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|Sherron Wilkerson moves on with his life

BY STEVE HERMAN

AP Sports Writer

BASKETBALL

INDIANAPOLIS -- The bad boy of Indiana basketball has grown up.

A wife, a child, a job and a plan for the future have made the difference for Sherron Wilkerson, the only Indiana high school Mr. Basketball ever to be stripped of his title.

"Trial and error, that's what makes you grow up. For me, just knowing I made a lot of mistakes in my time -- boy, did I ever -- but they were all learning experiences," said Wilkerson, who is back home after playing mostly in Europe the past five years.

It was in 1993 that the smooth 6-foot-4 Wilkerson led Jeffersonville to the state high school tourney championship and was voted the best player in the state. But starting that summer, when he quit the Indiana All-Star team in a huff over playing time, his career became defined as much by his problems as by his talent.

The Mr. Basketball title was taken away from him by the sponsor, The Indianapolis Star, after his All-Star tantrum. He averaged 3.2 points a game as a freshman at Indiana, but the highlight of his season was an accidental -- and highly publicized -- head-butt by coach Bob Knight.

Wilkerson missed the next season with a broken leg. Then, as a junior in 1995, he started 13 games and averaged 7.5 points before he was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery and kicked off the team.

Wilkerson transferred to Rio Grande College, an NAIA school in southern Ohio, where he averaged 25 points and was named first-team All-Mid-Ohio Conference in 1996-97. But by that time, his chance for an NBA career was gone.

"Once you fall out of the loop, there are so many good basketball players, it's hard to get back in the circle," he said.

But the turmoil in his life helped make him a better person, he said.

"For me, that's all I can ask. I'm happily married now, I have an 8-year-old daughter. It's more important for those two people to think I'm the greatest thing in the world. I'm looking at things from a different perspective. I'm actually responsible for another human life."

Wilkerson met his wife through mutual friends in Louisville, Ky., across the Ohio River from his hometown of Jeffersonville.

"I hear the stories, but he is a wonderful husband and a wonderful father. I've never known him any other way," Carissa Wilkerson said.

Pat Aikman, the All-Star game director and the man who took the Mr. Basketball title away from Wilkerson, noticed a difference when he saw him during a 10-year anniversary celebration of the 1993 state championship.

"We had a very candid and pointed and good visit," Aikman said. "I felt pleased he came over and talked to me, and I felt pleased that it seems that he realizes he made a mess of his career early on and that apparently he has turned himself around, and maybe some good things will happen for him. I hope so."

Losing the Mr. Basketball award hurt him deeply, Wilkerson said.

"I felt I had acquired Mr. Basketball for what I had done my senior year in the basketball season, not what I accomplished in the All-Star game. It was very frustrating for me in that sense," he said.

Aikman gave the award to Kojak Fuller of Anderson, who was second in Mr. Basketball voting. Fuller and Wilkerson had been roommates at the Nike camp in Indianapolis their junior year.

"Then, we were pretty close, we were pretty good friends," Wilkerson said. "Then with the Mr. Basketball hoopla, I kind of went my way and he went his way."

Fuller has had even more serious problems of his own over the years and has been in and out of jail on various weapons and drugs charges.

Wilkerson said he doesn't feel vindicated in retrospect by what happened to Fuller, nor does he hold a grudge against Knight for kicking him off the team.

"He made a decision he felt was in the best interest of Indiana, and I can live with that," he said.

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