AT AGE 15, checking in at 6-6, TreVaughn Wilkerson is already the tallest member of his family by a good 2 inches.
Luckily, his head is not in the clouds.
"I know how lucky I am to have this height and to have talent as a basketball player," Wilkerson said. "I see a lot of tall people walking around, doing nothing with their lives - even, like, 6-9 homeless people - and it makes you wonder what went wrong, and why they didn't do their best with their opportunities.
"It's a shame that stuff happens, but I know what I have and I plan to make the most of it."
Years from now, perhaps Wilkerson will think back to March 1, 2012, as the beginning of his emergence. The freshman forward/center was given a start as Roman Catholic High met Samuel Fels, at Southern, last night in a game to determine District 12's third/fourth seeds in Class AAAA for the upcoming state tourney.
Don't go jumping to the conclusion that Wilkerson went bonkers as the Cahillites frolicked, 73-41. However, he undoubtedly enjoyed some impressive moments while totaling seven points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
Late, he smoothly swished a right-wing trey.
"I was savin' that," he kidded. "I don't think I would have taken that shot earlier in the game, but I was open back there and I decided to shoot it."
Early, with his back almost flush to the basket, Wilkerson had accepted a high-post entry pass a shade beyond the foul line, then turned and feathered home a jumper. Again, impressive.
"When I got the ball there, I had to check my options," he said. "I wasn't being respected [with an attentive defender], so I figured I had to shoot it.
"I only take confident shots. If you're not confident about your chances to hit it, that's when you pass with the hope that somebody else will wind up with a better shot."
Though the start was not Wilkerson's first of the season, the gap between this one and the previous one consisted of 2-plus months.
He said he received word of the choice assignment the day after Roman fell to Ss. Neumann-Goretti in a Catholic League semifinal. The instant he got home - Carpenter Street near 61st, in West Philly - he couldn't contain the excitement.
"Given this kind of opportunity, I knew I had to make the most of it," Wilkerson said. "Coach Chris [McNesby] told me to do the best that I could on defense, and hopefully this performance showed him I'm ready.
"When I told my family I was starting, they were saying, 'You'd better show up! And play your heart out!' I had about six people here tonight, and I'm glad they came out to support me."
Suspense was non-existent. Roman jumped to a 9-4 lead as Britton Lee (two) and Shafeek Taylor combined for three treys. Shep Garner added a halfcourt steal and layup, then Wilkerson nailed his semi-turnaround jumper to make it 13-4.
Maybe 100 spectators were watching and most were already numb, having watched Cardinal O'Hara dismantle Northeast, 70-14, in a girls' preliminary. Eleven minutes into that game, the score was 31-0.
Wilkerson said buddies told him non-stop that Fels would offer scant opposition, "but the last thing you can do is listen to that stuff. You always have to give 100 percent."
Taylor (17), Lee (13, three treys), Garner and sub Raquan Brown-Johnson (12 apiece) all scored in double figures for Roman while Taylor and Brown-Johnson also joined Wilkerson in the Eight Rebounds Club. Secean Johnson (five) and Garner (four) were the assists leaders.
Deep subs Matt Simon and Angel Trinidad buried treys to provide late-game excitement, then another lesser light, Jamil Taylor, the team's lone senior, drew an even larger fan response by converting a drive.
For Fels, the leading scorer was tiny guard Nate McIntosh, also a deep sub. He tallied nine points over the last 5 minutes, including one doozy of a layup. That's how nuts the shot looked. The Panthers' leading rebounders, with four apiece, were TJ Scott and sub Devon Wilson.
Though Wilkerson is focused on the upcoming state playoffs, he lets himself think even further ahead.
"With hard work, I can only get better," he said.
Online high school coverage at philly.com/rally.