By BRADEN LAYER
---- — Next year's Lincoln Land Community College basketball lineup could very well read like an Effingham area all-star team.
St. Anthony's Reed Willenborg just finished his freshman season with the Loggers, and on Friday, three more local standouts signed letters of intent to join head coach Chad Jones and his staff.
Cowden-Herrick's Luke Moore, Teutopolis' Derek Smith and Effingham's Jake Stombaugh all put pen to paper at a small signing ceremony at Effingham High School, giving the Loggers a total of four local players that could be featured on game days.
"We love this area," Loggers assistant coach Ben Kramer said. "We get good quality kids both on and off the court, and that's important to us. All three of them absolutely fit that mold."
Moore did it all for the Hornets this winter, playing five different positions depending on the opponent and matchup. Despite taking on a new role almost every game, Moore played as consistent as anyone in the area, averaging a double-double at 17.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.
"I've always wanted to play college basketball," Moore said of his signing. "Now that it's happening, it feels great."
The first-team All-National Trail Conference selection and second-team EDN All-Area pick said he's unsure if he'll be used as a guard or small forward, but Kramer said the offense is tailored to his many talents."Luke fits perfectly into our system," he said. "We don't really have true positions. We run a high-motion offense."
The Lincoln Land style will also play to the strengths of Smith, who was named third-team all-state by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. Smith was often relentless in his offensive attack, using a smooth stroke from outside the arc to draw the defense and set up hard drives to the lane.
"I hope I can help them out as much as possible," Smith said. "I think I'll be used at the two-spot, being able to slash and get to the basket, and spot up for 3s."
Smith averaged 14.5 points and 3.3 assists for the Wooden Shoes, who advanced to their third-straight super-sectional this winter with a thrilling, double-overtime win over Breese Central in the round of 16.
When it came time to choose a school, Lincoln Land's early interest and persistent recruiting paid dividends.
"Lincoln Land was one of the first schools to look at me," Smith said. "Coach Kramer was really nice, I like coach Jones and everybody up there. Coach Kramer texted me almost every day, he's a great guy and I thought I'd fit in best there."
The third signee was Stombaugh, who earned an EDN All- Area first-team nod in 2013 after averaging eight points and four rebounds, also helping Effingham secure its first outright Apollo Conference title since 2004.
"I felt at home there," he said. "A lot of our players in the area have went there. It wasn't too far from home."
It is a little further, at least from what Jake is used to, from twin brother Josh, but the power forward said the two are ready to make the change.
"We kind of decided to split apart," he said, "Go our separate ways. I knew he wanted to go to Parkland."
Jake is more of a new-school four, able to finish in the post as well as possessing a lethal midrange jumper. His inside-out talents helped propel the Hearts to a berth in the Centralia Regional title.
"Jake's got a little bit of size," Kramer said. "We know we're getting good quality kids."
The trio will team up on the court for the Loggers, and off the hardwood when they head back to the dorms.
Moore, Smith, Stombaugh and Effingham senior baseball player Drew Levitt are set to room together at Lincoln Land, making the transition to college that much easier.
"That's one of the reasons I'm going," Moore said. "I knew they were going there too, that helps out. It should be fun, all four of us up there."
The tight-knit group should have no trouble adjusting to Lincoln Land. In fact, it may be the rest of campus that may have to get used to the Effingham area overload.
"We've got a lot of Effingham County people up there playing all different sports," Kramer said. "They build a little community up there."
The three local stars hope to be the centerpiece of a new basketball community as they try to carve out playing time for the Loggers next season.
"It shouldn't be too big of a change," Stombaugh said. "We're going to be rooming together, it should definitely be comfortable."
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org