JUCO star has Seattle U high on his list

If there's a common thread that binds junior-college basketball players, it's bitterness. Many JUCO players are where they are because they didn't get scholarship offers from NCAA D-I programs coming out of high school, and many of them use that snub as motivation. But if Brendan Westendorf has a chip on his shoulder, you wouldn't know it by watching his smooth, effortless style on the court.

Westendorf's numbers, however, look like those of a player who is trying to prove something to a lot of people.

The 6-6, 200-pound sophomore shooting guard at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, Wash., is one of the most prolific scorers on any level of college basketball. Through last weekend's schedule, Westendorf was averaging 33 points per game, to go with 9.5 rebounds, four assists and three steals for the Vikings. On Dec. 14 against Shoreline C.C., he dropped 55 points -- the highest single-game output since the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges started keeping track in 2008 -- on 20-of-22 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 from three-point range.

About a dozen D-I programs now have Westendorf on their recruiting radar, including Seattle University. The Redhawks were one of the first to show serious interest, and are one of the handful that have offered him a scholarship to be part of their 2014 recruiting class.

"I'd say I'm an all-around, laid-back player," Westendorf says when asked to describe his style. "I model my game after LeBron James, with a little bit of Jeremy Lin and a little bit of James Harden."

Westendorf averaged 16 points as a senior at Kentridge High School (Kent, Wash.) in 2011, but playing on the same team with all-state guard Gary Bell Jr., he was overshadowed. His AAU experience wasn't any better, as he played on the same Seattle-based Rotary Style squad as Bell, Tony Wroten and Joshua Smith.

While Bell ended up at Gonzaga, Wroten at Washington (before going to the NBA) and Smith at UCLA (before transferring to Georgetown), recruiting letters for Westendorf came few and far between.

"Gary and those guys were getting all the attention. I was just kind of there," Westendorf recalls. "It kind of bothered me a little bit, but I just dealt with it. There's wasn't much I could do but keep playing and keep working hard. I was always told I was good enough to play in college, but then I wasn't really getting recruited, so I didn't know what to believe."

Westendorf decided to spend a post-graduate year at God's Academy prep school in Lake Dallas, Texas, where he finally caught the attention of D-I recruiters. Westendorf says he was ready to accept an offer from Memphis, but facing the prospect of sitting out a year before being eligible to play, he chose the JUCO route.

Brendan's father, Lance, had played at Big Bend before going to Southeastern Oklahoma State, so the family was familiar with the school and the coaching staff. Brendan averaged 22 points, six rebounds and six assists as a freshman before his game really came together this season.

"In the offseason I mainly wanted to get a little bigger and stronger. I also worked on my off-hand and my decision-making," Westendorf says. "But I guess the biggest thing is just being more confident. Just not being a freshman and knowing the league now, knowing what our coaches are teaching us."

Seattle U is high on Westendorf's list of D-I suitors, which includes Creighton, Utah, Hawaii, Saint Mary's, Portland State, Idaho State, Weber State, Southern and Cal Poly. Seven of those schools have offers on the table. Westendorf says Seattle U was one of the first schools to recruit him when he was at God's Academy, and now puts the Redhawks on his top-five list.

Asked what he's looking for in a school, Westendorf says location doesn't matter.

"I grew up in the inner-city, so I'm used to the city, but right now I'm going to school in the middle of nowhere and it doesn't really bother me," he said. "The team aspect is the most important thing. I want to know if I can get along with the coaches and the players, if it will be a good fit."

Style of play won't be a big deciding factor, either.

"I like to get up and down and run a lot. That would be at the top of my list," Westendorf says. "But I've played in other systems where it's slower and there's a lot of set plays. So that doesn't really mater."

Westendorf plans to make his decision after Big Bend's season ends in March. Meanwhile, Seattle U is also recruiting high school Class of 2014 guards Armond Davis of Foss H.S. in Tacoma, Wash., and Jawan Stepney, another Kentridge product.

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