CJ Wilcox sat at a table in the back of Voula’s Offshore Cafe. Wearing a purple and gray sweat suit, Washington’s senior standout packed the remnants of an omelet into a to-go box.
As Wilcox scraped the last of his breakfast from the plate with a fork, his younger brother, Tyson, had a pressing question.
Can we play Sonic?” asked the 5-year-old, who wanted to play a video game.
Wilcox turned toward his brother, picked up an iPad and indulged his sibling. On the other side of the table his mother and confidant, Mandy, and grandmother, Lois – the woman who raised Wilcox the first four years of his life – told stories about his childhood.
With a game against UCLA later that night, the soft-spoken shooter had a few hours to spare before heading to Alaska Airlines Arena for the Huskies’ shootaround. He spent it with his family. The only person who missed the breakfast was his father, Craig, who was flying to Seattle the next day after wrapping up some business meetings.
After the dishes were cleared, Wilcox had one more thing to do before rejoining his teammates. He promised Tyson a “Mario marathon,” on the Nintendo Wii and, when it comes to family, Wilcox always fulfills his obligations.
“He knows what’s important in life,” Mandy said.
Born to ball
Before Wilcox became Washington’s career leader in three-pointers. Before the 6-foot-5 guard became the Huskies’ second all-time leading scorer and a potential NBA draft pick, he was an unofficial mascot for the Brigham Young basketball team.
Born when Craig was a teenager, Lois raised Wilcox during his father’s college career. But, even though Lois lived in Eastman, Ga., she made sure the little boy who always had a basketball in his hands was able to see his father play.
She was recently looking at some photos and came across one from Craig’s senior season. He was posing with his teammates at an NIT game. Perched in a prominent position, was Wilcox, who looked “very pleased with himself.”
When Lois found that photo, tears welled in her eyes as she looked at the child she called “baby Craig.”
“Here’s this one little kid sitting among these giants and I almost cried when I was looking at it,” she said. “We never saw him as being one of those big guys, because he was so little.”
One year before that trip to the NIT, Lois packed Wilcox into the car so he could watch his father play a North Carolina team that featured future NBA stars Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace.
“We got in the car and drove from Eastman to Charlotte, and he was very respectful. Always has been,” Lois said.
Mandy and Craig got married shortly after he graduated from BYU and Wilcox joined the family in Utah.
“I’ve raised him since he was 4,” Mandy said. “To watch him grow from that 4-year-old to the person he is now, it’s great to see.”
When Craig and Mandy bought their first house, they settled on the one with a basketball court in the backyard. Growing up he was a homebody. When he wasn’t shooting a basketball, he was playing video games with friends.
Wilcox spent summers camping with the family, and he rode horses with Mandy. She admits her son enjoyed basketball more than horseback riding but, “He does what’s asked of him and he has a good time.”
“He learned the most valuable lesson he can learn, and that is the importance of work ethic and how that can provide you with value.”
She never could get him to wear a cowboy hat. He always insisted on wearing a backward cap, so Mandy called him her “gangster cowboy.”
When Wilcox got older, he decided he wanted to play guitar, so he took lessons. He continues to play, although he hasn’t picked one up in a few months because of the basketball season.
“If I wasn’t playing basketball, I would want to do something in music,” Wilcox said. “That’s kind of my thing off the floor.”
He has always been willing to try new things, but his first love is basketball.