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WNCC baseball players to have decisions to make

One major concern of a new junior college program is the potential for heavy turnover on a yearly basis.

But it doesn’t look like the Western Nevada Community College baseball team will have a major exodus after its first year of competition. WNCC may lose a few players from this year’s team and its 2007 recruiting class, but it looks like almost all of the players who would be eligible for the Wildcats will return next season.

Today is the first day of the spring signing period in which athletes can sign with NCAA schools. No activity was expected today, but the signing period lasts well into the summer and there are several players with WNCC ties who will have difficult decisions to make.

WNCC coach D.J. Whittemore has always said his goal is to recruit Division I caliber players.

“I’d like to think everybody we sign is a Division I capable player,” Whittemore said. “We could lose anybody, we could lose them all.”

Whittemore also said heavy turnover is always a concern. “I guess it’s always in the back of your mind that it could happen,” he said.

But he also said it’s tough enough that players stay at the JC level for just two years. To possibly lose a player after one year, “that makes it real difficult,” he said.

WNCC does have freshmen, who were NCAA academic qualifiers out of high school and could move on if they choose. But Whittemore doesn’t see that happening.

“Most of our guys want to come back,” he said. “They think we’re going to be a pretty good team next year.”

The Wildcats have two sophmore starters on this year’s team – centerfielder Aaron Henry of Carson and shortstop Jerahmie Libke, so those are two players WNCC will lose. Two other players that WNCC could lose is freshman third baseman Tyson Jaquez and Reno High’s Davis Banks, who has signed as part of WNCC’s 2007 class.

Jaquez has been offered a scholarship by Nevada, Whittemore said.. “He’s completely uncommitted, right now,” Whittemore said.

Whittemore has told Jaquez he wants him to return for his sophomore year, but if he chooses to go to Nevada, he would support the decision.

“We’d be honored if any of our players accepted a scholarship to a DI school,” Whittemore said. “That’s what junior college is all about, moving guys to the next level.”

Whittemore said he wouldn’t blame Jaquez, who played for nearby Loyalton, Calif., if he chose Nevada.

“That was my dream growing up,” said Whittemore about playing for Nevada. “I’m sure it was his dream growing up as well.”

Whittemore has said he would like Jaquez to make a decision as soon as possible, so he could offer his scholarship package to another player if he chooses to leave.

While Banks has signed with WNCC, his letter-of-intent is only binding with junior colleges and is non-binding with four-year schools. Whittemore noted that about 75 percent of the players who sign with Community College of Southern Nevada sign with both that school and a four-year program. “Player sign at a JC and a four-year school all the time,” he said.

Nevada has shown interest in Banks, Whittemore said, and he added that Banks could be taken high in the Major League draft.

“He will for sure, a couple of difficult decisions to make,” said Whittemore about Banks going to WNCC, Nevada or signing with a Major League team. “There’s not a whole lot of 6-5 shortstops out there that can hit for power.”

Whittemore said Henry has received interest from Nevada and Southern Utah and Libke, who lives in Las Vegas, will likely walk on at UNLV. Whittemore said about any program that ends up with Libke: “They’ll be really happy they’ve got him.”

Another player who could be drafted, who Whittemore expects to be at WNCC is Spanish Springs pitcher Kyle Smit, another member of the 2007 class.

“He’s made it pretty clear to us he wants to come play here next year,” Whittemore said.

As it stands now, Whittemore has signed 10 scholarship players for 2007 and said he’s looking to offer two more.