Virginia’s Isaiah Wilkins, stepson of NBA legend Dominique Wilkins, forges his own path

first_img Published on January 23, 2016 at 9:34 pm Contact Paul: pmschwed@syr.edu | @pschweds Again and again Isaiah Wilkins launched himself toward the basket on the driveway outside his grandfather’s house. At first he couldn’t jump high enough. Then he could only graze the rim. He tried hoisting the ball up with two hands to compensate. All he wanted to do was dunk, but years passed and he never could.His continued frustration once boiled over, kicking the ball and smashing the garage window.“It was things like that that I knew he was adamant about, dunking the basketball,” Isaiah’s grandfather, James Taylor said.The skill that helped make Isaiah’s stepfather, Dominique Wilkins, famous was one he initially struggled to master until he was 15. It’s just one example of how his career differs from the NBA Hall of Famer’s. Being known solely as the stepson of Dominique Wilkins is an identity Isaiah wants to shed. The forward for No. 13 Virginia (14-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast) credits his grandfather, not his stepfather, as being the most influential person in his basketball career. And he’ll continue shaping his own name when UVA hosts Syracuse on Sunday at 7 p.m.Isaiah Wilkins’ relationship with the nine-time NBA All-Star is fickle. Taylor described Dominique more as a provider than a father-figure. He’d take Isaiah to Atlanta Hawks games, All-Star games and even got his stepson to be a ball boy at the 2010 Olympics in Beijing. But he isn’t always there for Isaiah the way Taylor is.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I feel like I’m doing my own things, trying to pave my own way,” Isaiah said. “I feel like it’s important that my granddad gets the credit because he’s really helped me pretty much since I was born.”After every Virginia game, Taylor texts Isaiah and shares his thoughts on the game. Taylor knows his grandson wants to make it to the NBA and, though he tries to be positive, lets Isaiah know how he assesses his progress.When Isaiah’s biological father pulled him out of a private high school to avoid paying tuition, Taylor offered to pay it and got him back in. He wants to make sure his grandson has the most opportunities to succeed.“One of the things I think he appreciates, just somebody being on his back, having him go through that process and just being that for him,” Taylor said. “He can call me at anytime, it doesn’t matter, day or night.”Dominique started dating Isaiah’s mom when he was about 7 years old. At first, he didn’t know his eventual stepdad was such a popular celebrity. Being around him at Hawks games, though, he quickly learned of his significance.Isaiah met Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and other basketball legends because of his stepdad. He’d come back and tell Taylor about his memorable experiences.“I think that also helped Isaiah develop his passion for basketball,” Taylor said.Regardless, Isaiah said he doesn’t talk much about his own game with Dominique. They’re in touch occasionally and it’s usually just to check in.With each passing day, he’s doing more and more to shake the legacy he can’t control and write the one he can. While at an AAU tournament that Wilkins was playing in, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett was scouting Washington’s Noah Dickerson. But Wilkins stood out with his play on the court, not by the name on the roster.“I had noticed this young man’s a good player that was playing with a lot of energy and passion,” Bennett said, “… and I think someone pointed out, ‘that’s Dominique Wilkins’stepson.’ That’s about the extent of it.”Wilkins sees himself as his own person, and he appreciates when others, like Bennett, see the same. Over the years, Wilkins’ dunking ability has come around.He still can’t dunk like Dominique Wilkins — at least not yet — but he also doesn’t have to. Isaiah may hold Wilkins’ name and expectations from some that come with it, but he’s just trying to be Isaiah.“I really, really value Coach Bennett as a coach and as a person, because he never really paid attention to the last name,” Wilkins said. “That was the least important thing for him. I just thought that was really cool because for me, it’s just a name.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

No Comments yet, be the first to reply

Virginia’s Isaiah Wilkins, stepson of NBA legend Dominique Wilkins, forges his own path