Versatility, toughness lead Manchester University’s local recruit class of Hunter Perlich, Mitch Mendenhall

In a time where players seem to be making their college commitments at a rapid pace, Manchester University has swung in to scoop up two of the area’s most aggressive players. The Spartans have recently received commitments from Churubusco’s Hunter Perlich and Woodlan’s Mitch Mendenhall.

“I really like the style that they try to play. They try to play fast and get a lot of threes. And I really like the mindset of their defense: they play aggressive and fast and at the same time, under control,” Perlich said of his draw to Manchester’s style.

“He plays sort of like I do. We are both strong and really scrappy. I am really excited about that,” Mendenhall said of Perlich. “I talked to the coaches about the playing style and what they saw in me is what they saw in everybody that is there. They play hard and play together.”

Perlich made his commitment on Wednesday night, a bit of a sigh of relief for a player who has been through the wringer during his high school career.

He had shown great promise as a sophomore at Carroll, much in the same physical department older brother Riley had been for the Chargers. Then a move was made for Hunter to attend school at Churubusco as a junior and because of transfer rules, he was forced to play junior varsity basketball, meaning he would get just one varsity season in 2019-20.

Perlich’s varsity time started and finished rough. A thumb injury would slow the first half of his summer of 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic ended his high school career with the Eagles as Sectional champions and awaiting the next round of the IHSAA State Tournament. The turbulent nature of his high school career made his commitment to Manchester that much more sweet.

“I just knew God had a plan for me. Playing JV as a junior, I did not like it. Coach [Chris] Paul and my family just kept reminding me that it was going to be worth it my senior year,” Perlich said. “I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates. They pushed me, even when I had to play JV. I have wanted to play college basketball by whole life, I am just excited that I am finally committed. It is a big lift off my shoulders.”

On Perlich’s side through all of his decision making was having a family who knows about the next level. Older brother Riley plays baseball for Wright State and father Jeff, one of the area’s most prolific high school scorers ever, played Division I college basketball at East Carolina University.

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Churubusco’s Hunter Perlich drives to the basket against Prairie Heights during a December 20, 2019 game.

“When I first met the coaches, I looked at my dad and told him ‘this is where I want to play,'” Perlich said. “It helps having my dad and my brother really being able to sit down and go over everything in order to make a good decision. They made it clear that basketball is an important role but there are other factors like the community feel, the campus size, relationship with the coaches. I really have to thank them, they have helped me a lot throughout this whole process.”

At Churubusco, Perlich was able to get engrossed in the small town environment. When the Eagles won their second ever Sectional title in boys basketball, the team was led back into town with an emergency crew escort, complete with lights and sirens. Basketball was a big part of life in Churubusco and the small town environment continues to appeal to Perlich when he looked at the next level.

“I think the small town community feel was something that was really important for me in making my decision,” Perlich said, noting that he has a lot of family members that like to see him play, so the short drive helps.

Perlich finished his senior season at Churubusco as an All-NECC First Team selection and named IBCA Senior All-State Honorable Mention. Perlich averaged 14.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. At the next level, he sees himself playing a similar multi-faceted role.

“My freshman year, I am just going to do whatever the coaches ask me to do,” he said. “I am able to shoot the three and also play inside so I guess I can say I am versatile. My recruiting class has a lot of different types of players…I am just looking forward to getting started with these guys.”

While Mendenhall’s high school career wasn’t as turbulent as Perlich’s, his senior season was big in giving him the chance to play at the next level. Woodlan went just 6-17 when he was a junior but turned that around this past season with a 14-7 mark and an ACAC Tournament title. During that time, Mendenhall averaged a team best 16.9 points per game, adding 4.6 rebounds and two assists per contest; he was named the MVP of the ACAC Tournament and was All-ACAC First Team.

“What coaches see is teams that win. If we didn’t win this season, then I wouldn’t be able to play at the next level. My confidence has gone way up,” Mendenhall said.

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Woodlan’s Mitch Mendenhall goes in for a layup during a January 8 game against Churubusco. Future Manchester teammate Hunter Perlich is in the background.

Mendenhall has actually been committed to Manchester for some time now, making it official on February 25. After isolations began happening due to COVID-19, both he and sister Kate officially signed with Manchester on March 31 in a makeshift ceremony in their family’s home.

Mendenhall and Perlich will be part of the first full recruiting successes for Manchester coach Nate Conley, who was a first year head coach this past season. The Spartans went 8-17 but did play within 11 points of Purdue Fort Wayne in an exhibition game.

“It is nice to know that I am going to be part of their first recruiting class,” Mendenhall says. “I have gotten to know some of the team through social media and kind of have a connection with them. I just love playing basketball and the basketball in Indiana, so I am just really excited to be able to continue that.”

Mendenhall expects to bring versatility to Manchester as he did at Woodlan, but thinks his focus will be more on a wing player and slasher than having to do it all.

Another major attraction for Mendenhall is building for his life after basketball. He plans to study business at Manchester. The university recently put up a new, $8.5 million building, the Chenworth Center, that houses the institution’s College of Business. The local and makeup of Manchester also helps for Mendenhall, as it does with Perlich, with it being a small town that is relatively close to home.

“Staying home was a big factor in deciding where I wanted to go…real easy trip there and back. Being able to be home on the weekends is a big reason why I chose to be there,” Mendenhall said.

He says that he has spent some time talking to professors on campus and enjoys the small town aspect where everybody seems to know everybody.

The Perlich/Mendenhall duo will join one other area player on the team. Leo graduate Lane Reed will be a junior for the Spartans next season.

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