Fernando Wilson, a former Chadron State College and Western Nebraska Community College basketball player, died Saturday in Scottsbluff. He was 28.
An autopsy showed that he died of natural causes after discovering a burglary at his home Saturday evening.
Saturday initially started as a joyous time since Fernando Wilson and his family attended his adoptive grandmother’s 90th birthday. Bryon Wilson, Fernando’s adopted father, said a majority of their family attended the occasion before departing at approximately 10 p.m.
According to reports, Scottsbluff Police Captain Brian Wasson said as officers were responding to the burglary call they received another call from Fernando Wilson’s wife, Chelsea, who was reporting that her husband was in poor health. When officers got to the home, Fernando Wilson was unresponsive.
Wasson said no suspects have been identified in the burglary, which was reported to the police at 10:15 p.m.
Although Fernando Wilson, who was originally from Brazil but played high school basketball in Connecticut, played only one season for the Eagles, he was a big presence on campus. He was the biggest basketball player in school history, listed at 7-feet, and he averaged 8.8 points and six rebounds a game, while shooting over 62 percent from the field and blocking a school record 42 shots during head coach Brent Bargen’s first season in 2006-07.
“I never heard anyone say a bad word about Fernando,” Bargen said. “He truly was a gentle giant. There wasn’t anyone on the team or on campus who didn’t like him. He was definitely an imposing force on the court once he figured out our system. We only had him for one year but I wish we could’ve had him longer. After he finished playing, he stayed in touch and he even steered some players in our direction. He always kept Chadron State close to him.”
Before coming to Chadron State, Fernando Wilson played two seasons at WNCC under the late Ron Brillhart. He averaged a double double both seasons – 13.8 points and 13.2 rebounds as a freshman and 14.3 points and 11.7 rebounds as a sophomore – and blocked 151 shots.
While Fernando Wilson lived in Scottsbluff, he became close with Bryon and Lori Wilson, his WNCC host parents, and they eventually adopted him. His brother, Cody, will be a senior fullback on the Chadron State College football team this fall.
Fernando Wilson was quoted as saying his relationship with his adoptive parents was “out of this world.”
Prior to his death, Fernando Wilson worked at a call center. He also delivered newspapers for the Scottsbluff Star-Herald.
“I always told him a real man is a guy who takes care of his family, his wife and his children,” Bryon Wilson said. “Sometimes you take the things you say as a father and think they fall on deaf ears, but they didn’t with him. He loved his wife unconditionally and his daughter was the light of his life.
In a story written by the CSC Sports Information following the basketball season in 2007, Fernando Wilson spoke about his stature.
“I love being big,” he said with a smile. “People stare at me and I hear little kids tell their mothers, ‘Look how tall he is.’ I just smile at them and wave. After living here three years, just about everybody in western Nebraska seems to know who I am.”
Fernando Wilson is survived by his wife, Chelsea, daughter, Bella, and several members of his adopted family.
—Alex Helmbrecht, Sports Information Director