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Honorable Draftee: The Case for Ben "Benji" Wilson E-mail

The Case for Ben "Benji" Wilson

At the start of the 1983-84 basketball season one thing was clear - Lowell Hamilton was not only Chicago’s top player but one of the nation's top 20 prospects in the 1985 recruiting class. But Ben Wilson would soon surpass Hamilton's glory by becoming Chicago's first to be named the nation’s top recruit.

You can't really blame anyone for sleeping on Wilson. It was only two years prior when he played junior varsity as a freshman, and while he had a solid sophomore year his numbers were modest. Yet it was during this time that things began to take shape for the 6-8 small forward. He adjusted into his quickly growing body while retaining passing and ball handling ability from his days as a guard. Word soon got out about the budding talent and the crazed basketball city of Chicago quickly embraced its newfound native son.

Wilson did not disappoint as he led Simeon High to the state championship with a 30-1 record and success did not stop there. He was invited to attend the prestigious Nike All-American camp where his versatility and feel for the game led many recruiting observers and head coaches to label Wilson the top player in the nation.

Heading into his senior year Wilson was on top of the basketball world. Simeon was a lock to repeat as State champs with Wilson, which became even more assured when he convinced his childhood friend and future NBA player, Nick Anderson, to transfer from Prosser High School.

Illinois, DePaul, and Indiana waited with baited breath to hear if Wilson would select their program. At 17 years-old he was also a new father to a baby boy. His future seemed all but set - just a few years in college before cashing in on the NBA.

The Problem

It was a warm November day; the kind that reminds you of spring. Wilson was just a few days from playing the first game of his much anticipated senior year. He and his high school sweetheart, Jetun Rush, decided to take a walk a few blocks from Simeon's campus. No one would have guessed that the events to unfold on this beautiful day would result in Wilson's murder.

Billy Moore and Omar Dixon were freshmen at Calumet High School looking for someone to pick a fight with. On the streets many youth look for ways to build up their reputation - a means of solidifying their "credentials" to intimidate enemies or strengthen alliances. The pair deliberately took up the entire sidewalk as Wilson and his girlfriend approached. He walked between them and accidentally bumped one of the boys. Wilson immediately excused himself but his so-called act of disrespect angered the two youths. Moore brandished a .22 caliber gun and attempted to rob Wilson but, encouraged by Dixon, went on to shoot Wilson in the chest after he refused to hand over his money.

The thugs ran off leaving their victim slumped against a metal fence. Wilson was rushed to St. Bernard Hospital where it was determined that the small bullet did a huge amount of damage as it pierced his liver and aorta. The next day doctors advised Wilson's parents of his grave condition. He was removed from life support and passed away.


The explosion of publicity and public anger over the event made gang arrests more frequent. Billy Moore was sentenced to 40 years for the murder of Ben Wilson while his accomplice, Omar Dixon, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

It was not only Wilson's athletic ability that caused him to be liked by his peers. Everyone enjoyed his humble and charismatic spark. His wake lasted 12 hours and was attended by more than 10,000 people.

Wilson left behind a legacy as his life became a symbol of hope among Chicago youth. After graduation his best friend, Nick Anderson, wore Wilson's number 25 at Illinois in his honor. Simeon head coach Bob Hambric decided to follow Anderson’s lead and brought Wilson's number out of retirement with the opening the school’s new gym named after its slain star. Since then only the program’s top players have had the privilege of wearing the #25 jersey. This honor has been held by fellow draftees and Simeon alums Deon Thomas and Derrick Rose.

How good was Ben Wilson? It’s hard to project how far his talent would have taken him but former Chicago players and respected coaches from across the country spoke highly of the former prospect. The comparisons may be hard to grasp but have withstood the test of time. Wilson has been described as Magic Johnson with a jumpshot and Kevin Garnett with a better handle and perimeter game. In his 1985 recruiting class he was perceived to be better than Glen Rice, Danny Ferry, Sean Elliott, Pervis Ellison, Rod Strickland and Roy Marble - all who went on to have NBA careers.

The Draft Review honors Ben Wilson for his high school accomplishments and recognizes him as a 1989 Honorable Draftee.

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0 #30 Chester 2014-06-05 21:53
Thanks for finally tallking about >Honoorable Draftee: The Case for Ben "Benji"
0 #29 Taylor 2014-05-22 18:09
This young man has gave me the strength to push through hard times. I may be only 14, but basketball is my life. I currently had my number changed to 25 for Benji. I believe god wanted me to play for him to give him opportunities he couldn't reach due to ignorant violence. Rest Easy, Benji
+1 #28 ebise oyake 2013-04-15 06:58
This is sad. They said the 2 biggest tragedies in Chitown at that time wer ehis death and the death of Len Bias. I saw this article story on espn 30/30. Sad.The good die young.I live in the caribbean,and saw it at work in Feb. Even as it was so long ago (i vaguely heard of it when younger, but remember clearly the Len Bias affair), it was so moving and touching. I am not a very emotional guy, but shed tears watching it.It was beyond tragic.He was sucha nice boy. Broken families and neglect contribute to these sad tales. Its sadder chicago seems not to have woken up. His story is truly an eye opener.
-2 #27 kalebwright 2013-03-30 17:16
i wish he was alive so i can seem him as good like micheal jordan or labranjames but rest in peace when i saw that story he made me have tears in my eyes because he died young an he died for something stupid it made me cry because everyone eles was crying an he seem like he be a good dude to hang out with
+2 #26 matt 2013-01-12 03:38
Certainly a tragedy. If you believe Billy Moore's testimony, then two innocent people's lives were taken that day, the other was Omar Dixon's. I guess Ben's girlfriend is the only one who knows for sure.
+2 #25 jessica 2012-11-25 23:52
i just watched the episode of the high school basket ball player ben wilson. and it makes me sick the coward that shot him tries to put the blame on some one who cant defend his self. He said "o my father died and i could'nt take it" that is bs children/teen are beaten, abused, raped and have loved ones die every day and still go on to have productive lives and not kill people. WILLIAM "BILLY" moore should still be rotting in jail today!!
0 #24 Laurine 2012-11-04 22:56
I recently saw the documentary of Benji Wilson. It was heart felt and inspiring. To me the funeral was a big circus show lead by the ring leader the crooked Jesse Jaskson. Billy Moore spoke about the turns of events that lead to him murdering Ben Wilson. After hearing him speak made me realize is still to this day a cold blood lying punk murder he should of did his full sentence. half justice is no justice at all.
+4 #23 Dom D 2012-10-25 23:37
damn shame that the brotha had to die over nothing, wish he could have lived so i could have seen him play in the league, wasn't even born when he died but i seen his story and it hit me hard man. R.I.P. Benji Wilson #25
+2 #22 NikkiBirmingham 2012-10-25 20:40
:sad: I live some where crime is rising everyday and I have seen so smuch but of all that I was more affected when I heard the story if Benji. It touched my heart so that when I got to work I started asking co-workers- had they ever heard of the great ball player. He dies one year and a month before i was born but his story is remarkable and sad at the same time I started looking up things on him and found out a lot. I read and watch his story and it feels as though i knew him personnally like it was my life time .Thats how u kno what type of person he was when his story can touch some one in my age bracket hundreds of miles awsy from the city where this horrible act of violence occured
+2 #21 Guest from Iowa 2012-10-25 01:59
I'd never heard of him before I watched the 30 for 30 thing on ESPN last night. Very sad story.

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