Published Wed, Nov 21, 2012 7:27 pm Dateline
Updated Mon, Nov 26, 2012 2:13 pm
Jim Christian’s initial recruiting class as the head coach of Ohio Men’s Basketball has shaped up nicely. The ‘Cats signed four commits during the early signing period and also have two transfers currently on the roster who will be eligible to play for Ohio next season.
One of the more interesting signings this year is a player with unique size for his skill set and an even more unique basketball pedigree, meet Dontonio Wingfield, Jr., or D.J. for short.
Wingfield is a 6-foot-5, 200-pound small forward in his first season at Walnut Hills High School after having played his first three seasons at Lockland High School, both Cincinnati area schools. He is the son of former University of Cincinnati standout and NBA player Dontonio Wingfield, Sr., who had an interestingly short career with the Seattle Supersonics and Portland Trailblazers that was plagued by off-the-court problems.
“He hasn't really taught me anything because he doesn't live with me, but I know from his career to stay focused, not let the background interfere with what you have going on,” said Wingfield of his father.
It’s not often that an athlete whose father was a highly talented player and successful AAU coach does not get to learn much on the court from his dad, but in Wingfield’s case the talent came naturally and the lessons his father provided on what not to do were more valuable than anything he could show him on the court.
Wingfield, Sr., is a legend in the state of Georgia, where in the early 1990’s at Westover High School in Albany, the 6-foot-8 forward was dominant on the courts. He helped lead Westover to four straight state championships and played one season at the University of Cincinnati before enter the 1994 NBA draft. Yet just four seasons later Wingfield, Sr., was out of the NBA.
Wingfield, Sr.’s career is an example of what not to do. With multiple run ins with authorities during his career, including a 1998 arrest for assaulting two police officers that resulted in him being sentenced to a year in jail, Wingfield, Sr., was an ill-equipped young man with an immense amount of pressure on him and an even worse way of dealing with it. The former college star eventually turned his life around and became heavily involved in Albany area organizations that aim at helping troubled youths where he provides his lessons learned the hard way as an example for young kids throughout the city.
Despite repeated attempts to reach Wingfield, Sr. for this article, no calls were returned.
D.J. Wingfield, who was born in Cincinnati during his father’s first season in the NBA, grew up under the watch of his mother, Kristina Cornett, a nursing assistant in the Cincinnati area. Wingfield is very appreciative of his mother’s guidance.
“Ever since (I was born), she's been taking care of me, single handily. She's the one that gets me to AAU and provided for me. She keeps me focused in school as well as in the game,” Wingfield said of his mother, whom he sees as a role model.
His mother’s determination and constant reinforcement for her son has helped Wingfield on the court. He has a demeanor and mental toughness unusual for a player his age.
“He doesn’t show a lot of emotion, whether he’s upset, or happy, on the court he doesn’t show it. He definitely uses that to his advantage,” said Walnut Hills head coach Ricardo Hill about his star player’s maturity.
“His size and ability to make people around him better, he can carry the team on his back,” Coach Hill added when asked about Wingfield’s best assets as a ball player.
Wingfield, who was named Division IV Player of the Year for his junior season by the Cincinnati Enquirer, is an excellent ball handler. At 6-foot-5-inches he has the natural skills of a point guard and the size of an NBA shooting guard.
“His biggest asset is his ability to make other people better. He makes great decisions with the ball. We play him at the two and three positions, but ideally he’d be a point guard,” said Coach Hill.
Wingfield’s combination of skills and maturity caught the attention of nearly 20 schools, including Cincinnati, Ohio State, West Virginia and Xavier. Wingfield ultimately chose Ohio after getting to know his future head coach.
“Meeting (Jim Christian), I really believed in him, what he had to say and what he had to offer. I trusted him, I knew when I met him I had made the right choice in going to Ohio,” said Wingfield.
Wingfield will look to improve upon his skills as a scorer while providing excellent distribution abilities and a team-first attitude for the ‘Cats next season. His excellent vertical skills and ability to attack the basket make him a potential scoring threat for a team that loses two scoring guards after this season in Walter Offutt and D.J. Cooper to graduation.
However, Wingfield’s demeanor, instilled in him from lessons learned of his father’s past and the love and positive reinforcement of his mother, will be the most valuable asset he brings to the Convocation Center when he puts on the Green and White next fall.
Wingfield believes he can add to the strong mental fortitude that Ohio has developed in recent years with his own mental toughness.
“(I try to) forget if I make a mistake, forgetting it real quick and what I do next cancels out the mistake I did,” he said.
Something his coach and many around him tend to agree with. Something instilled in him by his mother’s sacrifices for him and his father’s missteps as a ball player. Though they may not have spent much time around one another it’s clear to see that Wingfield Sr. has had an impact on who D.J. Wingfield is as a person and ballplayer, an impact for the better.