You've been thrilled by Jeff Wilson, the flying All Black wing and (to a lesser extent) hard-hitting Black Caps all-rounder ... now, meet Jeff Wilson, the hoopster.

At 43, the man nicknamed "Goldie" has used the World Masters Games 2017 to rekindle his passion for basketball, the game he insists was his first love, until rugby and cricket got in the way.

"It just got squeezed out, because I had other things to do and I didn't play for pretty much 20 years," he reflects. "I used to play pick-up games at university in Dunedin, without the rugby coaches knowing, of course.

"Any chance I got, I'd play, but I hadn't played in a long time, until a window of opportunity opened up before Christmas. We're here at the Masters and it's been fantastic."


Wilson features in an Auckland-based Silver Foxes outfit that looks destined for a place in the men's B 40+ division final. They have lost just once this week - a grudge match against a Lions crew that included many former NBL performers - and those two teams seem likely to meet again for the gold medal.

Some say Wilson had the potential to play for the Tall Blacks and one of his biggest fans would be former national coach Tab Baldwin, who tutored him as a teen in Invercargill.

"Being competitive only takes you so far," insists Wilson. "I've been lucky enough, over time, to come up against some great players that have played for New Zealand and I was never at the level that they got to.

"I could run, I could jump, but I didn't have some of the finer skills of the game. I've worked out with players like Kirk Penney and Mika Vukona, and they've just owned me ... and I've loved every minute of it."

Wilson modestly regards himself as an undersized guard who can't shoot or dribble the ball, but in reality, if he had devoted himself to the craft, he would have picked up the skills and instincts needed for the next level.

"It would have been nice to have tried, but in the end, I was doing other things and I have no regrets about that."

Others would disagree with his self-assessment.

Tall Blacks captain and NZ Breakers hardman Vukona admits some surprise at Wilson's ability.

"He's better than just 'pretty good'."

Silver Foxes are stacked with former national-team players, including Chris Simpson, Konrad Ross, Brad Riley and Andrew Parkes, and Wilson loses nothing by comparison.

"Obviously, Jeff is a natural athlete," says Simpson, a wily point guard.

"He can handle the ball, he can run the lanes and has a lot of explosive speed.

"If he had played a lot of basketball, he could have gone to the top in that as well, without doubt."

Simpson lost a couple of teeth to the elbow of former NBL rival George Savila in the loss to Lions, so a rematch in the final would be a highlight of the Masters tournament, which culminates tomorrow.