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Freshmen ‘twins’ shoot to make giant impact on the court

February 7, 2008

Do you ever remember a time when you wished that you were bigger? Think back to a time when you weren’t allowed on the roller coaster or a time when you couldn’t reach the cookie jar on top of the fridge. How about when Tom Hanks asked the Zoltar machine at the carnival to make him big in the classic movie of the same title, or when 90’s rapper and one-hit-wonder Skee-Low rhymed, “I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller”? Well, those famous lyrics fell on deaf ears for two freshman additions to the Falcon basketball team, because fortunately for the program, the fans that pack Karges Arena every home game and anybody in need of help changing a ceiling light bulb, these boys are taller, and they are most certainly ballers.

Freshman recruits Alex Whittenberger and Wade Guerin both stand at 6 ft. 8 in. tall, weigh in at 210 pounds, play the position of forward, rank statistically in the team’s top ten lists in overall scoring, points and rebounds and wear jerseys donning the numbers #21 and #22 respectively. It’s almost as though if you saw either of them walking down the hall to a dorm room you could mistake one for the other. The only thing they could do to possibly be more alike is to be roommates in the same dorm room, and wouldn’t you know it, they are.

Aside from all the similarities, the freshman twin towers came to UW-River Falls from different backgrounds, making the coincidences between them even more interesting.

Whittenberger hails from West Allis, Wisc., and came to the Falcons by way of Nathan Hale High School, where he averaged six points and seven rebounds per game as a senior. UWRF was the first college to notice and recruit Whittenberger, and he felt that after talking with the coaching staff he really believed in them and what they had to say.

Now that he is here, Whittenberger recalls the fact that all of his classes are really close together and within walking distance, as well as that the University Center stands as a good center of campus activity as some things he has grown to like about living on campus. He recalls the first month of school as being tough because he was adjusting to being five hours away from home, as well as getting used to the workload that accompanies college classes, but credits his getting used to it to the friends he made instantly when he was introduced to his fellow ballers.

One of these athletes he met was Guerin, his current roommate, who helped make the decision halfway through the first semester that would have Whittenberger, who was living in temporary housing, move into a room with him at the start of the second semester. Guerin, who hails from Bloomington, Minn., came to the Falcons by way of St. Croix Lutheran High School where he averaged 16.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game his senior year and was an All-Conference selection. Guerin was also recruited by the coaching staff. After two campus visits, he chose to become a Falcon.

Guerin also found that he liked the idea that he could walk to all his classes, as well as spend free time in the University Center, but also mentioned how much he enjoyed the Karges facility, and how when packed, it is an extremely positive place to play basketball. Regarding his transition into college life, Guerin recalled the nice feeling that came from having so much more freedom than he did at home, as well as the sense of maturity produced by being responsible for making 100 percent of his own decisions for a change.

When asked the question of how each responded to the higher level of play they encountered when taking the step from high school ball to college ball, the giant gentlemen were as similar in their answers as their physical characteristics.

“Not only are the players at this level stronger physically,” Whittenberger said, “but they are also stronger fundamentally.” Guerin’s answer would follow those same lines, but would also go into a bit more detail about the game as well. “The game is alot more intense,” Guerin said. “It’s faster, the competition is higher and everyone on the court is an athlete working at their highest level.”

As for the idea of how each can improve their game, Whittenberger would like to work on improving his strength, specifically so to become stronger on the post, as well as put in time practicing his mid-range jumper. Guerin would like to improve like any athlete does and get bigger, stronger and faster, while at the same time continue to put in work on his 3-point shooting and improve his jumpshot off the dribble. Both athletes feel that they have the potential to do great things here under head coach Jeff Berkhof, who, according to Whittenberger and Guerin, “stresses a strong work ethic, puts in alot of time along with the rest of the staff and really knows his basketball and how to teach it to his players.”

So feel free to say hello to the freshman twin towers on the Falcon basketball team. Maybe there are times when you wish you were a little bit taller, and want to curse those like #21 and #22 who walk among us like giants, but when such an instance arises, these 6’ 8” student athletes would like you to think about the luxuries you take for granted. Luxuries like not having to duck in doorways or bend down to get under the showerhead, or maybe most importantly, sleep in a bed without having your feet hang 12 inches off of the end. Remember these things, and remember to show your support for these student athletes and the rest of the Falcon basketball team this season.