Just how much has UW-Milwaukee’s men’s basketball roster changed since Bart Lundy took over as coach last March?
So much so that only one scholarship player — Markeith Browning II — remained on the day the Panthers put the wraps on their 2023-24 roster by finalizing the signing of graduate transfer Langston Wilson.
“It’s hard to get even my mind around where this has gone,” Lundy said on Tuesday. “But the versatility, the ability to play at a high level on both sides of the ball, the ability to play different styles and manipulate the game in different ways from a coaching perspective – I look at our roster and think, ‘Wow, I don’t know that we could have done much better than what we did.’
“These guys have to find chemistry and learn how to play together; we have a long way to go. But sitting here in late May, I feel pretty good about things.”
The 6-foot-9 Wilson, who arrives after spending the past two seasons at Washington, is the seventh player to be added since UWM lost to Charlotte in the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational two months ago.
In Wilson, Lundy believes the Panthers landed a difference-maker on both ends of the court.
“People will automatically see the dunks and the highlight plays he can make physically. But the underrated part of his game is he really is a good and willing defender,” he said. “So, being able to guard multiple positions and to use his length and athleticism to guard not only guys inside but outside really, for the way we play, has a ton of value.
“He definitely blocks shots, affects shots. Most of Ahmad (Rand’s) blocks were at the rim but Langston’s may be more on perimeter players, where he blocks jump shots. He and Faizon (Fields, the 6-10 signee who preceded Wilson), really between the two of them, will buffer a lot of what we lost with Ahmad and Moses (Bol).
“People will focus on the offensive end but really, his best attributes might be on the defensive end.”
Wilson didn’t get much of a chance to display his offensive game at Washington other than by using his athleticism and length to score on dunks and putbacks.
At UWM, his role will expand significantly on that end of the floor.
“He’s much more of a face-up player than he is a back-to-the-basket player,” Lundy said. “He’ll have the opportunity here to handle the ball. He’s a guy that can take it off the glass and push it and make decisions with the ball. He can shoot it.
“So really, he is a much different player than what we had at those 4-5 spots. He’s more of a 3-4 type player than he is just a post player. I’ve got to put those guys in positions where they’re doing things that they’re good at and comfortable with.
“He can do stuff with his back to the basket, but he’s much more comfortable being a face-up guy.”
Wilson’s story is also unique in that a heart issue kept him from being able to play high-school basketball; he instead served as team manager. Wilson was eventually cleared by multiple cardiologists in 2019 and then had a terrific junior-college career before eventually signing with Washington.
Enduring those ups and downs, and having already earned his undergraduate degree by the time he arrives at UWM this summer, will make Wilson a valuable addition in the locker room as well.
“With Langston, we’ve added maturity and character. Faizon, same thing,” Lundy said. “Pierce (Spencer) – I think we’ve added a ton of character to our team and guys that are very mature individuals.
“Langston being older, basketball-wise, he didn’t play in high school so he still really has a lot of growth left on the court. But as a college student, his maturity level is off the charts.
“So, that will help us.”