Always a Cub: Junior guard grew up with Franklin hoops

No matter the opponent, location of the game or what night of the week it’s played, Blaine Wentzell lives his sports dream.

As a young boy no taller than the dribbles he would practice, Wentzell, like generations of boys and girls before him, couldn’t wait to be a Franklin basketball player.

“My family’s been in this area for a long time. My grandparents and even their parents have dated back to Franklin basketball. It’s had a pretty big impact on my life,” said Wentzell, a 5-foot-9 junior who starts at guard for the Grizzly Cubs.

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“I think Dave Clark was still the coach when I saw my first game back in the days of (2010 graduates) Christian Nicodemus and Jared Jewell. This is a really cool experience. Just putting on the Franklin jersey and playing for this wonderful school is a fun thing.”

Maybe it was the blue and white candy-striped warmup pants or the opportunity to release jump shots in the gym the Grizzly Cubs began playing in when he was 6.

Whatever the case, Wentzell is a fixture in coach Brad Dickey’s starting rotation. Wentzell enters Tuesday’s game at Perry Meridian averaging 11.1 points a game and is the team’s leader in made 3-pointers with 49.

No small feat considering classmates Reece Thomson and Cory Richards are also known for knocking down perimeter shots.

Wentzell contributes both as scorer and ball-handler.

“He goes back and forth from the 1 to the 2. We’re trying to get him more touches at all the positions,” Dickey said. “He’s been an effective shooter for us and is trying to take on more leadership.

“So far he’s been our best shooter. He gets that knock-down spot. He stands out there where teams can’t leave him, and he’s an unselfish kid. If a team does elect to stand on top of him, usually we can get something good behind him.”

The lineage of former Franklin basketball players in Wentzell’s family includes his maternal grandfather Stephen Baker, a former men’s basketball player at Franklin College.

Baker’s daughters, Shannon and Michelle, were point guards for the Cubs in the mid-1980s; current Franklin girls point guard Kyra Baker is Wentzell’s first cousin.

Shannon, Wentzell’s mom, recently completed her first season as one of the girls program’s assistant coaches.

Blaine learned early how to positively impact a basketball team with his confidence as a perimeter shooter.

“Blaine would go to the open gyms in the sixth or seventh grade. He couldn’t figure out how to beat the older boys, so he knew that he had to shoot from the outside,” Shannon said. “He learned early how to shoot it and how to make it.”

The youngest of three children, Wentzell was a freshman when his older brother, Bryce, was a senior guard for the 2015-16 Franklin squad.

Dickey allowed Blaine to dress varsity for senior night that season, a 71-54 victory over Jennings County.

“I know that first time he went out there, he said, ‘Mom, that was the coolest thing,’” Shannon Wentzell said. “Blaine has wanted this for a long, long time.”

By the numbers

JUMP IN NUMBERS

Blaine Wentzell’s statistics as a sophomore and junior:

Season;PPG;APG;3-pt FG

2016-17;4.4;1.0;23

2017-18;11.1;1.7;49

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.