"I go to some of their games here and there," said the well-grounded Bawinkel. "I like to going to school stuff. Plus, my neighbor is the head coach, so I like to support her and the team."
Seemingly small items like that can reveal a great deal about a player's character, and if there's one thing WVU head coach John Beilein looks for in recruits (other than shooting skill, of course) it's strong character. And in Beilein and WVU, Bawinkel found what he was looking for as well.
"West Virginia was everything I was looking for. It is the complete package," Bawinkel said after committing to WVU. "There are great coaches and players, I liked the campus, and I loved the Appalachian mountains. It's a college town and has a real college atmosphere. I like the Coliseum, too. It's on campus, and I like the fact that they practice in the gym they play in."
"I like the city too, but it was a matter of West Virginia having the true college feeling," said Bawinkel, who lives about an hour away from Chicago. "It was a tough choice. DePaul and Georgetown are great schools, but WVU was more my fit."
Bawinkel began to feel that West Virginia was right for him during his visit.
"My visit was the first time I had been to West Virginia. Since I hadn't been there I didn't know what to expect, so nothing was really a surprise to me. I figured it would be a nice campus, and it everything I thought it would be.
"I talked to a player I knew that went to Michigan State, and I asked him how I would know when it was time to commit, and he told me that you would just get a gut feel about a certain place. When I was at West Virginia, I got that feeling. All of the visits are set up pretty much the same – you play with the team and hang out with them and take the tour, but at West Virginia I just got that feeling that it was the best fit. West Virginia has a system I can be comfortable in."
During his visit, Bawinkel was hosted by Pat Beilein and Mike Gansey, which was admittedly something of a thrill for the Illinois star.
"I could see myself playing there and fitting in there very easily," Bawinkel said of his time at WVU. "Mike is a player I watched on TV. He was my favorite player on the team, and just getting to be on the court with him was a thrill."
Bawinkel also demonstrated his character by following through on a planned trip to Georgetown, even though he felt strongly that West Virginia was the place for him to be.
"I felt like I had to visit Georgetown, because they recruited me the longest," he explained. "I wanted to see what things were like there, and their coaches were good, so I felt like I owed that to them."
In the end, however, the attraction of the college campus feel and the easy relationships he developed with the players and coaches made WVU's offer too good to turn down.
"I had been thinking ever since I came to West Virginia that I didn't want to let this opportunity pass me up," said Bawinkel, who averaged 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists as a junior.
Now that he has his college choice behind him ("it's a big weight off my shoulders") Bawinkel is looking forward to helping his team grab the one thing that has eluded it the past two years – a state championship.
"That's definitely my top goal as a senior," he said with determination. "We've been state runner up the past two years, and this year we want to win the whole thing."
I think I am a good passer and a good shooter off the dribble," he said after some thought. "I'm a good competitor too."
He shot 54% from the field and 40% from three-point range as a junior.
"I talked to Joe Mazzulla at the ABCD camp, and I and played against Cam Thoroughman in an AAU tournament," he said. "I also played against Wellington Smith, although I didn't know who he was at the time."
Introductions will likely be made soon, and although the members of the WVU Class of 2006 probably won't get together until next summer, Mountaineer fans are already getting excited with the talent being assembled by Beilein and his staff.