Different strokes

Basketball Preview Issue

Noel Wilmore’s game is at the perimeter, but his heart is in the paint.

The sharpshooting senior is best known for his stroke beyond the three-point line, where his 42 percent success rate last season ranked first among his teammates and eighth in the Atlantic 10. His scoring bursts last February, peaking in a 24-point output against Rhode Island, helped a previously dead-in-the-water GW team partially salvage the end of its season.

But hardwood is just one medium where Wilmore works. His stroke off the court – that of charcoals, pens and paintbrushes – provides a welcome alternative when Noel Wilmore, the person, needs a break from being Noel Wilmore, the student-athlete.

“It’s just a way to escape, let my mind wander off,” Wilmore said of his art, which he describes as a hobby. “A lot of the time things I’m learning in the classroom or things I’m reading, they give me new ideas and I’ll put them on canvas or paper or whatever.”

Art wasn’t always going to be a side project: Wilmore said he’d probably be in art school if it weren’t for basketball. When the latter brought him to GW, he took up art as his major. Eventually, the demands of studio time and being a Division I basketball player became too much, and Wilmore was forced to switch his focus to sociology.

The Philadelphia native hasn’t had the chance to take an art class since his sophomore year, though he said he hopes to find time for one in the spring. Until then, he’s enjoying creativity on his own terms.

“The great thing about art is that it’s so open,” Wilmore said. “There are no restrictions, no limitations, no boundaries and barriers.”

Yet it is boundaries and barriers that define his niche on this GW squad. Ask anyone what Wilmore brings to the Colonials and a slew of three-point-shooting euphemisms – “deep threat,” “stretches the defense” – are sure to follow. More than 80 percent of his points last season came from beyond the arc, easily the highest proportion on the team.

But Wilmore doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as just a shooter. Ironically, after a season that saw him begin to fulfill his potential as a scoring weapon, he said last year taught him how to contribute outside the box score. He singled out last March’s loss at Charlotte as a contest in which his tally in the points column – 13, good for third on the team that night – masked other deficiencies in his performance.

“Scoring and shooting and a lot of things on offense are so over-romanticized,” he said. “If you can bring a consistent level of intensity and effort to the defensive end and really be able to make plays on that end, that’s so much bigger than offense.”

While Wilmore is striving for versatility on the court, he has already achieved balance off of it. Between athletics, academics and art, the 6-foot-4 guard plays “a little xylophone” and volunteers at a local preschool as part of a sociology course. He listens to his iPod “all day,” and his life’s soundtrack features artists and styles so eclectic he declines to start listing them.

Fittingly, he is considering a number of possible paths to pursue after his upcoming graduation. Maybe he’ll play professionally, at home or abroad. Maybe he’ll join the Peace Corps or participate in Teach for America. Maybe he’ll coach. Maybe he’ll go to graduate school. Maybe, eventually, all of the above.

“I think the more skills anyone can hone, life is more fun living that way,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to have basketball take me this far and it’s paying for my education, which is fantastic. But at the same time I have other things I love to do.”

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