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Ben Wilson (basketball)

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Position  Guard / Forward
Listed weight  180 lb (82 kg)
Children  Brandon Wilson
Listed height  6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Height  2.01 m
Nationality  American
Role  Basketball player
League  Chicago Public League
Name  Ben Wilson

Smiling Ben Wilson wearing a blue jersey
Born  March 18, 1967 Chicago, Illinois (1967-03-18)
High school  Simeon (Chicago, Illinois)
Died  November 21, 1984, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Education  University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
Parents  Mary Wilson, Benjamin Wilson Sr
Similar People  Len Bias, Nick Anderson, Brandon Rush, Jabari Parker, Hank Gathers

Ben benji wilson on cbs chicago 27 years later pain lingers from ben wilson s death


Benjamin "Ben" Wilson Jr., also referred to as "Benji", (March 18, 1967 – November 21, 1984) was an American high school basketball player from Neal F. Simeon Vocational High School in Chicago, Illinois, who was regarded as the top high school player in the entire United States entering his senior season. He was the first player from Chicago to receive this honor. On November 20, 1984, Wilson was shot twice during a confrontation with a student from a nearby high school. He died the next morning due to the injuries he sustained in the shooting.

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Ben wilson high school highlights


Early life

Born in 1967, Wilson was one of three children born to Ben Wilson Sr. and Mary Wilson (née Gunter) and was raised in the Chatham neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Mary Wilson had two sons from a previous marriage. Wilson began playing basketball at an early age, starting in elementary school. He started at St. Dorothy School and later transferred to Ruggles Elementary School, graduating in 1981. Wilson practiced at Cole Park in Chatham and participated in summer league games in Chicago. As his game developed, friends and family surrounding Wilson began to notice that his talent could make him one of the best, if not the best, players in the sport. They made it a point to protect Wilson from trouble as he got older; as he was entering high school, the nationwide crack epidemic was in full swing and some of the people closest to Wilson, including his older brother Curtis Glenn, became addicted. Chicago's violent crime rate was very high during this time as well, especially in the South Side.

High school career

Smiling Ben Wilson wearing a basketball jersey on the upper, and a city with his name on the lower

In the fall of 1981, he began his freshman year at Simeon. During the 1982–83 season, Wilson was the only sophomore on the varsity basketball team. For the 1983–84 season, Simeon advanced to the Illinois AA State Championship, which was held at Assembly Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Behind Wilson, Simeon defeated West Aurora High School by nine points in the semifinals and followed it up with a victory over top-ranked Evanston Township High School to win their first ever state title. ESPN HS regarded Wilson as the best junior in the country for the 1983–84 season. He would play basketball with R. Kelly and Nick Anderson.

Athletes For Better Education (AFBE)

Smiling Ben Wilson wearing a blue basketball jersey

In July 1984, Wilson attended the invitation-only Athletes For Better Education camp in Princeton, New Jersey. The camp allowed scouts and coaches to watch top high school students in a single location. After the week-long event, Wilson was ranked the number-one high school player in America. As his senior season approached, it was believed that Wilson was considering scholarship offers from the University of Illinois, DePaul University and Indiana University.

The setting

Ben Wilson playing basketball

On November 20, 1984, Ben Wilson skipped lunching with teammates to talk to his girlfriend, Jetun Rush. Dating Wilson since their junior year, she was—for unclear reasons—avoiding Wilson, and refused to let him see their son, Brandon. In a heated dispute, trying to force her to talk, Wilson grabbed Rush. Trying to split the pair, a teacher was shoved down by Wilson, who was then suspended temporarily from school.

Billy Moore, a student of nearby Calumet High School, had gone to Simeon's campus with a pistol to avenge his own cousin's mugging of $10 by a Simeon student. Moore and his friend Omar Dixon discovered the conflict already peacefully resolved, but chose to await their friend Erica Murphy, a Simeon student. While she completed a purchase in a luncheonette frequented by Simeon students, Moore and Dixon waited outside it.

The shooting

Billy Moore's account contradicts both his signed confession and the testimony of Wilson's girlfriend, Jetun Rush. In the account, Ben Wilson and Rush had been behind Moore's group when Rush departed. Chasing her, Wilson bumped Moore, who commanded Wilson to watch where he was going. Wilson turned and retorted. As they exchanged expletives, Wilson challenged and approached Moore. While Rush tried to deter Wilson, Moore exposed the .22-caliber revolver.

