MANTON — Jaden Wilder missed her junior prom to play in an AAU basketball tournament in Milwaukee last year.
Little did she know that would lead her to the person she’d have taken to that dance anyway.
Wilder recently committed to Lake Superior State University to play women’s basketball, where fellow Manton product Jayden Perry is on the men’s basketball team.
LSSU saw Wilder play at that Milwaukee tournament, the only time Lakers coaches saw her play, as far as she knows.
“It wasn’t like I had a hard time deciding where I wanted to go,” Wilder said. “After I went there, I didn’t have much interest in anywhere else.”
Schools like Western Michigan and Saginaw Valley also recruited the three-team all-Highland Conference point guard, although Division II LSSU was the first to offer a scholarship at the Sault Ste. Marie school’s camp.
“I knew I always wanted to play college basketball,” said Wilder, who plans to major in pre-med to be a pediatrician. “They made it feel like it was a family I was walking into.”
Wilder has averaged 12 points per game for three years as the Rangers’ starting point guard. Her calling card is consistency, not missing a game in three seasons and putting up point totals for each of those three campaigns within 14 points of each other.
“She’s Steady Eddie,” Manton head coach J.P. Katona said. “She doesn’t get rattled out there. It’s like having a second coach out there.”
Throughout her career, she’s averaged four assists for each turnover.
The Rangers have posted a 51-14 record over her three seasons, including back-to-back Highland titles the last two years. Manton looks to add to that, with all five starters back for the upcoming season.
“Lake State is really going to appreciate the type of teammate she’ll be,” Katona said. “She’s always striving to get better and will do what it takes to make the team better.”
Wilder’s grandfather played football at Iowa and her father played at Northern Michigan.
Wilder said the couple never really paid attention at first to the fact that they have essentially the same first name.
“I never even realized it until we’re out in public and someone says our name and we both turn around,” Wilder joked.
Now she hopes to continue to take the girls basketball heights the boys team enjoyed with Perry, which included a trip to the Final Four two seasons ago.
The Rangers begin that task with districts at Lake City in a bracket that also includes Houghton Lake, McBain and Roscommon.