Busters movin' on
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
Six Garden City Community College men's basketball players were honored Wednesday afternoon for signing letters of intent to play at four-year colleges in the 2014-15 season.
Jade Cathey, Talan Whitaker, Jeremy Wilson, Reuben King, June Johnson and D'Shon Taylor, all sophomores, signed at six different universities, and were praised for their contributions to GCCC by both their head coach, Brady Trenkle, and others in attendance in the Hall of Fame room at the Perryman Sports Complex.
"This is the best team I've coached in 14 years, as far as kids," Trenkle said during the ceremony about the team that finished 22-9 and in a tie for third in the Jayhawk Conference West.
Cathey and King, the only two players to play for two years at GCCC, signed at Wayland Baptist University and Charleston Southern University, respectively.
Wilson picked Fort Hays State University, while Johnson is going to Bethany College and Taylor chose Norfolk State University.
Whitaker signed his letter of intent just before the start of the 2013-14 season to play at the University of Texas — Pan American, but was also honored at the ceremony.
Cathey's decision to attend Wayland Baptist, a NAIA private university in Plainview, Texas, came down to family. His 5-year-old daughter, Janiah, lives in Liberal, where Cathey grew up, and Wayland Baptist is just under four hours away.
"Being a father, to Jade, is more important than life," Trenkle said about his 6-foot-5 forward. "So, I commend him for that."
Cathey was the leading rebounder and scorer for the Busters in his sophomore season, scoring 11.8 points per game and hauling in 6.8 boards per game. But Cathey was much more effusive about his growth off the court during his time with Garden City, and with Trenkle as his head coach.
"Me and Trenk (Trenkle), man. Trenk's changed me a lot," Cathey said. "I've become more of a man with Trenk. I thank Trenk for everything — Garden, too, they changed me a lot."
The Pioneers of Wayland Baptist went 23-11 last season and made it to the 32-team NAIA National Championship tournament.
The only other two-year player at GCCC this season, King originally committed to Coastal Carolina out of prep school, but was a credit short of qualifying, which led King to GCCC to be coached by previous head coach Rand Chappell.
King admitted he was not a defensive player to begin with, saying he didn't "want to play defense last year."
However, that changed when Trenkle took over, and King developed into the best perimeter defender on the team, routinely matching up with the opponent's most potent scorer.
And now, King committed to Charleston Southern, an independent Liberal Arts university in North Charleston, S.C., based mostly off of his defensive acumen, Trenkle explained.
"You've got to be tough," King said about his change in mindset to playing better defense. "You've got to hate people scoring on you, and you've got to want to stop everybody. You've got to take pride."
Though, he did not go so far as to say he is a defense-first player now.
"I plead the fifth," the 6-foot-3 guard joked. "I want to guard the best player, and I want to score 40 on him, too."
One of the main reasons that King chose Charleston Southern, though, was because they are rivals to Coastal Carolina, which stopped contact with King following him becoming ineligible to attend there out of prep school.
"It just felt right," King said about his decision to play for Charleston Southern. "I didn't over-think it, I just went with my gut and it felt like the right decision. Plus, we play Coastal twice a year, so that really made me want to go."
King scored 7.5 points and hauled in 2.9 rebounds per game.
Charleston Southern competes in the Division I's Big South Conference, where they went 13-18 overall and 6-10 in conference in 2013-14.
The Nassau, Bahamas, native's decision to sign with Norfolk State was two-fold. One, he met and discussed the benefits of playing there with Norfolk alum and current NBA player with the Orlando Magic, Kyle O'Quinn, during Taylor's official visit.
"I'm a big fan of the NBA, and Kyle O'Quinn, who played for Norfolk State, he came down and talked to me for like two hours," the 6-foot-5 forward said. "He was just telling me stories and stories about how much he liked the school, so I mean, coming from him, it made me feel like that could be me someday."
And two, it was near the beach.
"He took a visit, recognized it was about 15 minutes away from a beach, and that's where he was going," Trenkle joked. "He just told me, "Coach, I want to go somewhere where it's warm."
Taylor originally played at John Brown University, an NAIA college, but transferred to GCCC to pursue Division I offers after playing at a junior college.
"It definitely feels good," Taylor said. "Ever since I was a kid I wanted to play Division I. Just watching it on TV, I always wished it was me."
Taylor averaged 7.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game off of the bench.
The Spartans play in the Division I Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and went 19-15 overall in 2013-14, eventually ending the season in the MEAC tournament semifinals to North Carolina Central, which represented the conference in the NCAA tournament.
The high-flying forward known for his spectacular dunks chose Fort Hays State over several Division I offers, instead deciding to stay close to home, according to Trenkle.
"It's not all about the level you go to," Trenkle said. "Jeremy chose to go to Fort Hays over a lot of Division I's — very local kid, wants to be close to home. Plain and simple."
Wilson said the ability for his parents, who live in Wichita, to come to his games on the weekends was paramount in his decision-making process.
But it was also about his ability to go to a team for which he feels like he could play a big role.
"I was needed (at Fort Hays State)," he explained. "They needed a four-man (strong forward) in there to rebound, stretch the floor and go outside, too."
Wilson was the second-leading scorer for the Busters in 2013-14, dropping in 11.2 points per game, while hauling in six rebounds per game. He also averaged one block per game.
Fort Hays competes in the NCAA Division II Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, and went 22-8 overall in 2013-14, earning a selection to the NCAA Division II National Championship tournament.
The oldest of 10 children, Johnson said his decision to play at Bethany College, like many of his teammates, came down to proximity to his hometown of Wichita.
Bethany is in Lindsborg, about an hour north of Wichita.
"They got the steal of the century at Bethany," Trenkle said about Johnson. "June turned down some Division IIs to go there, and it's a great fit."
"The future is bright for him," Trenkle continued. "I can see him becoming an All-American."
The 6-foot-2 shooting guard praised Trenkle for getting him there.
"I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't for that man right there," Johnson said, pointing at Trenkle.
Johnson was the Busters' most lethal outside threat, hitting 41.5 percent of his 3-point attempts while averaging 6.4 points per game.
Bethany is a private college in the NAIA's Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Swedes went 20-11 in 2013-14, ending the season in the conference semifinals.
Whitaker's ceremony for signing at Pan American was held prior to the 2013-14 season, but he was in attendance, as well. He was still very forthcoming about how he felt about this year's team.
"I love each and every one of the players on this team," the 6-foot-5 forward from Denver, Colo., said.
And Cathey interjected with, "I love you, too."
Whitaker averaged 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for the Busters.
Pan Am is located in Edinburg, Texas, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference of Division I. The Broncs went 9-23 in 2013-14, and ending the season in the first round of the WAC tournament.