Before the season began, Free State High senior Wilson Hack contemplated giving up basketball. It had never been his favorite sport and he knew he would probably spend most games at the end of the Firebirds’ bench. If he didn’t play, he could focus on his other interests and get himself as ready as possible for FSHS golf season in the spring.
But Wilson just couldn’t turn down one final season of hoops with his younger brother, Weston.
The Hack brothers have teamed up on the hardwood since elementary school. Though Weston is two years younger, he would play up on Wilson’s recreation teams until Wilson got to junior high. Last year they played together for Free State’s junior varsity squad. As it turns out, their last run together will come in Wichita, site of the Class 6A state tournament — the Firebirds (11-11) play Blue Valley Northwest (22-0) at 3 p.m. today at Koch Arena.
“I don’t know that our expectations were necessarily that we’d get to go to state this year,” Wilson admitted, “but if I get to spend another week in the gym with him, that’s just awesome. Because those chances aren’t gonna come very often in the future.”
At 5-foot-9, with a little more muscle, Wilson doesn’t play as much as Weston, a sophomore with slightly more than five inches on his older brother. Weston, as a key bench player, has appeared in all 22 games, while Wilson got to shed his warm-ups and check in to eight games.
“He’s always been real supportive,” Weston said, “and I don’t think it bothers him that much.”
Free State coach Chuck Law said Wilson’s personality makes the brothers’ situation work.
“You’re not gonna find a more unselfish kid playing basketball anywhere, probably,” Law said. “He knows he’s not hardly ever going to play.”
Three or four years ago, Wilson said, he realized Weston had more height, skill and desire to play basketball at a high level than he did. So he truly holds no envy or grudge toward his younger sibling. Wilson sees potential in Weston, and often takes it upon himself in practice to challenge him. On Monday, as the Firebirds prepared for their first-round opponent, Weston passed the ball and tried to cut with Wilson checking him. Wilson threw all of his muscle in Weston’s path and the two shoved back and forth. All in a day’s work for the senior leader.
“I come in here and we get into it sometimes during practice,” Wilson said, “but I’m trying to make him better, because he’s got two more years left.”
The two get along so well at home, rarely fighting or arguing, that they can laugh about their practice spats afterward.
Said Weston: “We’re both real competitive people, and when we’re out on the court I don’t think of him as my brother. He’s just another opponent.”
The Hacks have very different roles for Free State. Weston, as the team’s coaches expected, has provided solid minutes off the bench and Law said he has a bright future as he gets stronger, quicker and improves his ball handling.
“It’s hard to be a sophomore and play 6A basketball anywhere,” Law said. “They usually have to be pretty special players.”
On the other hand, Wilson has found a way, despite his limited playing time, to make an impact at practices and in the locker room — not just with his physical toughness, but also his voice. Junior forward Khadre Lane credited Wilson for keeping everyone in line: “Behind-the-scenes stuff, he’s really on it.”
That leadership should serve him well at his next stop after FSHS. Wilson wants to enter either the U.S. Air Force, Naval or Military academy.
Weston, like his brother, is glad they got one last exciting season together before life takes them in different directions. And they both are thankful their teammates helped them extend it one more week.
“I think a lot of people doubted us throughout the year, and no one really thought we’d still be playing,” Weston said. “We always believed in ourselves, though — the whole team, including me and Wilson.”