Seeing Moore's pistol, Wilson taunted and goaded Moore. Feeling that Wilson was "punking" him, Moore drew the pistol. Wilson lunged at Moore, who fired twice. The first shot hit Wilson's groin, and the second shot struck's Wilson abdomen. Moore and Dixon then fled. Within minutes, word of the shooting reached Simeon's campus, and a crowd gathered near Wilson. Simeon basketball coach Bob Hambric called Chicago newsman Warner Saunders (of WMAQ-TV). A call reached 911 at 12:37 PM.

By 1:20 PM, as coach Hambric headed toward his own car to drive Wilson to the hospital, the ambulance arrived. According to Chicago's then emergency protocol, Wilson was taken to the nearest available hospital. That happened to be the Englewood section's small community hospital, lacking a trauma center or even an emergency surgeon. Once St. Bernard Hospital received Wilson, a call was issued for any available trauma surgeon to report to St. Bernard. Wilson did not enter surgery until 3:14 PM.

The aftermath

At Simeon, the basketball team remained sequestered in the teachers' lounge for the rest of the day. Wilson's teammate Teri Sampson recalls that throughout the night, the reports progressively worsened, going from Wilson possibly recovering in time for the state playoffs, to perhaps missing a year of play, to possibly never playing again, to fighting for his life. The second shot damaged Wilson's liver and aorta, the latter injury ruining blood supply to his legs. Early the next morning, believing that her son would not emerge from a persistent vegetative state, Mary Wilson chose removal of life support, and Ben Wilson soon died.

Soon after the shooting, Erica Murphy found the shooter, Billy Moore, in her own home watching television, how Moore learned the identify of whom he had shot. That evening, police arrested Moore at her residence. Dixon's arrest followed. Police presented both suspects with a case theory that after Moore's conflict with Wilson, Dixon tried to pick Wilson's pockets, and then urged Moore to shoot Wilson. The suspects signed prepared confessions accordingly, and were booked for robbery and attempted murder—the latter soon upgraded to murder. In 1985, both were convicted. Moore was sentenced to 40 years, and Dixon to 30 years.

The Wilson family's lawsuit against the hospital for inappropriate delay of medical care was settled in 1992 for an undisclosed amount. Dixon was released on parole in 2000, and Moore in 2005. Dixon later began an unrelated sentence for armed robbery, although Moore, interviewed in Benji, claims that his own confession was coerced, and that Dixon was not involved in Wilson's shooting. Wilson died the morning before Simeon's season opener, starting Simeon's defense of its state championship. Choosing to play the game as scheduled, his teammates won this finals rematch against Evanston.

Personal life

Wilson was nicknamed "Magic Johnson with a jump shot" by his Simeon coach, Bob Hambric. He had one son, Brandon Wilson (b. September 1984), with his high school girlfriend Jetun Rush. Brandon, who was 10 weeks old when his father died, became a top high school basketball player and went on to play at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore; wearing Wilson's number 25.

Legacy

Wilson's friend and Simeon teammate, former NBA and University of Illinois basketball player Nick Anderson, wore jersey number 25 during his career in Wilson's honor. Juwan Howard wore 25 at the University of Michigan as a tribute to Wilson. Former New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose, who graduated from Simeon in 2007, wore number 25, and the team won the state championship in 2006 and 2007. He also wore number 25 with the New York Knicks, after being traded from Wilson's and his own hometown team Chicago Bulls. Simeon basketball player Jabari Parker had the number 25 stitched into the team sneakers during his time at Simeon. Following Nick Anderson's tribute to Wilson in wearing number 25 at Illinois, many others who graduated from Simeon and moved on to play for the Illini have carried on the tradition of wearing the jersey number 25. In the years since his murder in 1984, Deon Thomas, Bryant Notree, Calvin Brock, and Kendrick Nunn have all worn 25 during their basketball career at Illinois to honor Wilson. ESPN premiered a documentary on Wilson titled Benji on October 23, 2012.

References

Ben Wilson (basketball) Wikipedia


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