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UCI foes know to fear fro

Senior Mike Wilder has dynamic 'do, with a personality and basketball career to match.

March 09, 2013|By Barry Faulkner
  • UC Irvine's Mike Wilder has made 211 career three-pointers, good for third in program history.
UC Irvine's Mike Wilder has made 211 career three-pointers,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

There are the statistics, the persona, the heroics and the tenacity that all combine to define Mike Wilder's four-year UC Irvine men's basketball career.

But any discussion of the 6-foot-2 senior swing man, whose status as big man on campus is as undeniable as it is diametrical (most believe he is closer to 6-0), might as well start with something even more obvious.

"It's the hair, first," UCI Coach Russell Turner said of arguably college basketball's most dynamic 'do. "There's no denying you've got to have swag to roll like that. And then to be able to back that up as a player, and more important, as a guy ..."

To focus on only the visual might prompt the hint of flamboyance. But only moments into watching Wilder work either a three-second lane or a crowded room, one would discover that beneath those flowing follicles lies the smile, determination and humility of an everyman.

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"He didn't get that 'do because people started thinking that's cool," Turner said. "He has been rocking that thing for a while. He's the same way as a guy. He is himself and he is incredibly likable, yet at the same time, incredibly competitive and driven."

Wilder, known with reverence by the "Antourage" student-rooting section as Afro Thunder, has flourished under his elongated curls since arriving from Long Beach Wilson High, where he was valedictorian, senior class vice president and a CIF Southern Section Player of the Year in volleyball.

"It started at student orientation, when all the [incoming UCI freshmen] come and stay in the dorms," said Wilder, who heading into Saturday's regular-season finale at UC Davis had amassed 1,020 points, 561 rebounds and 211 three-pointers (third in program history) in 120 career games. "I made so many connections there. And, me being a social person, I realized I could really thrive here, because everyone is so friendly."

Extending a kind, inquisitive hand to strangers came long before the need to follow trough on three-pointers for Wilder, whose parents, particularly his mother Lineta, indoctrinated him on the benefits of friendship, hard work and having fun.

"Everybody likes Mike," UCI senior guard Daman Starring said. "Mike should run for mayor of the world. Every place we go, Mike is saying hello to somebody."

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