STORY BY CHIP CIRILLO | PHOTO BY DEB SCALLY
Ron Brock knew he had something special from the very beginning.
Faith Wilken scored 20 points in her first high-school game as a freshman and she’s gone on to become Page’s career scoring leader with 1,755 points midway through her senior year.
“She has not slowed down since then,” said Brock, the Page coach.
Wilken is averaging about 19 points for the Lady Patriots (16-3, 5-1), who are contending with teams like top-tier Dickson County, Summit and Brentwood in District 11-AAA and are, as of now, atop the standings.
“She’s probably the fiercest competitor I’ve ever had – I’ve coached 35 years – and she’s non-stop,” Brock said. “She doesn’t quit at all. That’s probably her biggest asset.”
Wilken, a 5-foot-10 guard, developed that trait at a young age in youth sports.
“I’ve just always wanted to win more than anything in the world and so whatever I do I want to be the best at it,” Wilken said. “I know the potential this group has and I want to see us succeed more than anything.”
Wilken doesn’t take winning for granted because Page was 4-20, including a last-place finish in District 12-AA, the year before she arrived.
The Lady Patriots improved to 12-15 her freshman year, 21-11 her sophomore year and 15-12 last season during Page’s first season in 11-AAA.
“Coach Ron Brock came my freshman year, too, and he has found a lot of ways to inspire us to want to win and work hard each day,” Wilken said. “Over the years, we’ve got a bunch of new players that have contributed a lot to our team.”
Brock coached at Ravenwood for five seasons before retiring, unretiring and returning to Page in 2015. He had another stint with the Lady Patriots from 1993-2001.
Wilken signed with Trevecca in November, picking the Trojans (3-9) over North Alabama, Austin Peay and Carson-Newman.
“They’re a Christian school, which really fits well with my personality and beliefs,” Wilken said. “And their proximity to home because I want to be able to see my family. Also, the environment seemed like a really good fit for me.”
She will join another former Williamson County standout, Brentwood’s Izzy Franco, a Trevecca freshman guard.
“(Faith) is extremely talented and I just believe the ceiling is still high for her,” Trevecca coach Chad Hibdon said. “I think that she’s developing her game. Her athleticism, strength and quickness can continue to improve and with that her production can even become greater.”
Page point guard Delaney Noe raves about Wilken’s defensive prowess and versatility.
“She is amazing on defense,” Noe said. “She has the longest arms ever, so it’s really hard to throw over her. If you try to throw under her, she’ll just stick her foot out and kick it. She’s really good at creating her offense, getting open, driving, looking for open people.”
Wilken scored 17 points, including four 3-pointers, in Friday’s 65-23 rout of Ravenwood.
“Oh, she’s a superb player,” Ravenwood coach Mariska Harris said. “She plays so hard on both ends of the floor. She can score outside, she can drive, she’s everywhere on the defensive end and she’s going to be a great player at the next level.”
Wilken scores in a variety of ways: hustle points, putbacks, layups, transition, 3-pointers, mid-range jumpers – the whole arsenal.
Page played a lot of zone defense last season, which suited Wilken well.
“She became real efficient at reading passes and picking them off,” Brock said. “We hoped that teams would revere the ball to her because we just called it the black hole. Because any pass you throw over there it disappeared and you don’t get it back.”
Wilken’s jumping ability, long arms and anticipation make her a tough defender.
“One of my favorite things to do is I will sit back and wait for the other team to think that a pass is open, so I can go and intercept it because people really underestimate my speed and my size,” Wilken said. “I’ll be out of sight, but then all of a sudden I come out of nowhere with the ball.”
Page has switched to a man-to-man defense this season and Wilken is gradually improving with the new approach.
“As coaches, we catch ourselves saying if we could put these three girls together we’d have a great player because that one can shoot, that one can play defense, that one hustles,” Brock said. “(Faith) is that one player you can put everything together in. That’s why every coach would love to have this girl on their team.”
Wilken was quiet as a freshman, but she’s matured into a vocal leader.
Brock said she is probably the best player he’s coached in over three decades of basketball.
Page runs a four-guard/one post offense with one senior, one junior, one sophomore and two freshmen in the starting lineup.
“We’re about fifth in the state in scoring right now,” said Brock, whose team plays an up-tempo game. “We’re averaging 67, 68 points a game.”
Brock puts an emphasis on layups, foul shots and 3-pointers.
“The worst shot you can have in basketball is off the dribble or a mid-range jump shot as far as points per possession,” Brock said.
With an enrollment of 1,139, Page is making the transition from being one of the largest Class AA schools to one of the smallest in AAA.
“We’ve got so many good coaches and teams in this district, it’s a struggle every time you go out on the court,” Brock said of 11-AAA. “You never know how the night is going to go. More talent, depth and consistency with the bigger schools.”
Wilken’s best game of the season was probably an 18-point, 19-rebound performance in a 50-43 win at Brentwood on Dec. 21.
But the game that stands out most in Brock’s mind was a 47-46 upset of Christ Presbyterian Academy in January of Wilken’s sophomore year.
“They had always been the top dog in our district,” Brock said. “There were seven seconds left in the game and we were down one point, and we decided to give the ball to Faith and let her create and see what she could do. We said, ‘It’s all on you.’ ”
Wilken drove from half court to underneath a 6-2 post player in the lane for the winning layup on the left side at the buzzer.
“That’s when I knew the competitor was in her,” Brock said.
Page rallied from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter. Wilken also hit a deep 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining to narrow the deficit to one before her winning drive.
She played volleyball and soccer as a freshman, before dropping those sports to focus on basketball.
Her younger sister, Lili, is a freshman starter at guard in basketball and their mother played guard at Meigs County.
Faith’s favorite basketball player is LeBron James “because he can do it all. He plays all the positions and fights so hard for his team,” Faith said.
Hibdon wants Wilken to work on her physicality of going to the rim to excel as a wing at Trevecca.
“As she continues that progression (of athleticism, strength and quickness), I think there’s a chance for her to be one of the best at Trevecca,” Hibdon said. “I really do.”