J.T. WHEELER put together a strong prep hoops career at Unity, culminating in News-Gazette All-Area first-team status as a senior in 2018 and leading to him joining the Olney Central College men’s program:
What has it been like making the jump from basketball at Unity to Olney Central?
There’s bigger and better competition, you could say, compared to Unity. But it’s fun. I get to play every day still, so that’s the best part of it.
Coming off an injury late senior year, what was your mindset entering college?
I had all summer and after season (as a high school senior) to try and rehab my ankle, so that was a big part of it. Just getting to know the guys and the way they played was huge.
Were there any guys you connected with right away at Olney Central?
My roommate, he’s the only other Illinois kid we had. He was a sophomore, and he’s at Northern Illinois now. His name is Nathan Scott. We got really close. I spent most of my time with him last year.
Was there a game your freshman year in which you felt like you’d arrived?
We played at Lewis and Clark last year. I came in, I think I had a pull-up and a three to start off. I think I ended up having a big role in that win for us in a close game. That’s when I really thought, “I can help out the team here.”
What changes have you seen in yourself as a player since joining Olney Central?
Defense. That has become one of my main roles as a college player now. Knowing I don’t have to score as often, I can focus on (defense), focus on the all-around part of my game. I became, I guess, a better defender now at the college level.
What’s your approach to your sophomore campaign at Olney Central?
My mindset, I’m going to go with Hutch (Hutchinson, Kan., home of the NJCAA Division I national tournament). That’s what we always talk about — making it to Hutch, making a name for ourself at Hutch and being one of the top jucos in the country. After this year, it’s kind of just like senior year. See how everything plays out, see who I can get contacted by and we’ll go from there.
Have any four-year schools reached out?
Not as of yet, but I just want to play anywhere I can play and get the opportunity to show what I can do.
What do you feel like you’d bring to a four-year men’s program?
The winning mindset, especially being here at Olney. We’ve been very successful these past two years. ... And this chip on my shoulder from being told I can’t do something. I just want to prove people wrong.