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DWU's Wilber making strides 12 days in

After accepting the Dakota Wesleyan University men's basketball coaching position, Matt Wilber jumped in head-first.

He was hired June 20 and on June 21, he was already recruiting for his future Tiger teams in Marshall, Minn.

Along with recruiting, Wilber is finding time to interact with the team, university and the community just 12 days into the job.

"It's definitely been a whirlwind," the Miller native said. "When you get hired at this time, there are a lot of things going on in the program. Almost all college programs are recruiting but most of those coaches don't have to get to know their entire roster alongside of that."

Wilber, who currently lives in Sioux Falls and commutes to Mitchell every day, said he becomes more confident in his decision to take the position each day.

"Every day I'm over here, I feel more at home," he said. "I feel welcomed by everyone. I had a ton of respect in looking at (DWU) from the outside and now being in the middle of it, it's a special place. The cool thing about it is I think our guys feel that too."

Wilber said he's met and watched a lot of his team play and is optimistic about what he sees.

"Without question, the first thing that sticks out to me is the team comradery," he said. "We've got a strong locker room and they get along really well."

Jade Miller, a Mitchell native and a sophomore this fall, said Wilber fits into the team's chemistry and added adjusting to Wilber as the coach has been easy.

"He's very social with us," he said. "It makes us feel comfortable, and I think he's a great coach."

Wilber's idea of a successful team is a combination of things. Despite having all the talent in the world, the key to team success is how well the players mesh and play together, he said

"You need talent, but getting to another level teams need chemistry and good leadership," Wilber said. "That's what sets teams a part. That's when you can really do something special."

And Wilber sees that quality in his team and is looking to improve the squad -- which went 14-17 overall last year and 9-11 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference under coach Shane Murphy, who resigned in May.

Curt Hart, the university's athletic director, said Wilber's been working hard in taking over the program and likes what he's seeing.

"He's got a really good connection with the kids and they're excited," Hart said. "He's going to do great."

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.