|Big Bend men’s basketball player Brendan Westendorf (center) signs his letter of Intent to attend Seattle University accompanied by head men’s basketball coach Mark Poth (right) and athletic director Preston Wilks (left) Thursday inside DeVries Activity Center.
Photo: Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald
By Connor Vanderweyst, Herald sports editor
MOSES LAKE – Everything has come full circle for Brendan Westendorf.
After a successful high school career at Kentridge, a stint at God’s Academy prep school in Texas and two years at Big Bend Community College, Westendorf is headed back to western Washington.
The back-to-back NWAACC East Region MVP and reigning Baden NWAACC Men’s Athlete of the Year signed his letter of intent to continue his collegiate career at Seattle University recently.
Westendorf’s two stellar seasons in Moses Lake garnered attention from coaches across the nation. Big Bend head men’s basketball coach Mark Poth said it was the most Division I interest he had seen for one of his players in the program’s history.
Westendorf verbally committed Saturday and the relief was instantaneous.
"It’s like a lot of stress off my shoulders," he said. "For a while it was just getting to be too much, all the coaches calling me all the time pressuring me into making the decision and everything. Coach (Cameron) Dollar and everybody kind of let me have my space when I needed it."
Interest in Westendorf’s talents steadily built over the course of his two seasons on the Runnin’ Vikes. Leading the NWAACC in scoring and dropping 55 points in a game will do that.
During the season, Westendorf wouldn’t tip his hand on where he might be headed next year but did say his top three destinations included Seattle U, St. Mary’s University and Portland State University.
After Big Bend was bounced from the NWAACC tournament in March, Westendorf took about a month to weigh his options and eventually landed on the Redhawks.
"When I finally decided what school I was going to I just took a deep breath and I just felt all the pressure just disappear and I felt good," he said."
Westendorf enters a Seattle U team that finished seventh in the Western Athletic Conference, losing six of its final seven games to end the season.
The Redhawks entered the WAC tournament as the seventh seed and lost to eventual tournament champion New Mexico state in the first round, 70-68.
Westendorf will add a new dynamic with his versatility of being able to play both guard spots.
"I look at him as more of a two-guard than a one-guard, but he’s very capable of bringing the ball up the floor and making plays too ’cause he’s a very gifted passer and I think maybe people will see a little more of that at the next level," Poth said.
As a sophomore, Westendorf shouldered the scoring load for a young Runnin’ Vikes team to the tune of 29.52 points per game. He had no trouble putting points on the board and will leave Big Bend as the all-time leading scorer in program history (1.625 points) and the single-game scoring leader (55 points).
Westendorf was moved off the ball his sophomore with the addition of point guard Victor Aguero yet still averaged 4.39 assists per game.
The decision undoubtedly pleases Westendorf’s parents who will no longer have to brave Snoqualmie Pass during the winter in order to see their son play and instead will only have to make a 25 minute drive up Interstate-5 to the Key Arena.
"It’s going to be pretty fun," he said. "Growing up there and everything, getting to see some games there a couple times. It will be pretty fun to actually play there now."
The comfort level Seattle brings was a major factor in Westendorf’s decision. He had played in open gyms with several current Redhawk players and already seems to have a budding relationship with head men’s basketball coach Cameron Dollar.
"He’s a good coach and he’s easy to get along with and he tells you what he needs and what he wants," Westendorf said.
Dollar played college basketball at UCLA and spent ten years (1999-2009) as an assistant to current University of Washington head men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar. Dollar was hired to coach Seattle U in 2009 and has compiled a 61-88 record in five seasons.
Dollar communicated with Poth during Westendorf’s recruitment and believes he can compete right away.
"He (Dollar) just really thinks he can step into the program and be a player that can be an impact player for him next year and instantly contribute as a junior so we look for B (Brendan) to have a real successful career there."
Big Bend basketball is a family affair for Westendorf whose father, Lance, played for Poth. Westendorf won’t forget his time at Big Bend soon, forever indebted to Poth for giving him his first opportunity to play college basketball.
"I love it out here and everything," he said. "It was like a great experience playing with Coach (Poth) and everything. Coach is like family so it was really cool to spend time playing for him and everything. Getting coached a different way than I’ve been in the past, him teaching me different things that I haven’t gotten from coaches. It helped me grow a lot so it was good."