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WARNER – It was decision day for Willie Atwood on Thursday, one of the most highly recruited Connors State basketball players in school history.
The 6-8 forward, who was recruited by more than 40 NCAA Division I schools cut the list to three schools, University of Iowa, Florida State and Arizona State.
At a ceremony just outside Melvin Self Field House on Thursday, Atwood revealed he was taking his talents to Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., to play for head Coach Herb Sendek and the Pac-12 Conference. The Sun Devils were 21-12 last year and 10-8 in the Pac-12.
Atwood admitted it had been a long year and was happy to make his decision. “It was a difficult decision for me, because all three are great schools,” said Atwood. “Arizona State was the best fit for me because of my situation. Coach Sendek believes in me and I can start for them immediately.”
Atwood said during his visit last week to Tempe he “got real close to the coaching staff and the players. After I returned I sat down with my family, coaches and just decided Arizona State was the best school for me,” said the 6-8 sophomore from Memphis, who will graduate May 9th from Connors.
During this past season Atwood was a third team National Junior College Athletic Association Al-American selection and was the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference and Region II Player of the Year. He averaged 20.8 points last season in leading the Cowboys to a 23-7 season record. He was also named to the Region II All-Tournament team.
Atwood was Cowboy head coach Bill Muse’s 14th junior college All-American during his 22-year coaching stint at Connors.
“Willie is just a special kid,” said Muse. “He took us to the national tournament as a freshman, won the conference as a sophomore. We won a lot of games with Willie but he has also done a lot for this college, the faculty, staff who have enjoyed his personality.
“He has been a high class student (Communications major), citizen who has worked very hard to improve his game. He has come a long way from high school where he didn’t have many recruiting options to where he is today from this program.
“I think Willie fits Arizona State and that conference. They have lost their entire front line and he feels he can go in and be an impact player,” said Muse.
During Atwood’s two seasons at Connors State he scored 953 points to average 15.6 points per game over two seasons. During his sophomore season he scored a career high 41 points against Independence Community College and had 11 double-doubles during the season.
Atwood shot 57.6 percent from the floor connecting on 17-of-304 attempts, which included 27.3 percent from behind the arc. At the free throw line he drained 270-of-349 attempts for 77.4 percent at the stripe, while pulling down 271 rebounds for a 9.0 per game average.
The sophomore also averaged 2.1 assists per game, while making 20 steals and 8 block shots last year.
Reflecting on his career at Connors, Atwood said, “I want to thank Coach Muse and my teammates. Coach Muse has been my mentor and has guided me. He made me work hard and helped me reach my potential. He’s like a good granddad to me.
“It has been sweet here at Connors. I have the scoring record and was able to help put up two banners on the wall. I was able to be one of Coach Muse’s All-Americans and go to the national tournament.
“I will always keep in touch with Connors after I leave. This is my family; you are always a part of the Connors family. I just love everybody here that’s been around me and been a part of my career.
“ It has been special,” said Atwood.