Football or Basketball for Weishar?

Football or Basketball for Weishar?
January 22, 2012, 10:53 pm
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First, the easy question: Why is Nicholas Weishar referred to as Nic instead of Nick?

"My mom chose it and I went along with it," he said. "Nicholas is my full name. Nic stuck. Without the k. It bothers me that everybody misspells my first name. But that's the way it is."

Second, the hard question: Which sport do you prefer, football or basketball?

"I like both sports equally and I continue to work hard at both. I don't know which sport I'll play in college," he said. I don't know if I can give one of them up. I have been playing both sports all my life. I'm not ready to decide yet."

Weishar, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound sophomore at Marist, doesn't have to make an early judgment. He still has ample time to develop and improve in both sports. But he has two scholarship offers in football, none in basketball, so it would appear that his future might be in cleats, not sneakers.

Or is it?

"He is very good at both sports," said Marist basketball coach Gene Nolan. "He enjoys the high school experience. His energy never lets up. He runs like a guard. He acts and plays and listens as if he is the 15th player on a 15-man team. He is humble and down-to-earth. He could be the best athlete ever at Marist."

At the moment, Weishar is concentrating on basketball. Marist is 16-4 going into Tuesday's game at Seton. The RedHawks will play at Carmel in Mundelein on Friday. In their last three outings, the swept St. Patrick 62-57, Brother Rice 75-69 and Harlan 45-44.

"We're not real big but I like our team," Nolan said. "Our kids are committed. They are coming together. We're coming into the tough stretch of our schedule in January and we'll find out a lot about our team. Rebounding is our biggest issue. We must sustain effort on defense for entire possessions. We have a real challenge ahead. But it is a great group to coach."

In his 12th year, Nolan has three starters from last year's 19-11 squad which the coach felt was an overachiever, certainly more successful than the previous teams that were 12-17 and 15-15.

"I was excited going into this year," said Nolan, who believes his 2012 team has the potential to surpass the achievements of the 2004 (25-5), 2005 (25-4) and 2007 (23-8) squads that reached the sectional semifinals. The school's only Sweet Sixteen qualifier was coach Paul Swanson's 26-4 team in 1981.

The RedHawks are led by Weishar (13 ppg, 9 rpg), 6-foot-1 junior L.J. McIntosh (17 ppg) and 6-foot junior point guard Lexus Williams (13 ppg, 5 assists). The other starters are 5-foot-7 Tyler Oden (9 ppg) and 6-foot-3 senior Matt O'Reilly (8 ppg). Jack Barry, a 6-foot junior (5 ppg), provides spark off the bench.

In the victory over St. Patrick, Oden scored 16 points, Weishar 14. Against Brother Rice, all five starters scored in double figures -- McIntosh (18), Oden (14), Williams (14), Weishar (13) and O'Reilly (13). Against Harlan, despite playing with flu-like symptoms, Weishar scored 22 points, including the game-winning basket as time expired.

Weishar began playing football in second grade, basketball in fourth grade. He was a chubby offensive lineman until eighth grade, then was switched to running back. He enjoyed playing in the line because he was involved in the offense and had ball-carriers running behind him.

But Marist football coach Pat Dunne moved him up to the sophomore squad as a freshman and noticed he had "good hands and decent speed." So the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder was moved to wide receiver. The sophomore squad went 9-0 and Weishar had found a home.

"I trusted coach Dunne," Weishar said. "I liked (wide receiver) right away. I thought it was a great fit for me. I liked using my speed against smaller cornerbacks. And I enjoy contact. You can't get it in any other sport. I love hitting people even though I'm a wide receiver. And I like scoring touchdowns. There is no better feeling for your team."

College recruiters like the looks of Weishar in a football uniform, too. He has offers from Illinois and Northwestern and interest from Notre Dame, Michigan State and Minnesota. Many more offers are coming. He is rated as one of the two leading prospects in the class of 2014 in Illinois, according to recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network.

It isn't easy juggling a busy schedule that includes playing basketball, negotiating the recruiting process in football and maintaining a 5.42 grade point average on a 5.0 scale.

"It is challenging to do it all...balance athletics and schoolwork. I don't have much of a social life," Weishar said. "Sunday is a big homework day. It is hard to focus on both sports. I call football coaches every week while I balance football, basketball and my studies. It gets pretty difficult, a lot of late nights. But I'm getting used to it. It is an awesome experience. I'm not going to complain about it."

Academics are most important. If he gets a bad grade on a test, his parents let him hear about it. They push academics. But they want their son to be well-rounded and they recognize that sports also is an important part of the educational process.

He has visited a Northwestern practice and attended Penn StateNorthwestern, Ohio StateIllinois and NavyNotre Dame games. He also plays AAU basketball with coach Mike Mullins' Illinois Wolves in the spring and summer. In fact, he often works out in football and basketball on the same day in the summer. And he plans to attend football and basketball camps during the coming summer.

So basketball still is in the mix.

"All of my best friends play basketball. I don't want to let any of them down," he said. "I'm not interested in comparing scholarships right now. I just love basketball. I want to win a state title. In basketball, I like the crowd that is on top of you. I like to take charges. That's my favorite thing to do. It gets the team pumped up. I like the contact."

Weishar would be thrilled to receive Division I offers for basketball. "The ideal situation would be to have to decide between offers for both sports," he said. He believes basketball recruiters should take notice of his leadership skills. "That's what sets me apart in basketball. I think that's what college coaches would be interested in," he said.

No matter which sport Weishar is playing, there is a whole lot to like.