Two seniors who helped Bishop Gorman win its ninth straight state basketball championship in March traded their orange and blue for purple and gold in signing Division I scholarships Wednesday.
Mwani Wilkinson, a 6-foot-6-inch four-star recruit ranked No. 80 in the nation in the 2020 class, according to rivals.com, signed with Louisiana State, while Braden Lamar is heading to Western Illinois.
“It feels good because it’s finally official,” Wilkinson said. “It puts some assurances inside of me that I’m actually going there. I’m going to play there, going to school there and I’m going to live there for the next few years.”
Wilkinson committed to LSU in February and is part of a five-member class ranked No. 6 in the country, according to rivals.com. He said having family in the Baton Rouge area was a deciding factor that swayed him toward the Tigers.
Wilkinson was one of Nevada’s top players as a senior, when he averaged 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks and was named the Southwest League’s MVP.
“We are excited to have Mwani Wilkinson join us from Las Vegas as he returns to his Louisiana roots as part of our LSU basketball program,” LSU coach Will Wade said in a statement. “He is a blue-collar player with a tremendous amount of athleticism who can rebound on both ends of the floor.”
Lamar, a 6-5 forward, will try to help turn around the Western Illinois program. The Leathernecks were 5-21 overall and 2-14 in the Summit League last season.
He will play for Rob Jeter, who was named Western Illinois’ coach in late March. Jeter was an assistant at Minnesota before taking the helm for the Leathernecks, but it was during his stint as a UNLV assistant from 2016 to 2018 that he took notice of Lamar.
“I’ve always had a relationship with (Jeter),” Lamar said. “He’s been looking at me, and when he got offered the head coaching job, he called and said I’d be a good fit for the program.”
Lamar averaged 13 points and eight rebounds in his final season for the Gaels. He said he was being recruited by other midmajor programs such as Navy and American.
“It’s a relief, knowing exactly what I’m going to do,” Lamar said. “Now I can focus on working hard and prepare for when I get there. I’m trying to be the best shooter I can possibly be.”
Wilkinson and Lamar lamented that they weren’t able to be surrounded by their Gorman classmates and coaches, but that doesn’t take away from their sense of accomplishment.
“It’s not the same, but I was able to do as much as I possibly could,” Wilkinson said. “I didn’t have people over, but I was able to FaceTime with my (family) and girlfriend while I was signing. It was better than signing with nobody present.”