By Ryan Kaczmarski
Lutheran West star forward Dan Hillenbrand has committed to further his academic and basketball careers at Shawnee State University located in Portsmouth, Oh.
The Longhorns’ captain knew Shawnee State was a good fit for him as soon as he took a trip to the campus.
“I felt a really strong connection with the coaches and the players,” Hillenbrand said. “I went down there … and I spent the night, and I really felt welcome. They are all really friendly. They took me in and made me feel at home.
“I’m excited to get down there.”
Shawnee State is a NAIA Division I college, that competes in the Mid-South Conference, but that did not deter him from making his choice.
“Cleveland State asked me to walk on and the Air Force Academy contacted me,” he said. “A lot of NCAA Division II (also contacted him), but I felt that Shawnee State was the best decision.”
Hillenbrand is slated to play for the Bears as a freshman and he hopes he shows the coaching staff that he deserves to increase his time on the floor with good play.
“(Head coach Jeff Hamilton) told me I’ll probably get around 10 minutes a game, but I’m going to try work my way into the program and maybe even the starting lineup. That’s my goal.”
Hillenbrand, measuring in at 6 feet, 6 inches, played primarily in the post position for the Longhorns, but he is looking forward to increased playing time facing the basket.
“(Hamilton) said that I’m going to play a little bit with my back to the basket – in NAIA the post is a little smaller, around 6 feet, 8 inches – so I’m going to keep my back to the basket, but I might move out to the perimeter and be a forward,” he explained. “Maybe in my junior or senior year, I’ll move out to (the small forward) position, once I work on my ball handling a little bit more.”
“One of the things Dan does better than anyone I’ve ever seen at his size, is run the floor and finish in transition,” Lutheran West head basketball coach Alan Januzzi said. “Obviously with his size, at our school, we had him inside all the time, but he does have perimeter skills. He can shoot and handle the ball, but those are (skills) they will continue to develop with him. As he grows and fills out, he will bring versatility, by playing inside and out.”
Hillenbrand feels the educatiion he received at Lutheran West has prepared him to major in engineering.
“I’ve taken a lot of advanced math classes and I’m taking an engineering class right now,” he said. “I’m also taking Auto-CAD class, so I might get into (drafting) as well.”
Januzzi is not surprised by the choices Hillenbrand has made in his young adult life.
“One of the things we look for here at Lutheran West, and any college coach would look for, is character,” he said. “If you rate Dan on a scale from one to 10 in the character category, he gets a 10.”