For Michael Middlebrooks, his college career has been for the birds.
After playing his first two seasons for the North Idaho College Cardinals, Middlebrooks, a 6-foot-9 forward, will move onto the Illinois State Redbirds of the Missouri Valley Conference after signing a national letter of intent on Wednesday.
"He was visiting there last weekend and really liked it," NIC men's basketball coach Jared Phay said. "They kind of came out of nowhere a little bit, but were at the right place at the right time."
Phay added that Kansas State was also interested.
"They were involved right until the end," Phay said. "He wanted to be an impact guy and really enjoyed his visit there."
Among the teams in the Missouri Valley Conference are Bradley, Creighton, Drake, Northern Iowa and Wichita State - which advanced to this year's Final Four after beating top-seeded Gonzaga in the third round and losing to eventual national champion Louisville in the semifinals.
"Michael is a long, athletic forward who can block shots," Illinois State coach Dan Muller said. "His length and quickness will allow him to be a very good defender in our system. Michael has only played basketball for four years, so his offensive game will continue to improve with hard work. He comes from tradition-rich Rainier Beach High (in Seattle), so he's used to winning."
"I think they're getting the same thing we got here," Phay said. “He’s a big time shot blocker and rebounder. His offensive game needs to improve and he needs to get stronger, but he should fit right in with their program.”
Both Kaj Sherman and Keon Lewis will visit Texas-San Antonio this weekend and Sherman will visit Montana next week.
Some former Cardinal players have extended their playing career to the professional level with Mac Hopson (Argentina), Guy-Marc Michel (Greece), Harry Disy (France), Bayo Arigbon (Chile), Brian Morris (Romania), Kerry Williams (Australia) and Daniel Brady (ABA in San Diego) still playing.
“We’re really happy right now,” Phay said. “It’s pretty rewarding on our end to see the kids moving on. We’re excited for them.”
Middlebrooks joins James Webb (Boise State), Chris Sarbaugh (San Diego) and Jalil Abdul-Bassit (Oregon) in signing with Division I programs.
REUNITED: After Angela Woods signed with Division II Central Washington two weeks ago, she’ll have company in Ellensburg next season as Mollie Kramer will also join the Wildcats for the 2013-14 season.
Kramer scored 17 points for NIC in its NJCAA tournament game against Williston State last month.
“We’re really excited for Mollie,” NIC women’s coach Chris Carlson said. “She wasn’t a starter for us this year, but man, she had a great game at nationals and was getting better and better throughout the season. She was terrific that final month and to get a scholarship to a D-II program — we’re really excited for her. It’s great for her and a great pick-up for them.”
Hannah Love, who was also considering Central Washington, will move onto Carroll College next year in Helena, Mont.
“She was looking around and then, boom, she took Carroll,” Carlson said. “And I think she’s going to play well there. (Carroll coach) Rachelle (Sayers) was at Weber State when I was at Eastern. She’s been a D-I coach and does a really good job.”
Danika Johnson committed to Division II Hawaii-Pacific last week and Katie Buskey has interest from Northern Colorado and South Dakota, with an offer waiting from Farleigh-Dickinson. Aimee Durbidge is visiting St. Edwards College in Austin, Texas, this weekend and Carlson expects that she’ll receive an offer upon her visit.
Kabri Emerson signed with Montana Tech of the NAIA last week.
WILLIAMS TABBED: Athletic director Al Williams was selected as a member of the NJCAA Executive Committee at the NJCAA annual meeting April 3-8 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.
As a member of the committee, he will serve a two-year term as one of four at-large regional representatives, as well as review and oversee appeals, by-laws, and administrative procedures and issues on behalf of the NJCAA and its members.
He will begin the term immediately.
Information from the Illinois State University website was used in this story.