Thayer's All-State standout headed to Springfield
Once a Cat, always a Cat.After helping lead the Thayer Bobcats to a 26-3 record along with a berth in the Class 2 State Quarterfinals as a senior, standout hoopster Josh Wemlinger inked an NCAA letter of intent to continue his hardwood career as a member of the Drury Panthers, leaving one feline family for another.
Wemlinger, who earned All-State, All-District, All-Conference and All-Ozarks honors this year, signed his letter April 13, the first day of the spring signing period, after choosing the Springfield-based Drury over a number of junior colleges, including turning down an offer from Southwest Missouri State-West Plains.
In the end, the security of a four-year college was more appealing to Wemlinger, who scored 15 points in Thayer's quarterfinal loss to eventual state champion Marionville in the state tournament, than did the idea of playing two years at a JUCO and then seeing what lay in the future."I really like Drury," he said. "That's really the school I wanted to go to. I love the city of Springfield and felt like Drury was the best fit for me."
According to second-year Panther Head Coach Steve Hesser, Wemlinger should fit right in with the style of ball Drury likes to play.
"He's a very good player," Hesser said. "I like his length. He's long, quick and is blessed with the ability to get off the floor. We have a flexible offensive system here. We run a five-man motion, in-and-out scheme. We play combinations that will have our best five players on the floor. We may have four guards and a forward, or a guard and four forwards, and he has the physical attributes to play any number of different positions. All of our players get a lot of touches."
Hesser's comments are echoed in those of Bobcat Head Coach Cliff Hawkins, who coached Wemlinger the past two seasons after the multi-dimensional player transferred to Thayer from Gainesville as a junior.
"Josh has had a big impact on our program. He's a big part of the reason we went 26-3 and made it as deep in the tournament as we did," said Hawkins. "We played him at every spot on the floor, and he excelled at all of them. You can put him at point guard, two spot, three spot, anywhere. It was tough for him his first year here, getting used to our system, but when you can sign on to play basketball at a school like Drury, I think that really speaks about the type of player and person he is."
The 6-4 Wemlinger averaged 18 points, seven boards, four assists and two-and-a-half steals per contest for the South Central Association champions from Thayer, who ran through the always-tough conference with a perfect mark this year.
This level of competition should help Wemlinger when he joins the Panthers as they battle through the ranks of the Great Lakes Conference, regarded by many as the toughest Division II conference in the nationNot uncommon with the jump from high school to college hoops, strength will determine a lot about how much Wemlinger is able to contribute at Drury as a freshman.
"Coach Hesser said he's not scared to play freshman," Wemlinger said. "I'm looking forward to playing there."Hesser said Wemlinger definitely will get a chance at court time next season.
"He'll have an opportunity next year," he said. "He came up here for a visit and played with our guys and played well. He just needs to work on getting stronger for the grind of a long season."
Drury ended last season with a mark of 21-7 in Hesser's first year at the head of the program.
"Coach Hesser seems to be a great coach, and I'm looking forward to playing for him," Wemlinger said.