D'Mari Wiltz Photo

Wiltz stares down a defender as he takes the ball through half-court. 

It has been a busy last week for the Howard Hawks athletic programs. The women’s basketball team recently gained three new commits that will arrive on campus in the fall. Also, the Lady Hawks softball team had another standout player commit to playing at the next level.

The most recent news coming from Howard is that the Hawks men’s basketball team has now gained one of their own commits.

D’Mari Wiltz is an athletic point guard with a competitive streak and the ability to score the ball and facilitate for his teammates. He played his high school basketball in New Orleans at St. Augustine High School and finished the last two seasons as the State Runner-Up.

Howard has had several players from St. Augustine in the past and Raines says that Louisiana has been a recruiting hot spot for the Hawks over the last 20 years.

So, why did Wiltz choose to bring his talents to Big Spring?

“The coaches were really welcoming and they welcomed me in,” Wiltz said. “We talked a lot. We talked mostly every day and they welcomed me in as family. The assistant coach at Howard coached my high school coach when he was in junior college so that relationship also played a part in it just knowing that my high school coach came up under him and they have a similar coaching style.”

Raines is a hard-nosed coach who is also loyal and dedicated to each and every one of his players. His assistant, Junsie Cotten, also plays a big part in recruiting future Hawk players. With such a strong connection between Cotten and Wiltz’ high school coach, the pairing seemed destined to happen.

Why did Raines want to add Wiltz to the roster?

“We had a really good read on him and he fits exactly what we’re looking for,” he said. “He’s a really talented attack-the-basket type of player who can play with the ball in his hands and we really liked his competitiveness and toughness.”

Howard is losing two starting guards in Klay Brown and Eric Reed Jr. and will need to replace their production in the upcoming season. Wiltz has the skills to step in right away and be an instant contributor and could make a nice complement starting next to returning guard Tucson Redding.

“We think he’s a guy that comes in and really makes an impact right away,” Raines said.

Wiltz has big-game experience from making it all the way to the Louisiana 5A State Championship the past two seasons and can use that to his advantage. Even though a lot of Howard players transfer in from higher level colleges, Wiltz should never feel out of place when he arrives at his first practice of the year.

Even though some players come from Division I programs to try to boost their stock after a down year, Raines will only start the players who work hard and prove themselves in his high-intensity practices.

“I talk a lot and I’m a leader,” Wiltz said. “I talk to the team throughout practice, I’m really vocal throughout the whole game and I’ll be the loudest one in the gym. I just make sure everybody on my team is doing right and everyone is focused.”

Wiltz has already set some goals for himself for the next season and seems determined to accomplish them. In a dream scenario, Wiltz will step up as one of the top junior college guards in the country and take home Western Junior College Athletic Conference (WJCAC) Player of the Year. He would also like to show enough on the court to receive a scholarship from a four-year university after his freshman year at Howard.

Moving to a small town like Big Spring from a large city such as New Orleans will be a major culture shock but Wiltz is prepared for his time at Howard.

“I’m ready to meet some new people and just prepare for what’s next because being in a small town is really going to help me because I won’t have many distractions,” Wiltz said.

Raines has sent dozens of players to four-year universities following their time as a Howard Hawk and Wiltz is looking to be the next name added to the list.

During his time at Howard, Wiltz will be able to focus on school and basketball with no outside distractions. Even though it is a small town, Wiltz will always have his teammates and coaches to lean on and learn from.

And, of course, the gym never closes.

“All I do is wake up and I want to go ball,” Wiltz said. “And Coach told me the gym is open 24/7, so I’m going to be in there a lot.”

Shawn Moran is the sportswriter at the Big Spring Herald. To contact him, e-mail sports@bigspringherald.com or call 432-263-7331.

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