The student will take on the master when Central Pulse shooter Maia Wilson lines up in the ANZ Championship netball clash against Melbourne Vixens in Wellington on Monday.
Education has been a recurring theme across a number of platforms for the 18-year-old in her first year out of school and living away from home, the learnings from her first steps in the rough and tumble of semi-professional netball being the most visible.
Thrust unexpectedly into the limelight when the experienced Jodi Brown’s season was derailed by injury, Wilson has responded like a seasoned campaigner and shown she belongs. It hasn’t all been plain sailing but the talented teen has not taken a backward step, rising to the challenge in a way that sets her apart.
Still forging her craft, Wilson would be the first to admit she’s got a long way to go, and on Monday, her education will continue when she comes up against one of the game’s most respected defenders in Geva Mentor, the pair at opposite ends of their careers.
``It’s been a huge jump from schoolgirl netball into an ANZ Championship franchise and to come into the starting line-up for this season has been awesome,’’ Wilson said.
``We haven’t been consistent as a team but I’ve been lucky enough that this has been my first taste of ANZ, so I’ve just tried to learn and develop my style of game with each and every outing. Each game has been a new challenge against a new opponent that I’d never played against before.
``A lot of those opponents have been world-class Australian or New Zealand defenders, so that has been a huge learning curve and for me a great way to develop not only my game on the court, but off the court as well.’’
Statistically, Wilson is more than holding her own in select company amongst the competition’s shooting heavyweights, where she sits second on the accuracy standings at 92.4 percent with only the Mystics’ Cathrine Tuivaiti ahead of her.
In many ways, Wilson is just an ordinary teenager, but being a young high achiever on the sporting field, where she has excelled at netball and basketball, there is an acquired wisdom and maturity beyond her years.
With rarely any visible flicker of emotion when in the thick of action, there is, however, a constant burning inner determination to be better. A challenging season with the Pulse has added to the experience bank which Wilson believes will only help her grow and develop into a more complete player.
"There’s going to be ups and downs and we’ve had a fair few of both,’’ she said. "But, I guess, I’m really lucky and honoured to have had this opportunity and specially to get out on court each week.
"I came into this environment not expecting the amount of game time that I’ve had and I’ve cherished every moment of it and I would like to think, even revelled in it, a bit.’’
Fittingly, the trans-Tasman clash between the Pulse and Vixens will be the final game of the regular season in the final edition of the ANZ Championship, the same two teams kick-starting the bold new era of semi-professional netball in 2008.
"Having home court advantage is a bonus,’’ Wilson said. "We need to lower our turnovers while capitalising on our gains and exploit any of their weaknesses. Consistency is the key for us and hopefully we can bring that to the game.’’
It’s a must-win game for both teams if they’re to have any chance of clinching the all-important third spots in their respective conferences.
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