Greg Wesley, one of the top basketball prospects in the Dallas area, saw what Tony Benford is building at North Texas over the weekend.
That was all that was necessary for the 6-foot-7 forward to decide he wanted to continue his career with the Mean Green.
Wesley, who is ranked No. 17 on TexasHoops.com’s list of the top players from the state in the class of 2013, committed to UNT on Tuesday, just days after taking a weekend visit to the school.
“I enjoyed the coaches and the players,” Wesley said. “I liked their talent and intensity. It’s far enough away from home so that I can grow up, but close enough so that my mom can see me play.”
Wesley averaged 14 points and 6.2 rebounds for Seguin last season and was a first-team All-District 7-4A pick.
Wesley said he chose UNT over offers from Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, TCU, SMU, New Mexico State and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Oral commitments are non-binding. The first day recruits in the class of 2013 can sign national letters of intent is Nov. 14, the first day of the early signing period.
UNT has been a consistent Sun Belt Conference power since former head coach Johnny Jones led the Mean Green to the NCAA Tournament in 2007. Jones left to take over at LSU after last season.
UNT turned to Benford in the off-season to guide what could be the Mean Green’s best team in school history, one that will feature top NBA prospect Tony Mitchell.
Benford added a few key pieces to that team and has also been building for the future.
Wesley is expected to be a key part of that building process.
“They see me coming into Tony’s spot because he might leave after this year,” Wesley said. “They see me as a small forward. That is what I have been training for my whole high school career. I am comfortable with it.”
The chance to move into that role to replace Mitchell — who is expected to declare for the NBA draft — and play college basketball close to home and his family was a key reason Wesley committed to play for the Mean Green.
UNT has already picked up commitments from three highly regarded forwards for its 2013 class in Kingwood’s Josh Friar, Midland College’s Anthony Norris and Oldsmar (Fla.) Christian’s Tony Nunn.
Wesley believes he will add another dimension to that group and help build on the talent UNT stockpiled.
“I sat in during one of their practices and went to a couple of their games,” Wesley said. “There’s a lot of high major talent on that team. They are going to shock a lot of people. That will continue the next few years.”
More return on Chancellor
There hasn’t been much Brelan Chancellor hasn’t done for North Texas so far this season.
The junior wide receiver has caught four touchdown passes, rushed for another and leads the Mean Green with 254 receiving yards.
About the only missing element so far, ironically, is production in the return game where Chancellor first made a name for himself with the Mean Green.
The former Copperas Cove standout returned two kickoffs for touchdowns as a freshman, when he set the school record for kickoff return yards in a season, a mark he broke last year when he rolled up 1,094 yards.
Four games into the 2012 season, Chancellor has only 161 kickoff return yards, well off his pace from a year ago, and hasn’t been the weapon he was expected to be as a punt returner after taking over the job full time.
Chancellor has only 3 yards on three returns and signaled for a fair catch five times last week in a 14-7 loss to Troy.
“I was trying not to make any dumb decisions and catch the ball first,” Chancellor said of the fair catches. “I didn’t want to lose field position. I’m going to work on it. I don’t want to be aggressive so much. I just want to try to gain more yards instead of fair-catching the ball all the time.”
That is exactly what UNT’s coaches have encouraged him to do while still making securing the ball his top priority.
“He is doing a phenomenal job of securing punts, which is one of the hardest skills in football,” UNT head coach Dan McCarney said. “Catching a kick and catching a punt are two different worlds. You can get most people out there, put them in the end zone, kick it off a tee and they have a good chance to catch it. Catching punts is a whole different world. The first thing you want to do is secure the football. I would rather have him do that than turn around and yell, ‘sudden change’ to the defense and send them back out there. He is doing a great job of that.”
UNT would just like to see Chancellor translate the talent he has shown returning kickoffs throughout his career to returning punts.
Opponents have punted 23 times this season without having to worry much about the Mean Green’s return game. UNT ranks 115th out of 119 teams nationally in punt return average.
UNT knows that Chancellor has the ability to help the Mean Green fare much better. UNT ranks 86th nationally in kickoff return average at 18.9 yards an attempt, largely because of Chancellor.
McCarney and the Mean Green’s staff have told Chancellor to be more aggressive.
“Go ahead and play with confidence once you catch the ball,” McCarney said. “He is a dynamic football player. We are all aware of that.”
UNT solid in fall tourney
Dane Joubert and Ilona Serchenko won the White division doubles title at the Longhorn Invitational over the weekend, highlighting what head coach Sujay Lama said was a solid overall performance for the Mean Green.
Joubert also advanced to the finals of her singles flight. Kseniya Bardabush and Franziska Sprinkmeyer made the finals of their doubles flight. Four other UNT players also reached the semifinals.
“It was a very good tournament for us,” Lama said. “They exceeded my expectations. As long as they continue to develop along those lines, this could be our best team ever.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .