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Men’s basketball: Andrew Ziemnik brings winning mindset to Illinois Wesleyan

Illinois Wesleyan junior Andrew Ziemnik (with ball) is averaging 11.1 points 6.1 rebounds per game this season. | PhoCourtesy Illinois

Illinois Wesleyan junior Andrew Ziemnik (with ball) is averaging 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this season. | Photo Courtesy of Illinois Wesleyan University

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Updated: March 14, 2013 8:14PM

Illinois Wesleyan men’s basketball coach Ron Rose knew the type of player he was recruiting when Andrew Ziemnik was still playing for Oswego four years ago.

“People in Oswego couldn’t say enough good things about him,” Rose said. “He’s just a young man that came into our program as a winner. He had great success in high school. He brings that mindset every day in practice and every game. He just competes and gives his best and also seems to have the ability to rise to the occasion. The bigger the shot, the bigger the moment, that’s his moment.”

That certainly seemed to sum up Ziemnik’s time at Oswego, when he helped lead the Panthers to the 2009 Class 3A state championship game. Now a junior for the Titans, it’s proving true in college as well.

Wesleyan reached the Elite Eight in Division III last year, and now Ziemnik and the Titans are preparing for Saturday’s third-round playoff game in Naperville against North Central College.

And Ziemnik comes in as the team’s star. He was named a first team All-CCIW pick this year and was named to the All-Midwest Region second team this week. He is averaging 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this season.

“Going into college, not knowing what to expect, it’s hard to realize what it’s going to be like,” Ziemnik said. “It’s been pretty crazy and a great experience. I just go out there and play my hardest for my teammates and coaches. I have to give tons of credit to them for allowing me to play on this team and have a great season like I have. Everyone had a big part in it, it wasn’t just me.”

Rose says that Ziemnik is much the same player that he was in high school, even down to the flowing locks on his head.

“He’s not just a fun kid to coach, he’s a fun young man to have around as part of your team,” Rose said. “He’s got a laid-back competitiveness that is a unique combination. He brings a toughness to everything he does. He has a unique skill set. He’s not the tallest player, but he knows how to use his body well. He’s not going to win any running or jumping contests, but he understands that and plays to his strengths.”

After Wesleyan knocked off Washington (Mo.) last Saturday night, the Titans received word they would be traveling to face their CCIW rivals in Naperville this Saturday.

“Everybody was already texting my parents wanting to come to the game,” Ziemnik said. “It’s a good atmosphere. It’s been a good matchup the past two years. We’re both quality teams.”

Ziemnik hopes that last year’s run to the Elite Eight will help the Titans face another big game Saturday, something that Ziemnik has been accustomed to playing in for years.

“It started my junior year (of high school) running through the playoffs and making it to state,” Ziemnik said. “That was just a great experience for me. To keep that going in college, that’s what I expect now. I just love playing in these games.”

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