COLLEGE PLACE - Walla Walla University is holding the second annual Senior Showcase this week, an all-star basketball games/camp featuring close to 40 male and female athletes from the Walla Walla Valley and beyond.
Besides an exhibition of local talent, the showcase also serves as a way to show off the university and the basketball programs to recruits in addition to evaluating said recruits.
The heavy focus on local athletes is part of a broader recruiting strategy that focuses on local athletes first, then branches out to a national scope, WWU coach Mike Patterson said.
The list of local athletes includes Weston-McEwen's Ron Terjeson; Burbank's Nathan Roberts; Dayton's Garett Turner and Shelby Smith; Walla Walla Valley Academy's Daniel Lomeland and Kristianna Buell; Liberty Christian's Jake Siefken; and Waitsburg-Prescott's Dionna Baker, Ronnie Hulce and Kristen Potter.
W-M's Dallas Reich was scheduled to attend, but is unable to participate due to a conflict with playing with the TigerScots baseball team.
W-P's Hailey Goenen was also scheduled to attend, but was injured.
"There's a lot of quality girls here," Patterson said. "We need to make sure it's a good fit for them and the university. This is just the first step for them. It's a great thing for the university because WWU is able to showcase all the great characteristics of a small university."
The showcase has been effective as a recruiting tool in the past; of the recruits that visited last year, three men and four women ended up seeing the courts for the Wolves.
W-P's Dionna Baker, a 5-foot, 5-inch wing, said she is interested in attending WWU, but said she was probably following her mother into the Navy. What interested her the most was the opportunity to play with other high school players from around the country.
"I saw there's people from Texas and all over, it's kind of exciting," Baker said of the week-long camp. "I think it will be different."
There will be five athletes from the Lone Star State, to be precise. Three of which, Kevin Squarzon, Janelle Sabin and Emily Nolasco, hail from the Chisholm Trail Academy in Keene, Texas.
WWU men's coach Jimmy Hill said Squarzon earned an invite after scoring 52 points in a single game against Hinsdale Academy, another school WWU recruits located near Chicago.
"As soon as we saw that he (Squarzon) put up 52 points against guys that we consider pretty high-level college basketball players, we decided to recruit him," Hill said.
The trio, should they choose to attend WWU, will be following in the footsteps of freshman guard Abbey Manzano, who also attended Chisholm.
Out-of-town athletes arrived in College Place Wednesday night, and the first day of practice and campus tours began Thursday. There will be a 3-point and free-throw shooting contest tonight at 5 p.m. that is open to the public.
WWU coaches Hill and Patterson will not be coaching at the event. They will instead evaluate recruits and talk with parents while volunteers from the area, including Scott Wagner and Monte Buell of WWVA, coach the recruits.
Current WWU players will help coach as well.
"I'm excited to be at it again," Wagner, who coached in last year's Senior Showcase, said. "It's a fun experience. I attended the University and played basketball there, so it's fun to go back there and help them. It's fun to see the talent from around the country too."
Wagner said he was excited to see Lomeland, a 6-3 shooting guard that averaged 18.3 points a game for WWVA his senior season, move on and play college ball.
"I'm really proud of Daniel (Lomeland) and the opportunities this represents for him," Wagner said. "He's a good player for us and its going to be fun to see him go on."
Hill said Lomeland was adjusting well to playing against higher-level competition.
"Any time you take a guy from a smaller high school, you're always afraid that they won't be able to make that jump," Hill said. "We've been very pleased with how he's been doing against these bigger, stronger guys. If anything he's stepped his game up. We've really liked what we've seen from Daniel so far."
The all-star games are being held Saturday night at 8 for the women and 9:30 for the men.