Three Seniors Laid a Foundation for Antelope Men’s Basketball
By Cooper Nelson
Men’s basketball players Nick Witherill, Justin Wesolowski and Kyle Speed face the harsh reality of the end to their GCU careers in their final home game Saturday night against Dixie State College.
The three seniors don’t want it to end. And neither does their coach.
“They’ve been here since the very beginning and have helped lay the foundation,” said Head Coach Russ Pennell. “We’re going to miss them greatly.
“They can be proud that they helped elevate this program and set it on solid ground. They are going to be incredibly successful in their lives. They all have unbelievable work ethic, great personalities and are outstanding people.”
Pennell brought in two of them as transfers — Witherill from Washington State University and Wesolowski from the University of Northern Colorado — when he took the GCU job in the spring of 2009. He recruited Speed, originally from Seattle, from the Kansas junior-college ranks in time for the 2010-11 season.
All three players felt that GCU was a great fit for them.
“We came here to play for Coach Russ, that’s pretty much it,” said Witherill, who had played club basketball for Pennell during high school alongside Wesolowski and juniors Braylon Pickrel and Brad Carroll.
Speed said he loved the GCU environment from the start, first visiting campus on the last week of the 2009-10 season.
“On my visit, I liked the guys and the coaches,” he said, “and I felt like it was the best opportunity for me to develop as a player.”
The Antelopes are known as a close team off the floor, and that’s something Wesolowski said he will miss.
“Being able to wake up every day and play basketball with my friends has been my favorite part about being here,” he said. “It has been a fun ride, one I wouldn’t want to do with another group of guys.”
All three said it’s difficult to pinpoint a single memory as a favorite — and yet they did.
“I think my favorite game was when we won against Seattle Pacific by one point in my first year,” Witherill said.
Wesolowski said last season’s victory at Dixie State on a last-second 3-pointer by Steve Morin was his favorite.
Speed has a more comical favorite moment — at freshman Justin Foreman’s expense.
“My favorite was when I went long (with a pass) to him against Hawai’i Pacific and he airballed the dunk,” he said, laughing.
Although their future plans are uncertain, they agreed that they made the right decision in coming to GCU.
“Coming here was way better than I could ever imagine,” Speed said. “I’m sad that it has to end.”
They also want Antelope fans to know their appreciation.
“Thank you for coming out and supporting us for three years,” Witherill said. “The GCU community keeps getting stronger, and I would be proud to come back here in the future as an alumnus.”
The fans “always had our back,” Wesolowski said, and Speed said he never will forget how he and his young family have been embraced by them.
Cooper Nelson is a GCU junior majoring in communications who played for two seasons on the men’s basketball team.