Rocky Mountain hoopers sign with Northwest

Posted 4/29/21

Two Grizzlies will soon become Trappers. 

Rocky Mountain High School seniors Taylor Winland and Jess Wambeke signed with the Northwest College men’s basketball team Friday. Winland and …

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Rocky Mountain hoopers sign with Northwest

Posted

Two Grizzlies will soon become Trappers. 

Rocky Mountain High School seniors Taylor Winland and Jess Wambeke signed with the Northwest College men’s basketball team Friday. Winland and Wambeke were key contributors on a RMHS squad that won the Class 2A State Championship in 2021.

“They’re going to bring that winning attitude,” NWC head coach Jay Collins said. “They’re tremendously tough dudes, so I think they’re going to bring some grit and toughness.”

For the seniors, continuing their basketball careers just a half hour across the basin presents a new challenge not too far from home.

“I’m really excited for the competition and that it’s close to home,” Winland said. “Everybody’s going to be good at the next level; there really aren’t any bad teams.”

Wambeke added, “Everybody’s going to be above the level that we’re used to playing at; it’s a whole new game.”

The RMHS hoopers are the only players from the Big Horn Basin currently on the roster, and having the local buy-in excites their soon-to-be coach.

“It’s just great to keep that local pipeline going,” Collins said. “If they end up going to Eastern [Wyoming College] and kick our tail, we’re not going to be too happy about that. It’s cool that they’ve grown up watching Trapper basketball — they’ve seen more games live than I have.”

Winland led Rocky Mountain in scoring his senior year, averaging 13.8 points per game, as well as a team-high 6.5 rebounds per contest. Because of his height, listed at 6-foot-5, Winland played the five in high school but will likely play the three or four for NWC, stressing that he’ll have to improve his ball handling and shooting to adjust his role.

Wambeke was second on RMHS with 2.7 assists per game, while also posting 10.2 points per game. The point guard said he looks forward to playing into Northwest’s up-tempo style, but said he also needs to work on his jumper.

Between losing in the first round of the state tournament in 2019 to winning the title in 2021, Winland and Wambeke endured highs and lows during their careers in Cowley. The duo expects these to benefit them as they jump to the collegiate ranks. 

“We’ve been through a lot of challenges at Rocky, but the ups and downs will take us to a new level,” Winland said.

In addition to Winland’s and Wambeke’s local ties, Collins looks forward to seeing how the two develop when they arrive on campus in August. 

“Taylor [Winland] is a bigger dude who can play both inside and outside. Jess [Wambeke] is a really good point guard who leads the team,” Collins said. “ We’re happy to have both of them.”

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