Four weeks ago Tulsa formally identified Mitchell Wilbekin as their favored point guard of the future. Midway through September, as formerly as he is allowed, Wilbekin accepted their advances.
"Tulsa it is!!!!!"
Monday evening, Wilbekin entrusted InsideTulsaSports.com and one other media outlet with a texted declaration of allegiance. He wanted to announce at 7 pm E.S.T. but the text went through at 6:59.
By verbally committing, the 3-star prospect becomes the first member of TU's Class of 2014. Head Coach Danny Manning would like to add a pivot in the fall signing period, as well. It is always slightly easier to recruit a post player when he knows who will be providing him with the ball until 2018.
"I feel like I get to take a deep breath that I have been waiting to take for a while," said Wilbekin.
The 6-foot-1 floor leader chose Tulsa over offers from Florida State, UCF, South Florida and others.
Tulsa observed Wilbekin heavily in July. They extended an offer in August. An official visit followed as August ended, and the Wilbekin family hosted TU coaches last week.
The relationship advanced from fresh to cozy in a matter of two to three months.
"I texted Coach Manning Sunday and told him I planned on committing tonight," said Wilbekin. "I called him earlier today before I announced it. I told him that I wanted to commit. He told me it was the best news he had heard in a while."
Wilbekin also stated, "I thought Tulsa was the right place for me."
Nothing makes a coach feel more proud of his program and the direction they are on.
A player is more than a rating, more than his scoring totals. How good is he in the clutch? When almost everyone tightens up from nervousness, where is the hero? Only a handful of athletes are bigger than the moment. Who can overcome the pressure?
Last spring, Mitchell Wilbekin did. In leading his high school to their first ever SIAA (Sunshine Independent Athletic Association) State Championship, Wilbekin proved powerful beyond measure.
Facing an insanely high-powered offense from Jacksonville Arlington Country Day, Wilbekin's Lions allowed just 8 points in the first quarter. It set the tone for the game, and in the end, Wilbekin led all scorers with 15. Ten of his points came from the free throw line, many in the final few minutes with the clock frozen and eyeballs affixed to Wilbekin. This performance landed him SIAA Tournament MVP.
More importantly, his team won. The marks of a great point guard are winning and making your teammates better.
Wilbekin eventually selected Tulsa because of the head coach and his coaching tactics.
"I think I would say their style of play," said Wilbekin. "Coach Manning described it to me and showed some videos. High pick-roll screens. They like to run and get up the floor."
According to Wilbekin, the Hurricane staff has not given any specific directions regarding improvements. Instead, Wilbekin is looking inward to his own goals.
"They haven't really talked to me about that yet," said Wilbekin. "But I know what I need to work on. Improve my strength, quickness. In college it is a big difference in everybody's size and speed. I need to get my weight up."
The influence of TU Assistant Coach Wendell Moore needs to be acknowledged, as well.
"He was the one that first started recruiting me, so we have a great relationship."
Coach Moore and Coach Manning picked up Wilbekin and family at the Tulsa International Airport during his recruiting visit. From beginning to end, Coach Moore was advising Coach Manning on the relationship. And he was surely just as excited on the final result.
"It started how every (recruiting) phone call starts, but after a while they kept calling and we got to know each other better," Wilbekin explained. "I understood what they wanted from me and how I could impact their program early."
Keep in touch
The Rock School maintains LIVE online streaming of their home games. If the logistics work out, you should be able to watch Wilbekin perform ten times this winter.
Last season, The Rock School ventured to South Dakota, Georgia and Tennessee for competitive opponents. Another regional schedule will consume the defending champions this fall too.
Now on board, Wilbekin morphs from recruited to recruiter. He will now be asked to lend some influence on the rest of the recruiting class. As a temporary recruiter for TU, Wilbekin is likable, sociable and reliable. He communicates his feelings maturely, while conveying that contagious hunger for success.
Point guards are required to be leaders. A state champion and first member of his TU recruiting class, Mitchell will lead the recruiting efforts and ideally lead the program forward.
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