How this Peoria Christian star will handle basketball and baseball in college
PEORIA HEIGHTS — Basketball or baseball, on the diamond or in the gym — it's not easy choosing between the two sports.
Luckily for Wes Hunt, he won’t have to decide. The Peoria Christian senior is committed to Taylor University — a private NAIA school in Upland, Indiana — where he’ll mange his time between basketball and baseball.
The 6-foot-8 wing’s hoops talents were on full display Saturday night in a 47-38 win over Peoria Quest at the 43rd annual Peoria Heights Thanksgiving Tournament. The Chargers went 4-0 to claim the tourney title, securing back-to-back trophies and their third crown since 2014.
He scored a game-high 25 points on 11-for-20 shooting with seven rebounds, four blocks and two assists. Hunt scored the first 12 points of the second half for PCS, then sealed the victory by making a pair of free throws with 37.4 seconds to play.
“It’s always been the plan,” Hunt said of starting the season undefeated. “We’ve just been working for it. We worked so hard (in the) offseason. We haven’t done this in a while. … This just sparks the flame for what’s to come.”
Peoria Christian last started 4-0 during the ’14-’15 campaign but two years earlier began the season 5-0.
Making the decision to play two college sports didn’t come easy for Hunt. He says his summers are jammed pack between playing travel baseball with the Central Illinois Outlaws and traveling to Chicago for AAU basketball with Team RWA.
Time management and staying disciplined are especially key for the infielder and pitcher, who hit .436 and posted a 1.91 ERA in the spring.
“It’s not easy,” Hunt said. “It takes a lot of hard work. Got to eat right. Got to sleep right. Working out and sometimes it’s hard but it’s all fun now. It’s paying off.”
Hunt says he was fully aware of the two-fold role he would need to undertake entering his final prep season.
One comes in the leadership he would have to display for a pair of starting freshmen in Malachi Persinger and Darren McGlendon. That would be a responsibility he would have to share with fellow senior and all-tournament team member Gavin Johnson.
PCS coach Jason Persinger says his two seniors have really taken those first-year players under their wings.
“They’re a calming force out there,” Jason Persinger said of his two captains. “They push them to be better in practice and they’ve really shown them the way Peoria Christian plays basketball.”
More offensive production is the other responsibility Hunt is taking on.
Seems nearly impossible for the all-Inter-County Athletic Conference selection who last season averaged 19 points a game. But that’s because all-stater Daniel Duncan — the program’s fourth all-time leading scorer — has graduated along with his 20.5 point per game average.
Hunt hasn’t missed a beat, putting up 22 points a game including a 33-point, 15-rebound effort in a two-point win over Eureka last Tuesday.
“He’s incredible,” Jason Persinger said. “He’s full of humility. He’s full of skill. He’s full of effort. Every single day — even though he’s the best player on the floor — he comes to work just as hard as anybody else. When adversity comes, he doesn’t back down. He steps up.
“We really changed our style of play. With Wes … we want to work from the inside out and maybe in the past, we worked from the outside in. Daniel is hard to replace, doing it by committee.”
Added Hunt, “We kind of knew that Daniel was obviously taking a lot of shots, so we were going to have to fill it in somewhere. I was expecting it and thought we did pretty well.”
Expectations for the rest of the season are high for PCS. The Chargers have a tough ICAC slate along with nonconference meetings with Canton, Lewistown, East Moline and Roanoke-Benson as well as a regular-season finale with Quest.
However, postseason success is what this team — winners of successive regional titles — is building towards, specifically after losing in a 2019 Class 1A sectional championship when Hunt was a sophomore.
“That hurt,” he said. “That still burns. We’re still working (to get) back to that.”
Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.