Brad Comer, left, and Owen White sign National Letters of Intent during a press conference at Rhinelander High School Thursday, Nov. 9. Comer will play Division-II baseball at Winona State University in Minnesota and White will play D-II menís basketball at Michigan Tech University. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
11/14/2017 7:32:00 AM White, Comer follow older siblings into D-II athletics
Owen White and Brad Comer have a leg up on some student-athletes seeking to make the jump from the high school to collegiate level.
Both have brothers who have already been down that road.
On Thursday, the Rhinelander seniors announced they would follow in their older siblings' footsteps as they signed National Letters of Intent to play at a pair of NCAA Division-II school. White will play men's basketball at Michigan Tech University while Comer will play baseball at Winona State University.
White had two older siblings, Keith Jr. and Chet, who played college football at Michigan Tech and another brother, Shane, who played D-II basketball at Bemidji State. Comer's older brother, Kyle, was a Division-II All-American at Minnesota-Duluth.
Both said they leaned on their older siblings for advice.
"I knew they were an established school with mechanical engineering," White said, referencing his brothers' experiences at Michigan Tech and his major of choice. "Once I brought up the idea that I wanted to play college basketball, they were one of the first schools we reached out to.
Comer said, "I talked to my brother about (Winona State) and he was like, 'Yeah, I always wanted to go there.' They have great facilities and a great campus."
White has been verbally committed to Michigan Tech for more than a year. He said the Huskies made a strong push for him following a couple of AAU tournaments in the summer prior to his junior season and that the Houghton, Mich. school was always his No. 1 choice.
"It wasn't a hard decision for me," he said, noting that recruiting from other schools was light. "They were definitely a school I wanted to go to."
Comer said he wanted to following his brothers footsteps at Duluth until a showcase camp earlier this year when Winona State expressed heavy interest.
Comer, who stated during the press conference that he has dyslexia, added that Winona State will provide him with the academic support he needs. Comer plans to major in sports management.
While both had older brothers blaze a trail, their coaches said White and Comer made it to their destinations thanks to hard work.
"He's as much man-made as God-made," RHS boys' basketball coach Derek Lemmens said, referencing the amount of time White has put in on the court and in the weight room improving his game.
"It goes to show when you've got a kid in our area that's dedicated and makes the commitment to making himself better that he can get rewarded," RHS baseball coach Joe Waksmonski said regarding Comer. "As a coaching staff, it feels good because we worked with him on a number of different things over the years."
White averaged a double-double for the RHS boys' basketball team last season, scoring 21.5 points and securing 10.1 rebounds in 17 starts for the Hodags.
He missed the first five games of the season due to a knee injury.
The Huskies went 16-14 overall last year for coach Kevin Luke. Overall, Michigan Tech has made nine NCAA Division II Tournament appearances and has won nine Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles.
At 6-foot-5, White said he projects as a shooting guard or small forward that the next level. Though he primarily plays in the post for the Hodags, Lemmens said White has the versatility to change positions in college.
"He's 6-5, but he can handle the basketball, he can shoot the basketball. He's really going to be a versatile piece," Lemmens said. "He can defend inside and out. That gives a lot of options because when you can play a lot of roles, that's going to get you time on the court."
Comer hit a combined .340 between high school and American Legion baseball this year with three home runs and 44 runs batted in. Additionally, he went a combined 12-2 on the hill between the spring and summer seasons with a 2.18 ERA and 89 strikeouts over 83 1/3 innings of work.
Winona State, a Division II school in Winona, Minn., went 17-33 overall last year, including a 17-23 mark in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Comer said Winona State is looking at him as either a corner infielder or a catcher - where he may see more time this spring for the Hodags.
"He's one of the more knowledgeable kids we've ever had here in Rhinelander," Waksmonski said. "The bat will get him into the lineup and he's proven throughout the years he has the bat."
Both players said they are relieved to have the recruiting process over with prior to the senior season in their primary sports.
"Having the commitment already signed, it's definitely a relief and you don't have to worry about that at all," White said.
"Now I can go out and play," Comer added. "I don't have to worry about colleges looking at me. I can just go out there, compete and be with my team."
Both players thanked their families, coaches and the Rhinelander community for their support.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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