Octavia Wilson takes a shot against Rutgers. Photo by Chris Crews

Octavia Wilson began playing basketball in the fourth grade, since then she’s developed into a strong scorer and just as a freshman, has emerged as a leader for the Charlotte 49ers.

“I’ve always liked basketball, it was always something that I wanted to do. I just found it fun. I wouldn’t do anything else, I would just go outside and play basketball,” Wilson said.

Going into her eighth grade year, Wilson’s mother passed away. Her emotions and funneled them into her playing.

“It took me to another level for it. I just put that toward my motivation,” Wilson said.

And she did go to another level, making the varsity team her freshman year and remaining on the team as a starter for all four years. Wilson always put up impressive numbers for her team in high school, but during the regional championship game her junior year, Wilson posted 58 points, including a buzzer beater that allowed her team to advance.

“At the end of the game, my friend runs up to me and is like ‘you scored 58,’ and I was like ‘what?’ I didn’t even know. I thought I had at least like 20, because earlier in the game I started out slow. I was like ‘I don’t believe you, let me see the book,’” Wilson said.

Wilson said she uses her mom as motivation “every time I step on the court, every time I accomplish something I want to accomplish.” She continued, saying “using it as motivation, I tend to accomplish a lot.”

One of goal Wilson wanted to accomplish was playing Division I basketball. She made that dream a reality when she signed with the Charlotte women’s basketball program. Ending up Charlotte was like a second home for Wilson with family members from both her mom and dad’s side of the family living in the area.

However, even with having relatives in the around, she still found herself missing home when she reported for summer school.

“During the summer I was home sick, I’ll admit I was homesick. It was the first time I had really been away from my dad, my sisters. I have two nephews now and they were living with me, that was the hardest part, being away from them,” Wilson said.

Though she was missing her family, her teammates stepped in and attempted to fill that void for Wilson.

“The team, we would hang out a lot. I see them as another family. Being with them, they make it a lot easier for me not to miss home,” Wilson said.

Before the start of the 2017-18 season, Wilson had a new standard for herself. With a  large bulk of the 49ers’ scorers from last season not on the team anymore, she knew that she would have to step up and take on a scoring role for the the Niners.

“I set a goal for myself, saying every game I would at least score ten points as a freshman. I’ve kind of been sticking to that goal. As we’ve been going on, I don’t like to lose, I’m real competitive,” Wilson said.

Prior to Charlotte’s first game this season, head coach Cara Consuegra announced the starting five for the Niners. Among the names read was Wilson, which took her by surprise.

“After she said my name, me and Coach Cara had a little bit of a talk. I was nervous, it was my first college game,” Wilson said.

In that first game against Duquesne, Wilson posted 10 points and went a perfect 6-6 at the free throw line. After the game, Consuegra commended Wilson’s efforts during the contest.

“I was really proud because she did not play well at the beginning of the game. She looked a little rattled and looked like a freshman at times. We went back with her in the second half because she has earned that right in practices to show what she can do,” Consuegra said.

After their home opener, the 49ers traveled to Wisconsin. Wilson didn’t shy away from the basket, shooting 6-for-9 from the field, registering her first three-pointer and totaling 15 points in the game. With two double-digit scoring performances to open her collegiate career, there was no surprise when Wilson was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Week for the first week of the season.

The following game against Rutgers, Wilson posted an impressive 21 points. With her oldest sister playing for Rutgers when she went to college, Wilson felt a need to perform well.

“I really was trying to prove something because my sister was here, the coach from Rutgers has known me since I was little. I had to go off a little bit,” Wilson said.

She continued to “go off” in tournament play over Thanksgiving week. Against Consuegra’s former team, Iowa, Wilson registered 13 points and six rebounds. The following game against South Dakota State Wilson turned in 10 points. In her first six contests in the Charlotte jersey, Wilson has only had one game with less than 10 points: Nov. 18 when she tallied eight at UNC Ashville. Wilson currently shoots over 80 percent from the charity stripe and averages over 10 points per game.

Watching Wilson on the court will always provide entertainment for the fans, and even for head coach Consuegra.

“It’s been fun watching Tae play. Every game she keeps getting better because she plays so hard and competes at a high level. Some of the drives and scores she’s had in the first few games have been impressive. She’s going to just keep getting better,” Consuegra said.

Even if she’s not reaching double digits in the points column, Wilson aims to improve herself and her teammates each game.

“Each game I try to get better. Even if I’m not scoring 10 a night, I just want to try to contribute to the team by getting other people to score,” Wilson said.

While she has a passion for basketball, family is the main priority in Wilson’s life, as it is for the Charlotte 49er’s womens basketball program — making the two a perfect fit.

“This program is my family and we operate that way. We treat each other with love and respect and we genuinely care about each other…that goes for players, coaches and staff,” Consuegra said. “I think Tae in her recruiting process was looking for that. She comes from a very large and supportive family so that was important for her. And because we love and respect each other we can also be real with each other.”

In losing such an important member of her family, Wilson drew upon the strength of her family members as her support system. That familial support has continued throughout her basketball career and now extends to her family on the court.

“We lost something big, but us being that family that we are, it’s like we all still have each other,” Wilson said. “That’s how we did it. We can’t stay in the past. My dad and my sisters, we’re all close. For me, a big part of life is family. So that’s why the team, I see them as my family.”

Kathleen Cook is the sports editor of the Niner Times and from Wake Forest, North Carolina. When the junior communication major/journalism minor isn't covering the 49ers, she enjoys spending time with her family, friend, and dog. Kathleen can also be found cheering on the Panthers every Sunday and rooting for the Washington Nationals.