Former Tiger star changes his mind on college ball after MVP performance at Beatrice All-Star Game
Peru State College Bobcat men’s basketball head coach Eric Behrens has announced the signing of nine recruits for the for the 2015-16 campaign, one of whom you should be quite familiar with by now.
Former FC High School guard Weston Witt, the hero of two Tiger District Championship victories, did an “about-face” in regards to playing college basketball after the Southeast Community College All-Star Game in June. Witt led the East boys squad, scoring 18 points in the first half of a 91-82 victory over the West and put his name in the game’s history book along the way. Witt finished with 24 and was named the game’s MVP on a unanimous vote by coaches and media. It was believed to be the first unanimous vote of the event’s 25-year history.
The 5-10 Witt, a pure shooting guard who is amazingly and deceptively good scoring inside, is one of two freshmen recruits for Behrends’ Bobcats – the other is 6-2 Connor Dukes, from Plattsmouth. Dukes is another strong perimeter player on the offensive end.
“Weston is a heady combo guard who handles, passes, and shoots the basketball at a very high level,” Behrends said. “He is a young man who will be positive for the culture of our program and we think he has a chance to be very good for us.”
Witt averaged 11.3 points per game and led FCHS to back-to-back state tournament appearances with late heroics in both the 2014 and 2015 District Final games. This past winter, his shot in the paint with 1.9 seconds left gave the Tigers a dramatic victory over Boys Town. He led all scorers with 19.
“Weston is going to find a way to compete,” Falls City coach Don Hogue said at the time, “the higher the odds, the better he gets.”
“Weston does so many things. He can score, he sets up his teammates, he can go inside. He offers a lot offensively and defensively, as well as how he distributes to his teammates,” Hogue said.
Witt broke the school’s single-assist record in 2014-15 – a record set in 1978 (Max Milam).
The rest of the new group of recruits consists of five juniors and two sophomores. The new commits will join four seniors and one junior.
A 6-7, 225-pound junior, Andre Henley, hails from the south side of Chicago and is the unquestioned catch of the class. The De La Salle High School graduate played at Hutchinson Community College (KS) prior to arriving at Peru State.
“Andre possesses one of the most versatile skill sets for a 6-7 wing as any player in NAIA basketball. He can dribble, pass and shoot, has tremendous court vision and plays the game with great feel. Dre can defend multiple positions and go get the ball of the glass and lead the break as a point forward,” Behrends said.
Six years ago, Henley was considered the best player in all of Chicago, a city which produces more Division I basketball players than any other in America. He played for the best AAU team in the state of Illinois, Mac Irvin Fire, which seems to be a revolving door for high school athletes into college. After a tremendous freshman year, former Kentucky Head Coach Billy Gillispie offered Henley a scholarship. As a sophomore, the future looked brighter than ever. From De La Salle, Henley took his talents to Carbondale at Brehm Prep, a powerhouse high school in southern Illinois. Despite his talent and skill at his position, Henley did not make the transition he had hoped, becoming the first or second man off the bench. Some offers continued to roll in from schools like Marquette, Iowa State and Illinois. Once Gillispie was let go as head coach and Callipari was hired, that scholarship was no longer on the table and this once promising player was falling out of the limelight and soon to be forgotten.
Henley transferred back to De La Salle to be apart of one of the best teams in Illinois. This time around, though, he was a bit overshadowed by the play of Mike Shaw, who signed on with Illinois, but after two seasons transferred to Bradley for the 2014-15 season, and stars such as Texas Tech’s Alex Foster (6-8, 210) and Illinois standout Jaylon Tate. Despite the accolades of Foster and Shaw, both of whom were immediate contributors at Tech and Illinois, respectively, Henley was widely considered the best player for De La Salle.
“Watching Henley, he seemed effortless going up and down the court making great passes, breaking up passing lanes, and finishing at the rim. Although he is not blessed with explosiveness, his game could lull you to sleep how swiftly he plays the game,” a college scout wrote in 2011.
“Henley has the perfect game for a small forward. He’s quick on his feet, he can hit the mid-range shot with consistency, he can drive to the basket, and he has long arms the makes him a very good defender. He can dribble as good as anyone at that height and while he won’t jump out of the gym, he can finish at the rim with ease. The potential is there for Henley. Could potential be the word that describes the rest of Henley’s career, or will we find this young small forward on NBA draft boards in years to come?,” the scout wrote.
Other signees are Riak Bol, a 6-10 junior from Omaha Benson High School, Deandre Hollins-Johnson, a 5-10 point guard who followed Behrends from Omaha Central to Peru, 5-8 junior Darwin Ellis, from Brooklyn, N.Y., graduated from Lincoln High before playing at Williston State (N.D.), Karim Diop, a 6-7 junior from Dakar, Senegal, Anthony Richardson, a 5-11 sophomore from Schenectady, N.Y., and JaPree Murry, a 6-3 sophomore from Papillion-LaVista.
Behrens is cautiously optimistic about this group of recruits and looks forward to getting these commitments on campus in a couple of weeks.
“I am pleased with our second recruit class, especially having had a longer time to do so compared to getting a late start last year. We look to build upon the success of last year as our returners, combine with the newcomers, should provide us with more depth.”
Peru State will open its season on Nov. 4 with a road contest with Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, IA.