Middleton's Rongstad picks UW-Milwaukee
Derek Rongstad didn't want to rush into the biggest decision of his young life. But the more he chewed on things, the more clear it all became.
The program. The potential. The location. The opportunity.
Rongstad, a senior at Middleton High School, liked all of the above about UW-Milwaukee’s men’s basketball program. And earlier this week, Rongstad decided to become a Panther.
Rongstad accepted a preferred walk-on offer at UWM and will join Rob Jeter’s program in 2014.
“It seemed like Milwaukee was just the perfect fit,” said the 6-foot-5 Rongstad. “I really liked the program and the coaches. I wanted to get it done early so I could just focus on getting ready for my senior year. It’s exciting.”
Rongstad, a first-team all-Big Eight Conference performer last year, drew interest from two Division 1 schools: Milwaukee and Elon (N.C.) University. Several Division 2 and 3 schools also made offers.
Rongstad won’t receive any financial support at Milwaukee — at least early on. But Rongstad is hopeful he’ll eventually be able to play his way into a scholarship.
“They said nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is promised,” Rongstad said. “But they said if I perform and work my way into the rotation, a scholarship will come. If I deserve it, it will come.”
Those who have watched Rongstad shine at Middleton know it would be foolish to bet against him.
Last season, Rongstad averaged a team-high 16.3 points per game in Big Eight play. He also averaged 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals, shot 44.8% on three-pointers and 74.1% from the foul line.
Rongstad scored more points than any junior in the history of Middleton’s boys basketball program. Rongstad also set team records for most three-pointers in a game (seven) and a season (56).
Rongstad also helped the Cardinals advance to the WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinals, where they fell to Madison Memorial.
“Look up ‘gym rat’ in the dictionary and there’s Doc’s picture,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said of Rongstad. “Sometimes you have to worry about whether someone is focusing on the wrong things or getting into a situation that might hurt more than help when it comes to offseason training and playing. But with Doc it all starts with a great work ethic as his foundation.”
Rongstad, a two-year letterwinner, played with the Madison Spartans AAU team this summer. And he drew rave reviews for his ability to defend, distribute and score.
Rongstad has also added 10 pounds of muscle since last season ended as he tries getting stronger for the rigors of the college game.
For now, Rongstad’s thrilled his college choice is in the rearview mirror. He can now concentrate on his upcoming season and making his senior year a memorable one.
“It’s a huge weight off my shoulder,” Rongstad said. “People say it’s the same game and you might play the same regardless.
“But it’s a lot different when you’re wondering if there’s a college scout in the gym. Now I can just concentrate on basketball.”