P.K. Yonge guard Ilayzia Wilcox has persevered and on Thursday it paid off.
After missing her entire junior season due to injury, the senior is getting an opportunity to play at the next level.
Wilcox, who signed with Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, played just one regular season game last year, at Columbia (Lake City), but when she returned to practice the next day she tore her Achilles “from doing a simple drill at practice.”
It was tough for Wilcox because she didn’t get to play the game that she loved, but also because she was hesitant to hurry and get back because of how she was feeling mentally. Basketball had been her therapy, but it was taken away.
“Rehab was hard,” Wilcox said. “It hurt. You don’t realize how much you use it (Achilles) until it’s not there or until it’s gone.”
Head coach Willie Powers said Wilcox is “mentally tough.”
“For a young lady who has gone through so much with injuries and other stuff and to be mentally strong enough to play through a year like this, it’s tremendous,” he said. “It just shows a lot about her character.”
The 5’6 guard doesn’t feel like she was at her best but she still averaged 5.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game for the Blue Wave, who finished 16-4 and fell just one game short of a Class 3A final four berth.
Her most memorable game this season was the district championship against Trinity Catholic (Ocala).
“Not even because of me necessarily, just the things I’ve been through with them through this whole year,” she said. “I’m pretty sure you’ve heard my coach talk about this game too, a lot. It was just a big game for us. We played together, we all played our roles, I hit a big 3 that tied us and got the crowd wild.”
She finished with nine points as the Blue Wave defeated the Celtics, 51-47, to win the 3A-District 2 title.
“Probably one of the toughest young ladies I’ve ever coached on the defensive end,” Powers said. “Offensively, she gets baskets when we need them. She’s not afraid of contact.”
Powers described her as a “shooter who will defend you.”
“I think she’ll have a good career there (EWU) because she works hard, she’s not afraid of contact, and she is coachable,” Powers said. “That’s the important part.”
Wilcox, who will study psychology, is finally getting herself back to the speed that she was as a junior.
There was a time when she almost gave up on her dream completely.
“It just means the world to me,” said Wilcox, who noted she could barely get up and push herself to go to the classroom. “I never thought that I would be here at all. I’m just really proud of myself. I can finally say that.”