Name: Ben VanderWal
School: Timothy Christian, senior
Why he was selected: VanderWal scored 30 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a come-from-behind 50-49 win over Wheaton Academy. He scored 32 points with eight rebounds and six steals in a win over Westmont.
VanderWal was voted by readers as the Suburban Life Athlete of the Week. Here is his interview with Sports Editor Joshua Welge.
Welge: How exciting was that Wheaton Academy win to come from behind against your rival?
VanderWal: It was a total team effort. It took every defensive stop, every loose ball we could get. We played really hard. We came back from down 10 in the second half in a low-scoring game. We know that every game with Wheaton Academy and Timothy Christian will be a dogfight. Going to their gym, it was just a classic high school game, a really cool environment. It was the first time I had been there since I made a buzzer-beater my sophomore year. Definitely cool to go back and win a close game.
Welge: How were you able to put together a big game like that?
VanderWal: I didn’t force anything, didn’t depend on the outside shot, got to the free-throw line and shot 14 for 17. When you’re able to get to the line, it helps you get in the flow of the game and everything comes easier. My teammates were setting me up with passes as well.
Welge: Your team graduated a great player from the last few years, Josh Harris. Have you had to adjust to teams maybe keying on you more?
VanderWal: Josh was definitely a really great player. He could put the ball in the hoop. When teams would focus on him, it freed everything up a little. It’s been an adjustment going from playing with a 1,000-point scorer for three years, but my teammates have done a good job surrounding me and helping me.
Welge: Two years ago, your team went to state for the first time in 40 years. Last year, you won conference. What would be considered a good season this year?
VanderWal: We go into every season with three goals – win conference, win a regional and win 20 games. We feel if we do those three things we will put ourselves in position to have a successful season. Of course, the ultimate goal is to win state, but you can’t win state without winning a regional. Keeping those three goals, it puts a high priority on every game rather than looking ahead to March.
Welge: You committed to Furman over the summer. Did getting that commitment out of the way take pressure off you, or does it add a little with teams knowing you’re a Division I commit?
VanderWal: Definitely all positives making the commitment. It puts me in the spotlight, people are looking at me, I definitely can’t sneak up on anybody. But I couldn’t be more excited to be committed to Furman. I found my perfect school. Now I can go out and have a fun senior season with my buddies that I’ve been playing with since grade school.