Feature photo courtesy of Ben Wiebusch
First impressions are important, and Rockville High School point guard Ben Wiebusch made one on Rockville coach Steve Watson before high school even began.
Wiebusch had recently moved to Maryland from Ohio, and just made the jump from Richard Montgomery’s district to Rockville’s. Soon thereafter, an assistant coach for the Rams spotted him shooting in a recreation center and asked him what high school he was planning on attending. After the word about the talented young guard got back to Watson, he started to pay close attention. When he first saw Wiebusch play in a 2011 eighth grade summer league game, he knew immediately he had a legitimate player on his hands.
“The team he was put on was struggling in their first few games, but when Ben was put on the team, it was like an instant rejuvenation for all of those kids,” Watson said. “Ben made the game look easy at that age. He was getting to spots efficiently, he could shoot the ball and you could really see his abilities to run the show.”
Watson may not have known it then, but he was watching an early version of the point guard who has run his team for the past three seasons, and is only now entering his senior year. Four-year varsity players are rare at Rockville, but Wiebusch’s all-around game has allowed him to play significant minutes for Watson since coming to the school as a freshman.
“Ben is very good shooter and he has very good vision as a point guard,” Watson said. “Teams have to stay attached to him when he is off the ball and he is really good in our screen and roll situations. He makes teams pay if they don’t hedge or double him by making jump shots, and he is able to find the open man when they do try to force the ball out of his hands.”
Wiebusch has put up the numbers to back up Watson’s high praise, too. He averaged 16.3 points per game and hit 45 threes during his junior season, but the Rams struggled as a whole, going 10-13 as they tried to recover from losing numerous key players from the year before. Wiebusch was proud of his play, but also wishes he could’ve done more.
“I would grade my junior season as a B,” he said. “I think I set realistic goals for myself in the beginning and achieved them personally, but as for Rockville, I feel like we did not reach our potential. I wish I had recognized the attention defenses would place on me and used it to set up teammates for easy opportunities. It was a new role for me to step up and lead a young team.”
Despite his team’s somewhat disappointing record, Wiebusch’s junior year was certainly a big step forward in his growth as a point guard. Because of the Rams’ youth movement, he had to shoulder the load offensively, which allowed him to develop an aggressive style that he models after a top NBA player.
“I try to approach the game like Russell Westbrook and attack from the start,” Wiebusch admitted. He also mentioned how he tries to copy the way NBA MVP and Finals champion Stephen Curry “utilizes ball screens to create an opportunity for him to shoot,” because like Curry, Wiebusch is undersized.
Wiebusch has drawn heavy interest from Division III schools, as well as a couple Division II schools. Campbell University, a Division I college from North Carolina, just reached out to him last week.
It doesn’t appear Ben will have time this summer to be a typical teenager and watch Netflix or sleep in. But that is the side effect of a full summer schedule. According to him, he’ll be spending the majority of his time on the hardwood, playing for his AAU team, Baltimore’s Finest, and for Rockville in the Maryland Phenom Hoops summer league. July will be particularly busy for the rising senior.
“I am going to the Hoop Group Elite camp the first weekend in July, and we’ll play in a couple of other events that will help us get in front of college coaches,” he said. “The big event for us will be the Under Armour Association Finals July 15-18 in Atlanta. I’m excited because it’s another opportunity to get better and play against tough competition, and hopefully we can win a couple of championships as well.”
As far as which schools have really stood out from the pack, Wiebusch said it’s an even race. He indicated he would like to make a decision during his high school season, but is also open to waiting until the AAU live period in April if he hasn’t found the right fit. He did lay out what will help a college separate themselves, though.
“I want to go to a school that is close to my family, that way my parents can continue to come to games to watch me play,” Wiebusch said. “I also want to go somewhere where it feels comfortable and I have a good relationship with the coach. As far as playing right away, I plan to just come in and play my role to help contribute to the team winning.”
Watson, meanwhile, is confident that wherever Ben ends up, he’ll hit the ground running.
“Ben is a kid with a very high basketball IQ that loves the game,” the coach said. “He’s a gym rat, so no matter where he may be on the depth chart when he arrives he will work to improve and make the most of any opportunity that he is given.”
Overall, Wiebusch has enjoyed the recruiting process, and like the point guard he’s been for so many years, is keeping his eyes on everything that is in front of him.
“The recruiting process has been fun, yet stressful,” he explained. “Nonetheless, I am excited for my senior season. I hope that my recruiting will have taken off by then, and that I have decided on a school by the time the springtime comes.”
As Wiebusch and Watson both know, all it takes is one strong first impression to make a coach want a player. And after looking at the skills Wiebusch possesses, the stats he has put up and the busy summer schedule he’s about to start playing, it’s only a matter of time before he again sways someone with his stellar play. He’s done it before, and odds are, he’ll do it again.
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