Jesperson not cavalier about Virginia choice

By Kelly O’Day

It wasn’t ‘The Decision,’ but it had much more meaning than LeBron James’s pick of the Miami Heat for Bluejay basketball fans.

And infinitely more class, although Merrill’s Paul Jesperson-the state’s top-ranked player heading into the 2010-11 season by an interesting technique for building suspense for the home-town crowd that attended last Wednesday’s selection show at Salvo’s Pizza.

As Jesperson took his place for the announcement, a trio of college T-shirts lay draped over the table. Namely shirts from Notre Dame, Minnesota and Virginia, Jesperson’s final three among more than 20 schools that had come through with a serious offer.

After a short speech thanking his numerous supporters, family members and coaches, Jesperson lifted the Virginia shirt and slipped it over his head, with a broad smile lighting up his face.

Although the choice may seem puzzling to the college hoops scene neophyte, it makes absolute sense for Jesperson. It’s a perfect blend of home-style cooking and wide-open frontiers.

On the home front, the team is now coached by Tony Bennett, the UW-Green Bay phenom and relative of coaching legends Dick (his father) and Jack (his uncle).

“He grew around this area so it’s very easy to relate to him,” Jesperson said. “Just talking to Coach Bennett, he’s a guy I can trust.”

On the challenge front, it’s doesn’t get any bigger than playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Jesperson said. “I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like to play in an atmosphere like that. I had a goal when I was young to play high major basketball, but I had no idea it would be the ACC. To say I’m going to play in the ACC and play Duke and North Carolina twice a year

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