Wonders commits to NCAA Division I Southern Illinois
By MATT “SWEETS” McCARTHY
IRON MOUNTAIN — High school student athletes with Division I talent are few and far between in the Upper Peninsula. For whatever reason, basketball players from the U.P aren’t heavily recruited by Division I programs.
Iron Mountain’s Foster Wonders is an exception, and the soon to be senior made his much-anticipated college commitment announcement early Monday afternoon, choosing Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Ill. SIU competes in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“I chose Southern Illinois because they play in such a strong basketball conference,” Wonders said in an interview Monday morning. “They have a spot for me right away, and the head coach has expressed a great deal of interest.”
The Mountaineer senior, was named U.P Mr. Basketball by the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association the last two seasons. Wonders had 13 schools to choose from, all offering full-ride scholarship offers. Those schools were Western Michigan University, University of Toledo, Rice University, Central Michigan University, Oakland University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Miami (Ohio) University, University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Wright State University, South Dakota State, and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Nearby Division II Northern Michigan University, where his older brother Carson currently plays basketball and his parents Matt and Julie (Heldt) Wonders both played college basketball, offered Carson a scholarship when he was in eighth grade.
Brian Mullens head coach of SIU, was the Salukis’ point guard on the school’s 2007 team that advanced to the Sweet 16. Mullens was associate head coach for fellow Missouri Valley team Loyola-Chicago when they advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 2018.
“I wanted to do what was best for me and SIU had too much to offer to me to pass up the opportunity,” Wonders added. “I am excited to play for coach Mullens, and he’s excited to have my commitment.”
Wonders’ first Division I offer was from Central Michigan, after attending their basketball camp in Mt. Pleasant after his freshman year. The last boys player from the area to receive a full Division I scholarship was current Western Michigan player Jason Whitens, who graduated from North Central in 2017.
Other former local basketball players to receive and accept full Division I offers include Forest Park star Lexi Gussert, who played at Michigan State on a full scholarship from 2014-2018. North Dickinson grad and U.P Sports Hall of Famer Todd Lindeman received a full scholarship from Indiana University and played for the legendary Bob Knight from 1991-1996.
Also on Wonders’ recruiting trail was UNC-Wilmington, which has a new coaching staff that had prioritized Wonders.
“Talks with them were very good and their interest in me was high, but I never got the opportunity to visit there,” Wonders said.
Davidson University — the alma mater of Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry — Furman University, Wofford College, Bowling Green State University and Colorado State University were other schools with high interest in signing Wonders.
The MVC Tournament Championship, which is broadcast on CBS and is nationally televised each year, sounds exciting to any young person with aspirations to play college athletics. Wonders is no different. “It’s very exciting to think about, definitely,” Wonders said of the possible opportunity to play on CBS in front of the whole country.
The MVC Tournament is annually held in St. Louis, Mo.. The other members of the league are University of Northern Iowa, Valparasio, Bradley, Missouri State , Drake, Loyola-Chicago, Indiana State, Evansville and Illinois State.
Wonders has played in 68 varsity basketball games for the Mountaineers. He has scored 1,618 points, which is an average of 23.79 ppg, and Iron Mountain is 64-4 over that time span. He’s second on Iron Mountain’s all time scoring list, and is 560 behind the U.P’s all-time leading score Gage Kreski of St. Ignace who scored 2,178 from 2013-16 in 90 games.
As a freshman in 2017-18, Wonders was named to the All-U.P Dream Team and to the Mid Peninsula Conference first team. As a sophomore in 2018-19, he was named all-state by the Michigan Associated Press, unanimously to the All-U.P Dream Team, co-Player of the Year in the MPC and Player of the Year in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference.
This past season, he scored 603 points (27.4 ppg), grabbed 171 rebounds (7.8 rpg), dished out 52 assists (2.4 avg.) and blocked 42 shots (1.9 avg.). He was named both MPC and West PAC Player of the Year, along with unanimous All-U.P Dream Team for a second consecutive season.
Wonders was also named AP All-State First Team in 2019-20. The Detroit Free Press has Wonders on a list of “Players To Watch” for next year’s Basketball Coaches of Michigan/Detroit Free Press “Mr. Basketball” award. No U.P boys player has ever won the overall Mr. Basketball award.