College basketball doesn't always play out the way you expect it to. Sometimes, life can throw you a curveball.
Devan Bawinkel thought he had it figured out. He ended his recruiting process in high school by signing with the University of West Virginia. He played one season there and helped the Mountaineers win the NIT championship.
And then his coach, John Beilein, left for Michigan. And Bawinkel suddenly wasn't needed at West Virginia anymore.
"It was really tough," Bawinkel said. "One of the main things I learned from First Team was to use basketball and don't let basketball use you. I knew basketball was a business."
Undeterred, Bawinkel moved back to his native Illinois and enrolled at a junior college for his sophomore season so he could keep playing. He then went through recruiting all over again, eventually choosing the University of Iowa.
Bawinkel quickly found peace with his decision, and he soon got a reminder that things worked out for the best. In a 2009 late-season game against Ohio State, Bawinkel drained eight 3-pointers and finished with 24 points in a tight Big Ten showdown.
"It was definitely big for my confidence," Bawinkel said. "They run that zone so I knew I'd get a lot of open looks, and that's what coach wants me to do. He gets mad when I don't shoot it."
Bawinkel didn't envision this path when he was at Winnebago (Ill.) High School and participating in the First Team program. But he was prepared for it. While finishing up his career at Iowa, Bawinkel took time to reflect on his college days with iHoops.com.
When did you discover that college basketball would be an option for you?
Eighth grade. That's when we started playing AAU and college coaches could come watch you. I was told by a few people that college could definitely be an option. I was excited knowing I could get a full scholarship to go to college.
You were selected to participate in the First Team program around that time. What was it like?
You were around a lot of elite athletes. In our group, we had guys who are in the NBA now or are big-time Division I athletes. It was exciting to be around them all the time. On top of that, they always had really good speakers come in and talk about doing the right thing and how to act and be responsible. Not only how to be an athlete but be a student-athlete.
What was the recruiting process like for you the first time?
At the beginning, you had so many people contacting you, and it gets pretty stressful because you have so many phone calls and you're new to it so you don't know how to handle it. It gets easier when you finalize your schools to two or three, then you take your official visits and go from there.
I took two official visits, to West Virginia and Georgetown. It was tough because you didn't want to tell someone what they didn't want to hear. I remember one of the most difficult calls I made was calling coach (John) Thompson (III) at Georgetown and saying I wasn't going to come. At the same time, it felt just as good to call coach Beilein at West Virginia and tell him I'm going to come. It's stressful but you're happy at the same time.
What is some recruiting advice that First Team gave you that was useful?
When you go on these visits, you should talk to the players. Most of the time, they'll be honest and they've been through the same thing. The players will tell it like it is and definitely be honest with you. As far as the coaches? See where you fit in with their system. Ask them anything, from where you fit in on the court to what are things like off the court. Just get a feel for if the coach really has your best interest and really cares about you and isn't just out to use you.