Woods said. “Oftentimes, freshmen aren’t playing the most minutes, but it’s her understanding of the physicality of the game.

“She’s always been a hard worker, but she understands the system better and in terms of her leadership, she’s really stepped up. That’s impressive because Mary might have said four words all of last season.”

In other words, no matter how picturesque the campus or demanding the academic workload, 1,100 miles (roughly) from home is 1,100 miles from home.

Wilson had no choice but to adjust to new surroundings.

“People always talk about the transition to college. It’s hard. But you add another layer when you’re this far from home,” Wilson said. “You can’t drive a couple hours to get home.

“I was a little bit homesick at first my freshman year. Once I knew everybody, it really made me comfortable.”

The majority of Wilson’s teammates can relate.

Denver’s 15-player roster this season has only one player, freshman forward Mikenzie Jones, who played her high school basketball in Colorado.

In all, the program is made up of players representing nine different states — Wilson is the lone Hoosier — as well as three other countries (Canada, Australia and Israel).

Wilson’s learning curve was made easier due to the fact the 2021-22 Pioneers included two senior players and another two who were graduate students.

“It’s definitely a huge jump. Last season, I was playing behind quite a few upperclassmen, which gave me the opportunity to learn from them,” Wilson said. “It was a time I could sit and observe. Even after my teammates graduated, they said to me, ‘You’ve got this.’ ”

And, as it turns out, she does.