Wilguens Exacte Jr.’s journey from Montreal to Mexico prepared him for college basketball life in Utah
Runnin’ Ute freshman played for the NBA Academy Latin America last year and should be able to step in and contribute on coach Craig Smith’s team right away
Most college freshmen suffer some form of homesickness, which is understandable considering many are away from home for the first time.
Not University of Utah freshman basketball player Wilguens Exacte Jr., however. His recent arrival at the U. is just the latest stop in a journey that has taken him from his hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to the NBA Academy Latin America in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, to Salt Lake City.
“I have already been away from home, so it is not really hard for me to adjust to that,” Exacte told the Deseret News last week via telephone from his dorm room on the U. campus.
“The biggest adjustment for me has been the basketball pace here, in terms of practices and stuff. It was something that I had already seen and experienced, but college is a whole different level. Everyone here is really, really good. So just adjusting to that was the most challenging thing.”
“He is an elite defensive player who can guard just about anybody on the floor. He is tenacious. He is just one of those guys — I was talking to his coach recently — the dude will never stop. Every single drill in practice, every single rep, he goes a thousand miles an hour.” — Utah basketball coach Craig Smith on freshman guard Wilguens Exacte Jr.
Exacte, who committed to Utah in mid-January and signed on April 13, arrived at his new school the first week of June with other newcomers such as Cincinnati transfer Mike Saunders Jr., Wisconsin transfer Ben Carlson and Wasatch Academy’s Keba Keita.
“It took (a few days), but I am good now,” he said. “I am really enjoying it.”
Exacte is a 6-foot-6, 225-pound guard with a college-ready body, second-year Runnin’ Utes coach Craig Smith said in a teleconference with reporters in May.
“Will was our first commitment out of this class, and if you had to compare his body to anybody in our program, or who everybody is familiar with, it would be Marco Anthony. When those two guys stand side by side, they almost look like twins,” Smith said. “So he is a physical specimen. He is a play-making guard. He is a guy that can play in a lot of different spots, a very talented guy that can get to the rim and make plays off the bounce.”
Smith said Exacte has to continue to refine his jump shot. Other than that, he has the tools and talent to be a contributor right away.
“He is an elite defensive player who can guard just about anybody on the floor. He is tenacious. He is just one of those guys — I was talking to his coach recently — the dude will never stop,” Smith said. “Every single drill in practice, every single rep, he goes a thousand miles an hour. I am excited about all of our new recruits.”
Exacte said his first contact with Utah was from former assistant coach Eric Peterson, now the head coach at South Dakota. Peterson saw him play for his NBA Academy Latin America team and the Runnin’ Utes quickly jumped into the picture.
“I made an unofficial visit to Utah, and it was a great experience. I spoke to (Smith), spoke to everyone on the staff, to my future teammates,” Exacte said. “From there, I was just interested in Utah. I knew Utah was the right place for me.”
Exacte prepped at College Notre-Dame in Montreal and played for the Sun Youth Hornets and the Under Armour Canada Elite team on the AAU traveling circuit before making the move to Mexico. As his recruitment heated up, he built a strong relationship with Smith and in the end that’s what won the day for the Utes.
“We had a one on one talk and I just had a really good feeling about him. I felt like he really understood me, and that he had a plan for me. I was really, truly excited to work with him,” Exacte said. “Also the fact that Utah is part of the Pac-12 was a big draw for me. The Pac-12 is such a great conference. You play against the best almost every night. It became clear that Utah was the best choice for me.”
A three-star prospect (On3.com) who also had offers from George Mason and East Carolina, according to 247sports.com, Exacte credits the NBA Academy for much of his development as a player.
“It really prepared me mentally, physically and also on the court,” he said. “I got to learn a lot of new stuff in my position there. I would say the academy really, really helped me. I was surrounded by great coaches and teammates.”
He was the fourth Canadian to attend NBA Academy Latin America, joining Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin, South Carolina’s Tre-Vaughn Minott and Marquette’s Olivier Maxence Prosper.
Moving from Montreal to Mexico was difficult at first, he said. Now he calls it the “best decision I have ever made.”
French is Exacte’s first language, English his second. He attended a bilingual elementary school and speaks both languages well. Away from basketball, he enjoys listening to music and spending time with his family — parents Wilguens Sr. and Solette and younger siblings William and Sweetney.
“I would definitely say I am a grateful person,” he said, when asked to describe himself. “I am a child of God. I am a hard worker.”
But not homesick at all. Moving from Montreal to Mexico took care of that.