Valencia Wilson had vivid plans for senior night. She started putting together the details two years ago.
“It was going to be big,” Wilson said. “It was going to be my first senior group and there were things they wanted and I wanted.
“I’m a big Lakers fan, so they were going to come with the smoke. And they wanted flashing lights. All we needed to do was put it all together.”
There was a decidedly different vision Friday night. Wilson was in the stands watching as Chelsea Singleton scored 14 points to help Episcopal beat Dunham to clinch the District 8-2A title.
Across town, Alexus Augustus scored eight points in Madison Prep’s win over East Feliciana. Shardae Melancon missed that game for the Chargers because of the flu.
What would have been senior night for the players and their coach at Redemptorist turned into something else entirely after the school closed last spring.
Next week, all three players move on to the playoffs with their new schools, which means Wilson likely be in the stands somewhere pulling for her former players. First up will likely be a game at MPA.
This wasn’t meant to be a year of reflection and rediscovery for Wilson, but nonetheless, it has been. After leading Redemptorist to prominence that included a quarterfinals berth in 2014 and a No. 4 playoff seed last season, Wilson is on the outside looking in.
She prefers to think of it as a ringside seat and it’s been a wild ride.
The former Capitol High player was hired as the girls coach at Friendship Capitol. Weeks into the school year, Wilson was informed her coach, Alvin Stewart, was coming back to coach the team and was left to find another job.
In October, Wilson started teaching and coaching at St. Helena Central. There was yet another plot twist. She is the assistant boys coach for the Hawks (14-12), who are on track to finish third in District 9-2A.
There’s the outside chance of a playoff berth after the team posted the school’s most boys basketball wins in nine years for head coach Benjamin Morgan and Wilson.
“When the principal, Mr. Reginald Douglas, asked me if I’d consider help coaching the boys, I didn’t hesitate. The school welcomed me with open arms and so did the team. I’ve learned things that I know will serve me well in the future.
“I’ve always been appreciative of the opportunities I’ve gotten as a coach. But I’m more appreciative now. I definitely understand more about the role of an assistant now and I’ll always value that.”
Wilson dismissed the notion of major differences when it comes to coaching boys.
“They’re all teenagers and they’re all going to whine and complain about conditioning and the things they have to do” Wilson said. “As a coach, it’s your job to build them up and make them understand they can do so much more if they keep working.”
There were times when the St. Helena players asked Wilson about her players and her Redemptorist teams. She says the players have been like “sponges,” ever eager to learn.
Having Singleton thank her for support on Friday night, also was rewarding.
“I’m honored to have played some role in what these young ladies are doing and what they’ve become,” Wilson said. “I’m in the background now, but I’m still watching.”
Ultimately, it all comes back to basketball.
“Basketball made me who I am,” Wilson said. “I love to share that and teach it.”