Southern California College forward Terence Wilborn knows what it’s like to play basketball with and against the best.
A starter for Mater Dei from 1990-91 to 1992-93, Wilborn helped the Monarchs to 67-4 record in his final two seasons. Only Jason Kidd’s Alameda St. Joseph (in the 1992 state final) and Kris Johnson’s Los Angeles Crenshaw (in the 1993 Southern California final) could stop Mater Dei in the playoffs those years.
Six members of that team, including Arizona star Miles Simon, moved on to play college basketball at its highest level. Of those, only Wilborn is no longer playing NCAA Division I ball.
Wilborn has taken a few steps down, transferring from San Jose State to SCC, trading the NCAA’s Western Athletic Conference for the NAIA’s Golden State Athletic Conference.
He says he did it because his greatest love--basketball--became a grind at San Jose and because he had a falling out with San Jose Coach Stan Morrison.
“I do wish I still was playing Division I,” Wilborn said, “but I’d play at a lower level than this to be happy.”
At San Jose State he was mostly frustrated. As a redshirt freshman in the 1994-95 season, he started 11 games, averaging five points and three rebounds. But the Spartans suffered through a dismal season, going 4-23. Wilborn said the players didn’t get along--on or off the court--and after that season, he strongly considered transferring.
Morrison persuaded Wilborn to return, promising, Wilborn said, that things would get better and that he would continue to be an important part of the team.
Last season, however, the Spartans continued to struggle, losing their first five games of the season, and Wilborn’s playing time started to dwindle. Wilborn said the reasons were never explained to him and after he barely played in the seventh game of the season, he decided to quit. “I felt I was lied to,” Wilborn said.
Morrison said it was merely a case of other players performing better than Wilborn. “Frankly, the fellows playing ahead of him were passing him up by a good margin,” Morrison said.
After Wilborn left, the Spartans eventually turned around their season, winning the Big West Conference tournament to get an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Even so, Wilborn said he didn’t second-guess his decision.
“All my friends are telling me, ‘You’re a fool for leaving.’ ” Wilborn said. “I say you know what, ‘I would love to play in the tournament but not for San Jose State.’ ”
Wilborn’s Division I transfer options were limited by NCAA rules, which would have required him to sit out this season and have only one year of eligibility remaining.
So he chose SCC, which offered a scholarship and is near his parents’ home in Anaheim Hills, over Division II Cal Poly Pomona.
Wilborn quickly rekindled his love for the game, but it has taken some time to adjust to the new level of basketball. At first he expected to be a dominant player--a 6-foot-6, 230-pound unstoppable force.
Then he discovered there are other NAIA players with Division I experience or talent or both and decided, with encouragement from SCC Coach Bill Reynolds, to take his time and pick his spots.
“Now every time I touch the ball I don’t dribble and try to take it to the hole,” Wilborn said. “When I was doing that, I was missing every shot.”
And he was turning over the ball too much. Wilborn leads the team in turnovers, averaging nearly three a game, but he’s making progress, Reynolds said. He leads the Vanguards in scoring at 14.6 points and averages 5.6 rebounds.
He also has the team’s highest three-point shooting percentage (42.2%, 19 of 45) and is counted on for tough defense.
Wilborn’s play has helped the Vanguards (17-7, 4-3) get back into the GSAC race. After losing their first three conference games, they have won four in a row, including an 80-78 victory Tuesday against Westmont.
Early in the second half of that game, Wilborn and Reynolds had a disagreement during a timeout and Reynolds benched him for the rest of the game.
They have put the dispute behind them, Wilborn said, and are ready to take on first-place Azusa Pacific (20-5, 7-0) Saturday and the rest of the conference in the weeks to come.
“I would definitely warn the GSAC that we are coming,” Wilborn said. “We are starting to play better and we have a lot of confidence.”