White to play men’s hoops; Comer to play baseball
BY KEVIN BONESKE
A pair of Rhinelander High School seniors made their plans official Thursday to play NCAA Division II sports after graduation by signing letters of intent during a ceremony in RHS’s Digital Media Center.
Owen White has been offered a scholarship to play men’s basketball at Michigan Tech, while Brad Comer received a scholarship offer to play baseball at Winona State University.
“These two not only on the field, but also around school and just as role models, I have to say ‘thank you’ what you guys have done,” said RHS activities director Brian Paulson. “Anytime that I’ve asked for some assistance, you guys have always been there.”
RHS head boys basketball coach Derek Lemmons said it is not a surprise for White to be signing a letter of intent to play NCAA Division II basketball.
“The time he puts toward the game of basketball and improving at everything he does, it pays off,”
Lemmons said. “He has all the physical tools, but the rest of that he had to do himself.”
White, a unanimous All-Great Northern Conference first-team selection in boys basketball his junior year, led the conference last season in points per game (22.2), rebounds per game (11.5) and individual blocks per game (2.5) after appearing in 11 of 12 league contests. He plans on majoring in mechanical engineering at Michigan Tech, where he quipped he is “really excited for the 10 feet of snow in Houghton every year.”
“Academics definitely played the biggest role in the college I chose, because I don’t plan on playing anywhere professionally for basketball,” White said. “So to go to a school, I had to be set on them as an educational school, and Michigan Tech is one of the top schools for engineering and any degree whatsoever. Going there was pretty easy (to choose), even if I wasn’t playing basketball there.”
Upon graduating from college, White said he would like to come back to northern Wisconsin and work.
“As a White, people would probably think I want to work on fans,” he said. “That could end up happening.”
White noted two of his older brothers went to Michigan Tech and played football there, while another brother, Shane, played men’s basketball at Bemidji State University. The Michigan Tech men’s basketball team, a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, last season finished 13-8 in conference play and 16-14 overall.
Given the skill level of men’s basketball players in Division II, White said he hopes he will have a role on Michigan Tech’s team with his athleticism and scoring ability as well as defense.
“I would consider myself a smart player, so I think that will help a lot on the defensive side, because Tech is a very defensive-minded team – they can be at times,” he said.
White said he expects he’ll be a small forward or shooting guard for Michigan Tech, where he hopes to play his freshman year.
“They’ve got really skilled players up there now, so I don’t know if I’ll start freshman year, but definitely be a contributor right away and be a leader as I go on in my career,” he said.
In his final season of boys basketball at RHS, White said his goals include winning the Great Northern Conference championship.
“I hope we win conference in basketball – I think we will,” he said. “And a regional championship is one of our goals. It’s something we haven’t done in three years, so I would prefer not to go through my whole high school career without winning a regional championship.”
Comer, who will also be on the Hodag boys basketball team this winter and played on the football team this fall, noted he will become a one-sport athlete focusing on baseball upon joining the collegiate ranks.
RHS head baseball coach Joe Waksmonski said it has been great coaching Comer “because of his work ethic, his talent, his love for the game and his dedication to his teammates, to his coaches and to his community.”
“Thank you again, and represent Rhinelander in Winona,” Waksmonski said.
Comer, who received unanimous All-GNC first-team honors in baseball his junior year, both pitched and played in the infield last season when he led the conference in pitching victories (5), strikeouts (39) and earned-run average (1.44). At the plate over 12 league games, Comer batted .270 (10-37) with 6 RBI. He plans on majoring in sports management at Winona State.
Comer said a career in sports management, which he hopes to be involved with at the college level, would enable him to be “around the game still when I’m done with it.”
Comer – whose older brother, Kyle, played baseball at the University of Minnesota Duluth – said Winona State would be able to provide him the help he needs dealing with dyslexia.
He said he was recruited by Winona State to be an infielder – primarily third base, as well as first base and catcher – and play some outfield.
“I want to change the program a little bit,” he said. “They’ve had a couple of rough seasons, but they used to be super good.”
Winona State, a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, last season finished 17-23 in conference play and 17-33 overall.
Comer said he would like to be a starter in college his freshman season.
“I know that’s a big goal, but I think I can do it,” he said.
In his senior year on the RHS baseball team, Comer said he hopes the Hodags win the Great Northern Conference title and also end up as the regional champion with the team moving to the WIAA’s Division 2 in 2018.