Inside ‘Wayns’ World’

Justin Pincus

Rucker Park public address announcer Bobbito Garcia’s raspy voice echoed “‘Lik, ‘Lik so Unique!” as the point guard from Philadelphia, Maalik Wayns, flashed his abilities under the lights at 155th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard during the 2008 Elite 24 Game.

“Getting a nickname at Rucker was real big for me,” Wayns said, referring to Harlem’s hallowed court, where basketball icons have been strapping it up for decades.

Playground basketball is nothing new to Wayns, ranked third best at his position by ESPN Scouts Inc. and the 23rd best player in the 2009 class.

Wayns cultivated his skills at Simon’s Playground on Walnut Lane and Woolston Avenue in Philadelphia, about a half mile from his residence on Briar Road where he lives with both parents and his little brother. Wayns played at Simon’s in order to get tough.

“A lot of good players from my neighborhood [played there],” said Wayns, who mentioned Dionte Christmas (Temple’s star senior guard) and Sean Singletary (former UVA great and current member of the NBDL’s Sioux Falls Skyforce). “My dad always made sure I played with older kids. Being from around here, you can’t play soft, [otherwise], they’ll let you know.”

As a youngster, Wayns was soft, but not in terms of his toughness. He was self-admittedly “chubby.” In fact, in order to lose weight to play youth football, his father strapped a trash bag around Wayns and told him to run laps around the football field in the burning sun.

As the sweat dropped off his face and body, so did the weight. Wayns’ trash bag overcoat paid dividends, as he shed the necessary pounds in order to compete. This type of tough love is not unusual from either of Wayns’ parents, who provide the right type of love at the right times for their son.

It is evident the moment you walk into the Wayns household that their family is a tight knit clan. Little brother, VJ, wants to be just like his big brother. VJ is an elementary school student at Philadelphia’s Prince Hall and one day hopes to follow in his brother’s large footprints at Roman Catholic High School and then at Villanova.

Part of Wayns’ decision to attend Villanova revolves around its locality.

“VJ looks up to me,” said Wayns. “[By attending Villanova], I can be there for him. If I had a big brother, I’d want him to be there for me.”

VJ plans to attend every Villanova home game next year. Wayns also feels blessed to have both parents at home with him.

“I know a lot of kids don’t have that privilege,” he said. “It’s humbling and that motivates me. God-willing, one day I can pay them back.”

Wayns also considers a member of the Villanova extended family as a member of his. Kyle Lowry, former Villanova point guard and current member of the Houston Rockets, is like a big brother to him. Both work out together during the summer and Lowry’s older brother, Lonnie, coaches Wayns’ AAU squad, Team Philly (on which Reggie Redding also played).

This type of dedication to working out over the summer with proven players and running AAU ball is emblematic of how and why Wayns has gotten to where he is today. Even though Wayns committed to Villanova after his sophomore year of high school, he continued to play AAU ball as he saw it as an opportunity to keep working on his game.

“[In] 10th grade I was chubby and really had to work hard to be a D-1 athlete,” said Wayns of his work-ethic. “Committing early helped me – looking at Jonny Flynn, I thought, ‘I might have to guard him one day.'”

Villanova had always been Wayns’ dream school. While he got apprehensive after he saw the guard-loaded recruiting class of 2007, Head Coach Jay Wright’s interest in Wayns remained high. After participating in the team camp after his sophomore year, he was offered a scholarship. The second he got home Wayns told his mom, “I’m going to Villanova.” Three-weeks later, after his unofficial visit, he verbally committed to the Wildcats. Two-years later, he has held true to his promise.

“[Wright’s] record speaks for itself,” Wayns said. “He’s a great guy – real down to earth. He doesn’t just promise you the world coming in. I know nothing’s going to be given to me. He told me from day one to work for everything I get.”

Wayns went to work in his junior year of high school at Roman Catholic, during which he tallied a jaw-dropping 24.6 points and 7.6 assists. In the summer after his junior year he was the youngest player selected to the U.S. Under-18 basketball roster, coached by Davidson’s Bob McKillop.

“He gets it in the right hands at the right time,” McKilliop said. “His decision-making is impeccable”

Wayns is honored to be tagged as the next great Philadelphia point guard. He is tough, gritty and possesses a strong frame that will suit him well in the Big East’s physical brand of basketball. He describes himself as someone who would rather “make the pass that gets the shot” than make the shot himself. He is a pass-first point guard with exceptional court vision. He attributes his impeccable vision to natural basketball instincts.

Of all of his abilities that he feels will mesh well with next year’s team, he is most confident in his ability to penetrate opposing defenses. With Corey Fisher and Wayns attacking opposing defenses’ interior, look out for sharpshooters such as Scottie Reynolds, Corey Stokes, Taylor King or incoming freshman Dominic Cheek to be the primary benefactors of a kick-out, or for Antonio Peña or incomer Mouphtaou Yarou to be the recipients of an easy jump shot inside.

Looking toward the future, Wayns has been invited back to try out for the U.S. Under-19 squad this summer. He remains in close contact with fellow incoming freshmen Isaiah Armwood and Cheek, whom he met at the McDonald’s All-American game and hopes to room with in Stanford next year. Wayns hopes to come in and pick up right where the team left off.

While his goal is to make it to the NBA someday, he would rather win a national championship first because “[the] one leads to the other.”

With regard to his expectations for his rookie campaign in the Big East, Wayns said, “I want to come in and work for it – learn from Scottie and Reggie. When my time comes, hopefully I’ll be ready.”