By Marc Raimondi
Tatiana Wilson saw something first on Facebook. There was a fire back home at her house in Far Rockaway. The St. Bonaventure freshman guard called her mother, Temeka, who didn’t really go into details. Then she spoke to her sisters, Shaina and Kema. They broke the bad news to her.
“I thought maybe part of the house burnt,” Wilson said. “But I found out everything was gone.”
The South Shore grad didn’t know what to do. She’s not an emotional person, never has been. She smiles through everything. So Wilson continued on with basketball practice and games. No one would have been the wiser unless she mentioned it.
“I was happy they were alive,” Wilson said. “I tried not to be upset.”
Her mother ended up with a broken back as a result of jumping to safety from the roof into the arms of city sanitation workers who had seen the flames from a distance. Shaina, 17, suffered third-degree burns and another sister, 12-year-old Amari, broke her leg. Wilson went back to working out and guarding star Jessica Jenkins in practice.
“She’s hanging strong,” St. Bonaventure Coach Jim Crowley said. “Life keeps throwing punches at her and she just keeps on coming back. It’s very impressive to see. She’s a special kid.”
The first time Wilson might have shown emotion about the tragedy was when she found out about how St. Bonaventure set out to help her. The athletic department teamed up with University Ministries at the upstate Catholic school and has developed the Wilson Family Assistance Program. Within days, the school already had raised more than $2,000 and that was before more donations were given at the men’s basketball game against North Carolina State Dec. 20.
In addition to money, St. Bonaventure has set up a relief in which essential items have been donated to the family. That began over the weekend and men’s and women’s home games.
Wilson heard her name and the efforts announced over the PA system at the men’s game. She saw the boxes and boxes of clothes in the gym. She was in awe.
“At first it was overwhelming,” Wilson said. “I knew the community and everyone was good here, that’s the reason I chose the school — not just basketball. But I was like, ‘Wow.’ Every game they would say something about it. Then I saw the paper and they had this whole thing.”
Wilson was selfless last year, converting to point guard from her natural scorer’s role to help lead South Shore to the PSAL Class AA city final at Madison Square Garden. She hasn’t been a star thus far at St. Bonaventure, averaging just 3.6 minutes per game. Crowley said he expects good things down the road on the court, but it didn’t matter to the school community whether she was the leading scorer or on the end of the bench.
“I hope that’s the way every place could be, but certainly our place has a spirit of helping one another,” Crowley said. “The university and the local community, it’s really a special bond. It’s been amazing to see people rally around ‘TT.’”
St. Bonaventure’s efforts are continuing as well. Sports information director Jason MacBain said University Ministries is attempting to get in touch with St. Francis of Assisi in Manhattan to set up drop boxes in the city, making it easier for school alumni there and also Wilson’s friends to contribute.
Wilson flew into Queens last Thursday night and her family is staying at her aunt’s house in Rosedale for the time being. Through it all, she’s remained focused on basketball and academics.
“She’s been an inspiration to her teammates,” Crowley said.
And the show of support has been touching for a tough girl from the inner-city who doesn’t like to show her emotions much.
“I love them, I love them all,” she said of everyone who has donated. “I don’t know all of them. But I love them.”