Former Laurel resident Wilson brings energy off the bench at George Mason University

AJ Wilson got a pass from a teammate and concluded the fast break with a thunderous dunk after he drove down the lane late in a men’s college basketball game for George Mason University.

The slam gave the Patriots an 11-point with 3:50 left in the game and the Patriots held on for a 69-65 victory at home on Nov. 17 against Southern, of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Wilson, from Laurel, once again came off the bench to provide energy for George Mason as it posted its first win of the season after three losses.

The red-shirt sophomore forward made four of five shots from the field and was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.

He finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks in just 27 minutes of action. The double-double was the second in his college career.

“I thought AJ Wilson was nothing short of phenomenal tonight," said Dave Paulsen, the fourth-year head coach. "Offensively, defensively, on the glass, blocking shots. He gave us great energy."

The Patriots began the season with a loss at home on Nov. 6 to Penn, which won the Ivy League title last season.

Sitting courtside was former George Mason baseball standout Justin Bour, who finished last season as a backup first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. Nearby was former Washington Redskins defensive back Darrell Green, a Hall of Famer who now works in athletics for George Mason.

At the south baseline was Doc Nix & The Green Machine, perhaps one of the best college basketball student bands in the country.

“It definitely feels good to be back in front of Mason Nation and playing again,” Wilson said.

Wilson will again provide plenty of energy off the bench as one of the key reserves for Paulsen.

George Mason was picked to finish fourth this season in the Atlantic 10 Conference, which sent Davidson, Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure to the NCAA tournament last March.

Last season, the 6-foot-7 Wilson played in 31 of 33 games and averaged 11.6 minutes, 3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds per contest.

In his first seven games this season for the 2-5 squad, he is averaging 6.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 15.7 minutes per game. His 17 blocked shots lead the team.

The Patriots got an early start on the season when they took a trip to Spain this past summer, playing games against local club teams and seeing the sights in Spain.

Wilson had been to Mexico, but had never been to Europe.

“Spain was definitely different as far as the culture and it was really hot,” he said. “Getting to learn a whole culture was great. I enjoyed the beaches. I went jet skiing for the first time over there. We visited a church that was really huge.”

The NCAA allows college teams to make one overseas trip every four years, if the school so chooses.

An overseas trip allows a team to make up to 10 extra practices if they so desire.

“It definitely gave us a sense of putting a fire underneath us,” said Wilson, who added the summer would not have been as intense without an overseas trip to focus on.

Wilson grew up in Laurel and was friends with Naji Marshall, who went to Eleanor Roosevelt High and now plays basketball for Division I Xavier as a freshman.

Wilson attended Deerfield Run and Montpelier elementary schools in Laurel.

He went to Bowie High as a freshman, DuVal High, in Lanham, as a sophomore and Montrose Christian as a junior. His last year of high school was at ELEV8 Prep Academy, in Florida.

This is the third season for Wilson with the Patriots, including a redshirt season in 2016-17.

“It definitely feels good to play in front of Mason (fans) before we start traveling,” Wilson said. “I feel like it gives the community a way to connect.”

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