ELKHART — Joe Pechota’s not sure exactly how many times he made the two-hour-plus trip between Adrian, Mich., and Elkhart during this past basketball season, as well as since, but it’s enough that “I could probably drive it backwards.”
“We’ve been over here a ton,” Pechota said, “but it also makes recruiting a little easier when you’re looking at multiple kids.”
Pechota, head men’s coach at Siena Heights University in Adrian, was eyeing at least three Central players during the season.
Now he’s landed that many.
First, JJ Stahl committed to the collegiate rarity of playing both football and basketball when he decided a couple months ago to join Siena.
Now, the Saints will have the perhaps even rarer distinction of three classmates from one high school in one college basketball program.
Blue Blazer seniors Blake Brouwer and Brian Harter both have accepted full-tuition offers to play at Siena, Pechota said Thursday, May 9, while in town.
“With both Blake and Brian we feel liked we’re getting players with great skill sets, good size and with no doubt their best basketball ahead of them,” Pechota said. “And I think they’re both individuals who will work.”
The 6-foot-6 Brouwer averaged 9.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and ranked among the area’s leading 3-point shooters this past season as the Blazers went 6-15 in head coach Troy Noble’s first season aboard. Brouwer finished 33 of 78 on treys for 42 percent and shot over 50 percent on 2-pointers.
“Blake is that typical Indiana kid that can flat-out stroke it from outside,” Pechota said, “but he also has that mid-range ability that you don’t see developed much anymore. He has the nice one-dribble pull-up.”
While Brouwer was ranking second for Central in scoring this past season, the 6-9 Harter missed much of the season due to injury.
“It probably took him off a lot of (schools’) radar, if he was ever on the radar,” Pechota said, “but we think we’ve found something here. We’ve worked him out ourselves, and he’s got great feet and great hands, and it’s hard to find both in a post player. Usually you find just one. He’s doing great (health-wise), and I think he’s physically and mentally ready.”
Pechota, who became aware of Central’s prospects through friend and Blazer assistant Scott Sekal, completed his first season at Siena Heights last winter with a 9-19 record, 9-13 in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference.
Siena is an NAIA Division II program that has run into tough times recently — one winning record in the last seven years — but also one that went 276-80 with a pair of Final Four appearances from 1996-97 to 2005-06, capping off 28 straight winning seasons.
“We’re going to get it built back up,” Pechota said. “That’s part of why we have a JV program. It’s like having our own developmental league.”
Because he’s effectively stocking two teams, Pechota said he anticipates bringing in about 16 players in this latest recruiting class before he’s finished.
“They’ve all got a chance to step in right away,” Pechota said about Brouwer, Harter and Stahl’s chances of landing on the varsity, “but like everybody, they’ll be better evaluated once we have everybody together.”