Basketball is in John Wiley’s blood — literally.
His father, also named John, coached at Prince George's Community College for nearly four decades. His sister, Jeri Porter, is currently the head women’s basketball coach at George Mason University.
Wiley’s foray into coaching came courtesy of his father at Prince George's Community College, where he spent four years on staff. But his introduction to the sport came much earlier.
“We’re a basketball family,” said the second-year head coach with a laugh.
Mount Vernon tapped Wiley to replace former head coach Alfonso Smith in 2011, pulling the coach from Bowie High School. After winning eight games in his first season at the helm, Wiley’s squad is poised to make some noise in the National District.
“The atmosphere this year is totally different,” said Wiley. “The guys know me, and I know them. We’ve had a year together and they understand the system and their roles a lot better. Their mindset and attitude are a whole lot better. They’re ready to go.”
Mount Vernon opened the 2012-13 season on Tuesday night in dramatic fashion. The Majors overcame an 11-point deficit to grab a 63-59 road win against West Potomac. West Potomac defeated Mount Vernon by three points in last year. One game into the season, Wiley can already see the difference.
“I was talking to one of my other coaches and told him about the difference with this year’s team,” Wiley said. “Last year we lost by three, this year we won by four. We have a year of experience underneath our belt.”
Robert Decardi-Nelson headlines this year’s Majors. Decardi-Nelson, who also played football for the Majors, scored nine points in the team’s West Potomac win. Wiley will look to the senior to not only provide veteran leadership, but toughness on the court.
“He’s one of the keys to my system because he’ll get the rebound and he does a lot of the dirty work inside,” Wiley said. “I’m really expecting big things from him.”
Bryce Washington is another player who Wiley expects to contribute. Wiley compares his six-foot-three player to Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden. Harden played a key role coming off of the bench and helped carry the Oklahoma City Thunder to the 2012 NBA Finals. Washington connected on two three-pointers and finished the West Potomac contest with 13 points.
“It’s not about who starts, but who finishes,” said Wiley of his sixth man. “Bryce has bought into that and he’s truly one of my top players. It gives me that satisfaction to know if we don’t get off to a good start, he can fill the guard role or the role of the guy who I need down low.”
Wiley will have the luxury of a deep bench that he can turn to provide quality depth and minutes. Anton Lucas, Shawny Lovitt, Patrick Bender and Brendon Maturey will contribute and play significant roles this season.
“We have a lot of pieces to work with,” Wiley said of his team’s roster. “It’s early, so we’re still getting our rotations down and everyone’s fighting for minutes. Everything’s a competition.”
With one game already under their belts, the Majors forge ahead into the season. And Wiley, into year two of what he ultimately hopes is just the beginning of a successful career at Mount Vernon.
“If we take a three or four game jump and win 11 games this year, it will be a successful year,” Wiley said. “It takes a good three years to lay the foundation and build a solid program. But with the start we’ve had, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. If we continue to play like we did the first game, we’re capable of challenging to win the district and to go deep into the playoffs.”