Ben Averkamp knows how to dissect a defense, carving up opponents from inside and outside with precision. That'll come in handy when he becomes an orthopedic surgeon.
The 6-foot-8-inch, 220-pound starting center at Germantown High School began laying the groundwork for that career when he followed up on a verbal commitment he made in June, inking his letter of intent to play hoops at Loyola University Chicago during this week's early signing period.
Averkamp also contemplated offers from UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay, but he chose Jim Whitesell's Ramblers, also a member of the NCAA Division I Horizon League.
"I lined them up and visited all three right in a row so I could compare everything at the same time, and I was comfortable with the campus and enjoyed the city," Averkamp said. "It's about two hours from here, so it's far enough away that I'm on my own and close enough that my family can come down for games. And it's got good academics."
Despite making his choice several months ago, the 4.0 student and returning North Shore Conference player of the year said it was nice to get the formalities out of the way.
"It's definitely a relief to have it done so I can focus all of my time and effort on high school until March," he said, which is when he and the Warhawks hope to finish in the state tournament again after a 22-2 campaign.
Germantown went unbeaten in league competition (14-0), winning the crown for a second consecutive season after going 12-2 in loop action and 19-4 overall while Averkamp earned second-team honors as a sophomore.
Last year, he averaged 16 points, 8.5 rebounds, five blocks and three assists per contest, making the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association first team and the Associated Press second unit.
He earned much of his recruiting attention from an intense Amateur Athletic Union schedule from last spring and summer, which took him to such places as Indianapolis, Louisville, Las Vegas, Denver, Akron and Fort Wayne. But that doesn't mean Averkamp is 100 percent satisfied with his game.
"I've improved a lot with my rebounding and being more active underneath, so my inside hook shot and work around the basket are much better," Averkamp said. "But I still need to work on my three-point shooting because anywhere past 19 feet it's pretty much hit or miss."
Germantown coach Steve Showalter knows that the Warhawks will rely on Averkamp even more than usual because his other four starters graduated. So, he's counting on his big man in the middle to lead the way until his young but talented supported cast finds its footing.
"He's the best we've ever had here, but he doesn't act like it," Showalter said. "The best part about Ben is his overall skill set and fundamentals. He's not great at anything, but he's good and solid at everything. He's good inside but can step out and hit the high school three-pointer, so he's a tough matchup. And if teams worry too much about him, he can handle the ball and is a great passer, so he'll find the other guys because he's unselfish."
It's that combination of attributes that should earn Averkamp playing time early at Loyola, where he'll join former Badger State standouts John Benkoske and Andy Polka of Oshkosh West, Whitefish Bay Dominican's J.R. Blount, and Waukesha Catholic Memorial's Tom Neary.
"They've been rebuilding a bit the past two years," Showalter said. "They've got some good young talent, but Ben should get playing time early. He's got a 7-foot wingspan, but he's not strong enough yet to be a 5 (post) at the Division I level. He's ready for the basketball part, and once he gets down there they'll work on his strength, muscle and physical toughness."
For his part, Averkamp knows what lies ahead and he's excited about the challenges.
"I like playing both, drawing the defense out and then still going inside," Averkamp said. "I'll probably start out as a 4 (power forward), but in later years I could move out to a 3 (small forward). But I understand that there are no guarantees and that I'll have to work for my spot."