LORETTO, Pa. — Zero.
That’s the number of Division I offers that guard Andre Wolford had out of high school.
That’s how many people truly believed in Wolford’s abilities on the hardwood and knew he was wood enough to play at the top level in college.
That person was Andre himself.
“I want people to hear my story not for my own benefit, but to be a ray of hope in their careers,” said Wolford. “I want players to learn from my story to have faith in themselves, because there is always going to be people rooting against them.”
“But if you work hard and make sure you get better everyday, something good will come for it.”
During his high schools days, Wolford faced his fair share of doubters. A lot of the doubts came from outside sources, like his coaches, former teammates, or even those closest to him. Through it all, Wolford remained focused on his goal to reach the Division I level in the NCAA.
“Everyone wanted me to go play D2 or D3, including my coaches, friends, and people I was close to,” said Wolford. “But my dream had always been to play D1 basketball and I knew that I was good enough to do it.”
Out of high school, Wolford didn’t receive a single Division I offer. He received several offers from Division III schools, and one or two from Division II institutions. He didn’t even have any interest from schools at the top level, which led him to make a decision that most would steer clear from when faced with this type of adversity.
“I decided that I would go to walk-on at a D1 school,” continued Wolford. “But I didn’t know where I would go.”
That started the search for Wolford, as he looked for the right fit for himself at the next level. Communication attempts from Shawn Wolford, who is Andre’s oldest brother and father figure in life, were unsuccessful. Teams were either not interested in Andre, or simply did not respond.
From there, Wolford went to Xavier University to try and meet the coaches. They weren’t on campus when he was there for a visit, but good news came shortly thereafter.
It was from the Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash.
“While I was on this visit, however, Coach Taylor called my brother and told him that they would give me a preferred walk-on spot there based off of referrals that were given to them by some alumni that attended Saint Francis,” said Wolford. “They also go referrals from some other coaches I knew.”
“And from there, I saw my opportunity to play at a D1 school, so I took it.”
Just like he knew he would, Andre Wolford was now a Division I basketball player.
The 2015-16 season marked the first year for Wolford with the Red Flash. They went 13-17 on the year overall, and 9-9 in conference play. Saint Francis limped to the finish, losing six straight games to close out the year. Wolford averaged 1.3 points per game for the year, while averaging less than two minutes of floor time per outing. While he was predominately on the scout team for the year, it was a big year for the native of Willowick, Ohio.
He knew he belonged in Division I.
“My freshman year was very eye opening for me,” said Wolford. “I knew that I belonged at the D1 level, but I realized that if I wanted to be successful, I had to start believing in myself a little more and working harder.”
“I spent the whole year on the scout team and I was slowly but surely proving myself to the head coach, Rob Krimmel.”
It all comes back to those who doubted him out of high school. Wolford set out to prove to those who doubted him that he was where he belonged. He was also out to prove to himself that he had what it takes to be successful at the top level of collegiate basketball.
Fast forward to the end of the 2016-17 season. The Red Flash went 17-17 overall, and advanced to the Second Round of the 2017 CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Saint Francis picked up a road win over the Jacksonville Dolphins in the first round, where Wolford earned MVP honours after posting 13 points, before seeing their season come to an end at the hands of the UMBC Retrievers.
Wolford had himself a good season, averaging 4.3 points per game in over 10 minutes of court time per night. It was a season that got even better once the season came to a close.
“I got a lot stronger and a lot better at things I saw I had to improve on from the year before,” said Wolford. “I was on scout team again for the first couple of games of the season, but I was playing very well in practice. So much so that Coach Krimmel had started to give me some minutes here and there.”
Wolford put himself in a position where the coaches took notice of his abilities, and they put him into the lineup on a more frequent basis as the season wore on. From there, he had his breakout game in the CIT, and Coach Krimmel and company had their way of showing their appreciation for Wolford and his achievement on the court, in the classroom, and in the community.
“At the end of the year, I earned a full scholarship at Saint Francis.”
Wolford was given a scholarship in a touching moment in front of his coaches and teammates. Their reactions tell you just how much Wolford means to the team, and his emotion shows you just what this moment meant to him.
Now, Wolford is enjoying a breakout season as a junior in 2017-18. He started off the season slow, but an injury to Isaiah Blackmon after just three games opened a spot in the starting lineup. Wolford has since risen to the occasion, and is one of three players on the Red Flash averaging double digit points per game (13.9 ppg as of 2/10/18).
“It wasn’t until one of our best guards got injured with a season ending knee injury that I would get my opportunity to prove myself once again,” said Wolford, referencing the injury to Blackmon. “From there, my career really started taking off and I gained more and more confidence in myself.”
It was a long journey for Wolford before cracking the starting lineup on a regular basis. Playing behind a talented guard like Blackmon allowed him to learn from one of the best in the Northeast Conference, and it helped to prepare Wolford for whenever his number was called.
Blackmon started in each of his first two seasons with the Red Flash, and was poised for another big year in 2017-18 before his injury in the third game of the season. Wolford has been able to learn each and every day from him in practice and in games, and Wolford has put into practice the lessons he’s taken over his first two years in the NCAA.
Wolford ranks among the nation’s leaders in three point shooting. Following the Red Flash’s game on February 10th, Wolford is currently eighth in the country, hitting on 50.3% of his attempts from beyond the arc. He is one of the nation’s most efficient three point shooters, regardless of program or conference, and has seized his opportunity time and time again.
Across the country, people are taking notice of Wolford and his abilities. Following the Red Flash’s game against the Duke Blue Devils back on December 5th, 2017, Wolford received some high praise from one of the greatest coaches to ever grace a college basketball sideline: Mike Krzyzewski.
“Coach K gave me a compliment after the game, complimenting how much of a great shooter I am,” said Wolford. “That was a great honor to be able to meet him and was really a dream come true.”
Following a road win over the St. Francis (BKN) Terriers on February 10th, 90-65, Wolford and the Red Flash sit at 14-11 overall, and 8-6 in Northeast Conference play. This year is shaping up to be another successful one for both Wolford and the program as a whole, and they will look to make some more noise in the post-season.
The journey for Wolford from high school to a starter at Saint Francis was anything but crystal clear. He had the doubters that didn’t think he belonged at the top level, and those doubts started to creep into the back of his mind from time to time.
However, he remained focused and knew what he could bring to the court. He remained true to himself by putting in the work and slowly proving the doubters wrong. Wolford went from zero Division I scholarship offers out of high school, and is now one of the top three point shooters in the country.
“I want players to learn from my story and to have faith in themselves, because there are always going to be people rooting against them,” concluded Wolford. “But, if you work hard and make sure you get better everyday, something good will come from it.”
“It may bot come right away, but that is when you have to be patient and trust the process. Let it motivate you every step of the way until you get what you are looking for.”
We all have control over our own lives, and we have the final say in decisions we make and the outcomes of our choices. People can say what they want and express their opinions all they like, but there is only one person that you need to worry about when it comes to your life and your goals.
Believe in yourself.
– T. Bennett