BY CHAD DARE
Bronson Verhines reacquired the competitive fire to play college basketball watching his younger brother, Dawson Verhines, play for Rend Lake College.
The older brother, who was attending Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville had only played one year of college basketball at Kaskaskia College.
He stepped away from the game, thinking that he was giving it up forever as Bronson planned to concentrate solely on his academics.
Today, in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, Bronson and Dawson Verhines will be playing together as Rend Lake, seeded fourth, will open the tournament against Cecil College in the 8:30 p.m. game at the Mary Miller Gymnasium.
“When I saw Dawson play a few games last year, I started to miss it,’’ Bronson said. “I was playing some club ball at SIUE and some pick-up games.
“But getting back onto the court with real officials and real teams was surreal. It was a feeling that I missed. I have really enjoyed the feeling of being back on the court.’’
In 29 games this season, Verhines is averaging 9.5 points and 8.1 rebounds a game for the Warriors, who are 26-3 and the champions of the NJCAA Division II Region 24 and the Great Rivers Athletic Conference.
“I didn’t expect Bronson to play the way that he has this year,’’ said Rend Lake coach Randy House, who actually tried to get Bronson Verhines to play for his team two years ago after he left Kaskaskia. “That’s nothing against Bronson, but you don’t think that you are going to get a kid that can average almost double-digit statistics in points and rebounds that is walking the streets.
“He has been a real key to our season.’’
And this season has been an opportunity for the Verhines’ brothers to play together for one final time.
Making it to the National Tournament is a fitting finale, but they are both hoping for a better finish than they got in the final season together at Woodlawn.
“It was my sophomore year and his senior year,’’ Dawson Verhines said. “We played the whole year together. We were runners-up in the IHSA Class 1A State Tournament and we had a good season at 30-2.
“Playing together this season and making it the National Tournament is bring back all those memories.’’
Dawson Verhines really thought that would be their final season together as he was planning on being a college baseball player.
“Things changed and it’s unbelievable that we are playing together again,’’ Dawson said. “Unless something happens next year, this will probably be our last year, so we are taking advantage of it and enjoying it.’’
Bronson Verhines, who had only one year left to get a degree from SIUE, isn’t sure what his plans are for next year.
“Actually, I already have two degrees from Rend Lake,’’ he said. “Coming back to Rend Lake, when I was so close to graduating, probably doesn’t seem like a rational decision to most people.’’
He is still looking at getting his degree in economics with a minor in mathematics, but now he can also include a minor in business.
“There is a chance that I will go back to SIUE,’’ Bronson said. “They have offered me an opportunity to walk-on there.’’
The Cougars are an NCAA Division I institution and Bronson would be limited to just one year of eligibility.
“This might not make a lot of sense to people, but it’s worked out perfectly for me,’’ he said. “I don’t have any regrets, this year has been a lot of fun.’’
And House points out that Bronson Verhines is one of three academic All-Americans on the Rend Lake roster.
“As good of a basketball player that he is, he is even a better person,’’ House said. “He is a 4.0 (GPA) student. He is going to be a contributing member to society.
“It’s a pleasure to coach a young man like Bronson.’’