Bawinkel Talks About Decision

Ever since his recruitment began, Devan Bawinkel has wondered when he would know that he had found the right school. On a trip to Michigan State, Bawinkel asked Spartans freshman Maurice Joseph how he figured it. Joseph told him, Michigan State just felt right.

When Bawinkel was at Illinois, Wisconsin, DePaul, Georgetown and every other school he visited, he never felt anything like that. Each school had something going for it, but there wasn't a special feeling that told him it was home.

That was until he stepped on to West Virginia's campus in Morgantown, W.Va.

On Monday, he followed his gut. Bawinkel, a 6-foot-5 guard from Winnebago, announced he had committed to play basketball next season for the Mountaineers.

"It was exactly the feeling I had at West Virginia," Bawinkel said. "It was just the right fit. The players, the coaches, the campus, it all just felt right. I was unsure at the other schools. I had questions. At West Virginia, I felt this was the place where I wanted to go. It felt like the right fit."

Bawinkel opted for West Virginia over DePaul and Georgetown, two schools with urban campuses and without football teams. The fact the Mountaineers are based in a college town and have a football team were to their advantage with Bawinkel. He liked the school's atmosphere on and off the sporting fields.

What all three schools did have going for them was being in the Big East Conference. "I think the Big East is the best conference," Bawinkel said. "You can argue the ACC, but the Big East has the most talented teams from the top to the bottom. I couldn't have gone wrong with any of the three."

It had looked like Bawinkel could be headed DePaul, especially when the Blue Demons received a commitment from his Illinois Wolves AAU teammate and friend Will Walker in September.

Walker's commitment certainly had an impact on Bawinkel's thought process.

"First, when I heard Will was going to DePaul, I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to go to there,'" Bawinkel said. "Him and I know each so well on the court. I also like what Coach (Jerry) Wainwright is doing at DePaul and the program. But the best decision for me was to go to West Virginia."

Bawinkel adds to an already stellar recruiting class for the Mountaineers. They received a commitment last week from New Jersey swingman Desean Butler, who also chose West Virginia over DePaul.

Like Butler, Bawinkel is a versatile player who can play the 1, 2 or the 3. He's deadly from the outside – he sank 45 3-pointers last year -- and can drive inside and score. He can also give the Mountaineers another ballhandler when the defensive pressure is turned up.

Wolves coach Troy Johnson thinks Bawinkel will be a perfect fit for West Virginia coach John Beilein's system. It's a system that propelled the Mountaineers to the Elite 8 last year of the NCAA Tournament.

"Their thing at West Virginia is they want the 2s, 3s and 4s to pretty much be interchangeable," Johnson said. "They have a lot of long, lanky guys who can shoot. Not only shoot it, but handle it. That's one of the things Devan's been underappreciated for in the state of Illinois. He can handle the basketball."

Bawinkel likes to think he can add a lot to the emerging program.

"I think what I give West Virginia is a combo guard that can backup the point guard if needed," he said. "They get a shooter. If I get an open shot, I've going to shoot it. They're going to get a great teammate and a hard worker. Hopefully, I can get them some wins, too."

Winnebago knows Bawinkel can do a little bit of everything and produce wins. He's been doing it for the Indians for the past few years.

As a sophomore, he averaged a team-leading 14.3 points and helped them finish second in Class A. Last year after losing some keys players to graduation, Winnebago still returned to the state championship, only to lose to Hales Franciscan. Bawinkel averaged 20.5 points and 8.1 rebounds for Winnebago.

Now with the decision behind him, Bawinkel has returned his focus to dominating northwest Illinois and getting Winnebago back to Peoria for the third straight year. He knows there's going to be pressure on him to do it, but he's ready to burden that. "I love it," said Bawinkel of being a sort of celebrity in town. "You kind of carry yourself in a different way. You carry yourself in a proud way. You're always in the town's eye and want to make them proud.

"Me going to a Division I school is definitely a big thing out here. There hasn't been one in awhile. Hopefully, this shows the kids in the community if I can do it, they can do it."

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