Prep Basketball: Salisbury’s Wylie signs with Elizabeth City State

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 15, 2009

By Mike London
It took overtime, but Salisbury senior De’Rya Wylie is 2-for-2 on the goals she set prior to the basketball season.
She wanted to win a 2A state championship. The Hornets did that.
She wanted to earn a basketball scholarship. Now she’s done that.
Wylie, the Hornets’ tireless overachiever, the glue for many of Salisbury’s 110 wins over the past four seasons, has found a home. She signed with Elizabeth City State earlier this week.
“I remember calling De’Rya in before the season and asking her about the goals she wanted to set,” Salisbury coach Andrew Mitchell said. “No. 1 on her list was a college scholarship so her mom wouldn’t have to pay. I asked her if she really believed she could do that, and she told me she did.
“De’Rya believed it, and she did everything she could to achieve that goal. No one is more deserving. No one worked harder.”
Wylie has to work like crazy because her skill set and her height aren’t a perfect match.
She’s always played in the post, but she’s 5-foot-8 in the Sam Moir Christmas Classic program, and even that modest listing may be optimistic.
It required maybe 30 seconds for the average basketball fan to figure out Wylie’s teammates Shi-Heria Shipp and Bubbles Phifer were blessed with serious talent and were college prospects.
Shipp has the height, vision, skills and speed. Phifer has unlimited range and crazy quickness.
Wylie was the girl that brought the hard hat and lunch pail. She was the one with the bumps and bruises. She’s never impressed anyone in 30 seconds.
But give Wylie five games, and she grows on you. She was the toughest, roughest and hungriest of the Hornets, and she took ó and dished out ó a physical pounding. And when times were lean, when adversity was peeking its ugly head into the locker room, she was the one still smiling, the one teammates turned to.
Mitchell described Wylie as the “liaison” between players and coaches. If there was a problem, Wylie helped smooth the rough edges.
“De’Rya was great to play with,” sophomore Ayanna Holmes said. “She’s an encouraging person, and we looked up to her. Those times we lost, she was the one that told everyone to keep their heads up, to let it go, to get the next one.”
Salisbury won its championship in mid-March. Wylie finished her career with 957 points (10th in school history), a remarkable total for someone who got her points on stickbacks and free throws. She posted a pair of 23-point games as a senior. She made her third straight all-county team.
Still, she was a 5-8 girl who’d played in the post all her life so no one was beating down Mitchell’s door.
It turned out the college most interested was Elizabeth City State, a CIAA school that had named Alico Dunk, a former East Carolina star, as its interim head coach a handful of days before Wylie played in the state-championship game.
Mitchell coached Livingstone for years in the CIAA ranks, and he knew in his heart there was a place for Wylie in the league. ECSU thought so too.
“Elizabeth City’s coach came to watch De’Rya play and saw he could do some things with her,” Mitchell said. “He saw she could defend either 2s or 3s.”
Elizabeth City State is in the northeast corner of North Carolina. Mitchell asked Wylie if she’d be willing to travel that far. It’s five hours, almost 300 miles from Salisbury.
Not a problem. Wylie would have gone to Mars.
“I told Coach I was willing to go anywhere for a chance to play ball and go to school,” Wylie said. “I went up there to try outó and it is a long way ó but I liked it a lot.”
Best of all, Elizabeth State really liked her.
“They’ve got a new coach wanting to bring in fresh people to the program, and I’ll be one of them,” Wylie said. “They don’t think I’m too short. They kinda like me the way I am.”
Wylie is one of the more popular students at Salisbury, stemming from her good work in the classroom, and school office as well as athletics. She’s paid dues with volleyball and softball teams that seldom won. Payback was always sweet on the basketball court.
“We were always successful there,” Wylie said with a laugh. “And there’s no better memory than winning a state championship.”
That state-championship victory against Graham ó Wylie contributed 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds ó will likely be her curtain call in the paint.
She’ll spend this summer working on her outside shot, her dribbling and her pullup jumper, and anyone who has watched Wylie punch the clock and go to work has faith she’ll be making 3s by the time she packs her suitcases for Elizabeth City.
“If they want De’Rya to be a guard in college, then she’ll make herself a guard,” Holmes said.
Mitchell shares that confidence. He’s seen Wylie set goals before. He’s watched her achieve them.
“She’s been a post player all her life, but she’s about to be transformed into a guard,” Mitchell said. “She’s got that giant-sized heart. She can do it.”