Posted Online: Nov. 06, 2011, 6:12 pm

Prince makes tough choice: Alleman grad will pitch at WIU

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By Tom Johnston,

Photo: Submitted
Alleman graduate and Black Hawk College sophomore Keelan Prince has decided to accept a scholarship offer to play baseball at Western Illinois University.
Photo: Submitted
Black Hawk College sophomore Keelan Prince has picked baseball over basketball when he decided to accept a scholarship offer from Western Illinois University.
For most teenagers, deciding on a college is a tough proposition.

For Keelan Prince, planning out his future was basically three times as difficult. The former Alleman and current Black Hawk College two-sport standout had multiple issues to contemplate in trying to map out his next steps in life.

Over the weekend, Prince and his family came to some conclusions. The BHC sophomore picked baseball over basketball and also made a verbal commitment to Western Illinois University and baseball coach Mike Villano. He is hoping to sign his letter-of-intent later this week, but that has yet to be scheduled.

Prince is getting a full-ride scholarship, something that is rare at the collegiate baseball level.

"To be able to play Division I baseball has always been a dream of mine," said Prince.. "I can't pass on it. ... It's so tough to get (a full ride); I feel blessed to get an offer like that"

He also felt both blessed and cursed to have to make such difficult decisions -- first which sport to focus on and then where to take his talented right pitching arm he hopes some days gets him to the Major League.

"I've thought about it quite a bit. I didn't really know what I wanted to do -- if I wanted to keep playing baseball and basketball or if I wanted to just play baseball," said Prince. "I didn't know if I wanted to stay local or if I wanted to get away. I've been playing both sports since I was 7-years-old. It finally just boiled down to what's best for me and what I need to do to be successful.

"The Western (coaches) talked about getting to the (Amateur baseball) draft and that's always been a goal of mine. If they can do that for me, great. If that's not in the cards, then I can still get my degree and do what I want to be able to do in life to be successful.''

In the thought process for the 19-year-old included staying in the Quad-Cities and possibly playing both baseball and basketball at either Augustana or St. Ambrose. He was also intrigued by bigger schools down South – Jackson State, Grambling State, Texas Southern he said were interested -- where it would be easier to play ball year-round.

Instead, Prince chose a rebuilding Leatherneck program that will have plenty of local flavor. In Macomb, the hard-throwing lanky right-hander will join a pitching staff that includes fellow Western Big 6 Conference alumni Seth Fuller and Sam Welvaert from Moline and Galesburg preps Tyler Farrell and Nick Milligan.

"I like Coach Villano; he seems like a pretty tough coach,'' said Prince. "He's starting to turn the program around. I looked at some of the players he has coming in and they are really good. They play a lot of big schools – Iowa, Kansas State and others -- which is what I want to do, and they have a good recruiting class – the best in the state the last two years in Division I state schools."

Prince joked that he will be looking forward to focusing on just one sport and not having to carry three bags – for school, baseball and basketball – with him to class everyday.

"I love basketball, but at the Division I level it would be too hard to do both,'' he said, noting the WIU basketball staff also talked to him.

He also said he hopes that having the decision made now will make his sophomore basketball and baseball seasons more fun.

"I think I'll be a little bit more relaxed and not have to worry about the pressure of (coaches recruiting) coming around or worrying about what I'm doing next year," he said. "I think it will be a lot easier on me knowing I'm going to have a place to go next year. I can just go out and do what I do best and throw and hope for the best."

The Prince file

Keelan Prince will sign a letter-of-intent with Western Illinois University to play baseball. Here are some quick facts on two-sport athletic career of the 6-foot-6, 200-pounder.

-- Was 6-0 with a 2.60 ERA as a freshman last spring at Black Hawk College. Opened his collegiate career with a no-hitter against Buffalo University in his debut on the Braves' spring trip to Florida.

-- In 44.2 innings pitched last spring, recorded 40 strikeouts to just 10 walks.

-- Was an all-state baseball player (first team by Illinois Coaches) and basketball player (second-team IBCA) as a senior at Alleman High School.

-- Was Alleman's basketball MVP both junior and senior seasons and finshed as the school's third leading career scorer (1,233 points).

-- In senior basketball season, set a State Farm Holiday Classic record by making 19 straight free throws.