He began the 2017-2018 school year by winning a world championship and ended it by reaffirming his pledge to the University of Georgia.
And in between, Cole Wilcox had a pretty good senior year.
The recent Heritage High graduate, who was named the Catoosa County Boys’ Basketball and Baseball Player of the Year, completes the trifecta today as he closes out his outstanding prep career as the Catoosa County Boys’ Athlete of the Year for 2017-2018.
“It’s an honor,” Wilcox said. “Athletics are pretty good around here and they are pretty important, so being able to get this award is truly an honor and I really appreciate it.”
Wilcox’s memorable senior sports year began even before school did as he followed up selections to the Perfect Game All-American Game in San Diego and the Under Armour All-American Game in Chicago by getting an invite to try out for USA Baseball’s 18U national team. He was one of 20 players nationwide who was selected to wear the Red, White and Blue and that team went on to win the World Cup in Ontario, Canada.
Team USA went 9-0, while Wilcox appeared in three games on the mound. He pitched seven innings and got the win in a victory over Cuba and, for the tournament, he was 1-0 with three hits allowed and seven strikeouts in eight innings. Opponents batted just .111 against him and he had a 0.00 earned run average.
“That was an awesome experience,” he said. “But I was ready to get back to school and play some basketball.”
All the 6-foot-5 center did on the court was average 17.6 points a game on 57 percent field goal shooting, while pulling down 10.6 rebounds a night. He also dished out more than three assists and recorded over 2.5 blocks a game to help Heritage back to the Class 4A state tournament.
The All-Region 6-AAAA performer ended his career with 1,506 points, 996 rebounds, 198 blocks and a field goal percentage of 58.7, while helping the Generals to 80 victories in four seasons. He was named as a Class 4A North All-State player by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association.
“It’s high speed competition,” he said of his time on the hardwood. “I really like that. You have to be engaged 100 percent of the time. You also have to rely on your teammates a lot and that’s what I really like about basketball. That and just the competitiveness. It requires a different kind of competitiveness than baseball does and I’ll miss that part of it.”
But Wilcox’s star shown the brightest once he traded back in his sneakers for baseball cleats.
The 6-AAAA Pitcher of the Year went 9-2 with 95 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 65.2 innings as he ended the season with a 1.60 ERA. At the plate, he hit .452 and slugged .860 with 11 doubles and nine homers - a Heritage single-season record. He added 49 RBIs and scored 33 times as the Generals went unbeaten in the region and advanced to the state semifinals for a second consecutive season.
One the nation’s top pro prospects, Wilcox had the added pressure of performing in front of multiple scouts each and every time he took the mound, which he said made things exciting.
“But once the game starts you really don’t notice it,” he said. “You just go out there and do what you do and let that stuff take care of itself.”
Not only was Wilcox a leader and an example for his own team, he also drew the attention of the younger baseball players in the Boynton area, whose eyes were peeled every time Wilcox toed the rubber or dug in to the batter’s box. Many times, he could be seen posing for photographs and signing autographs after home games.
“I’d like to think I’m (a role model) for the kids around here and I hope I can be,” he said. “That’s something that you obviously strive for as a guy going into his adult life. It was kind of what (former Ringgold pitcher) Matthew Crownover was going through. He was a guy that I looked up to, so to know that I can be that for the kids, that’s what I try to do. I try to be engaged with them as much as I can and, hopefully, I’ll be a good example for them.”
On June 4, Wilcox said thanks, but no thanks to life as a professional baseball player – at least temporarily – as he elected to forgo pro ball for now and honor the commitment he made the University of Georgia and its baseball program some three years earlier.
The news, while somewhat surprising to many baseball followers across the country, was met with collective joy by Bulldog Nation and Wilcox is sure to be a big man on campus – literally and figuratively – from the moment he steps foot in Athens and suits up for the resurgent Georgia program.
However, for all of his on-field accomplishments, he said his fondest memories would be making memories with the guys he played with at Heritage.
“A lot of us grew up together and played together,” he added. “It was a good group and a special group. It’s not one that comes through often and knowing I’ll never get to play with them again is something I already miss.”