Senior Steele Venters of the Ellensburg High School boys basketball team wanted to go to college at the Division I level and was willing to wait it out.

Early in February, Division I Eastern Washington University answered that wish with an offer. And on March 6, Venters officially announced his verbal commitment to Eastern after a long process of choosing a program.

“I just thought that I could play at a Division I level,” Venters said. “I just really liked the coaches and where it’s at. It’s kind of like Ellensburg, but it’s two and a half hours away.”

Eastern resides in Cheney and competes in the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles are currently 12-17 overall, 10-8 in conference which puts them at tied fourth.

Venters had other offers from Central Washington University, Hawaii-Hilo University, St. Martin’s University and Alaska Fairbanks University — all Division II programs.

“It was a pretty tough decision,” he said. “I was still deciding on Central or St. Martin’s because those were really good offers, too. But at the end of the day, I wanted to play at the Division I level.”

His family was a big influence. Some were hoping he would stay in Ellensburg to attend CWU.

“Yeah, they did for sure,” Venters said. “But they wanted what’s best for me.”

The adept 6-foot 7-inch guard originally was planning on playing AAU ball this spring to see if that would grab more interest from collegiate teams. But he was informed that seniors could no longer play on the circuit so the decree came sooner.

At Ellensburg, Venters was able to play any position on the court. He had the height to be in the post, but also the ball handling skills to be a guard — along with his prolific shooting from the outside.

Venters said it will be the same scenario at Eastern, playing guard or forward, except being down in the post.

“Kind of the same thing here (Ellensburg), just not the big guy,” he said.

Venters turned a lot of heads his last two seasons with the Bulldogs. He went from averaging 13 points a game his sophomore year, to doubling it as a junior. Ellensburg lost eight seniors so Venters carried more weight on his shoulders.

Venters was cognizant that if he wanted to get more looks, he needed to add the element of having the knack as a guard. He enhanced that by creating shots for him and his teammates, better ball handing, court vision and overall IQ.

“My freshman and sophomore year, I had a lot of help — my junior and senior year, too. But I kind of had to take over my junior year and be a leader,” Venters said. “I think that propelled me a lot.”

This last season, Venters led the Bulldogs to its first league title since the early 2000s, knocking off Selah High School in the final regular season contest in a thriller, 79-78. Selah had won three straight Central Washington Athletic Conference titles, but Venters went torrid for 32 points to end that streak.

Venters guided Ellensburg to a 16-6 record, 16-2 in the CWAC. He averaged 23 points per game and had five 30-point plus games with a high of 37.

Venters will officially sign with the Eagles in mid-April. He isn’t sure if he will redshirt or not.

Eastern will graduate three seniors after the conclusion of the 2018-19 campaign. Shantay Legans is in his second season as the head coach for the Eagles. Their last NCAA tournament appearance was in 2015.

Eastern has had three players move on to the NBA: Ron Cox (1977), Rodney Stuckey (2007) and Tyler Harvey (2015).

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