NEENAH — Matt Heldt is following the footsteps of other local high school athletes this summer by committing to college before their senior year even starts.
The 6-foot-10 center, who led the Rockets to the Division 1 state title game last season, verbally committed to Marquette on Tuesday. Heldt, who had offers from Davidson, Drake, Green Bay, Lehigh, Milwaukee, Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Toledo and Xavier, said one of the biggest reasons for his decision is new Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski.
“He’s a relationships guy, which I really like because there’s going to be a time in my career when I’m going to obviously have to talk to him no matter what it’s about,” Heldt said. “He’ll be like a person-coach first, care about the players and then also be a basketball coach and a team coach.
“I’m really excited. It’s definitely a great basketball tradition at Marquette. I’m really just pumped to rep the Marquette jersey and play in the Big East.”
Heldt is the second area player to commit to Marquette since Wojciechowski took over in the spring as Seymour’s Sandy Cohen recommitted to Marquette after Buzz Williams left.
Heldt (6-foot-10) said he didn’t make a decision now so he could concentrate on his senior season. He said Marquette was the right choice, so no better time to make a decision.
“If I didn’t have a school like, ‘This is the place,’ I was going to take my time in August and early fall to think about what schools I was leaning to,” he said. “I didn’t need that. I realized Marquette is the place for me.”
When Heldt, who averaged 18.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last season, led the Rockets to the state title game Williams was the coach for Marquette, but then Williams left for Virginia Tech and Wojciechowski replaced him. Heldt said Wojciechowski wasted no time in recruiting him.
“As soon as Coach ‘Wojo’ got there he worked on me really hard,” Heldt said. “He offered me fairly quickly. I visited four or five times. First one was when I got offered.
“I liked all of it, especially the guys; that was a big thing. I really liked Luke Fischer, Deonte Burton, Duane Wilson, I really liked those guys a lot.”
Heldt is the second area boys basketball player to commit to a Division I university this summer as De Pere’s Brevin Pritzl has verbally committed to Wisconsin. There’s also West De Pere’s Cody Schwartz who is expected to commit to a Division I school, in addition to the likes of Ashwaubenon’s Kyle Monroe, Kaukauna’s Carter Belling, Oshkosh North’s Blake Marquardt, West De Pere’s Connor Konshak and Kimberly’s Ben Boots, who are at least receiving Division II interest.
“I think it’s amazing the kind of talent this area is putting out,” Heldt said. “It shows the coaches are doing great jobs coaching and the work ethic of the kids, not just settling for being the best on their team, but trying to be the best they can be and that’s producing a ton of DI players in the area.”
Heldt now can concentrate on his final season, which he’s looking forward to.
“It’s about our team, I want us to do as well as we can,” he said. “I’m so excited for this season.”
Scouting report on Heldt: With his height, Heldt can control the inside on both ends, but what makes him so good is he can step out and make the 3-pointer. His versatility on offense and length on defense is why he’s a Division I player.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay