When Waupun senior boys basketball player Marcus Domask started being recruited to play in college, he made a list of criteria a program needed to fulfill in order for him to commit.
The list included: Make him feel wanted, be a winning program that competed for championships, have a system in place that fit his playing style, have a home arena that draws big crowds, and mesh with his educational goals.
Taking all that into consideration, Domask whittled his list of schools that offered scholarships from 15 down to one and on Sunday verbally committed to NCAA Division I Northern Kentucky University, which is located in Highland Heights a few miles across the Ohio River to the southeast from Cincinnati.
“They really had everything I was looking for,” Domask said.
The Norse, a mid-major program that competes in the Horizon League, won the regular season league championship the past two seasons and in 2017 won the tournament title, which netted a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
That is their only appearance in the Big Dance, and they gave the Kentucky Wildcats a good run in a 79-70 first round loss. The Norse were a big underdog in that game, as they were the No. 15 seed while Kentucky was the No. 2 seed.
Domask led the Warriors to the WIAA Division 3 state championship as a freshman and last year was named third team all-state by the Associated Press as well as Player of the Year in the East Central Conference. He also was a unanimous first team all-state pick in D3 by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association last season, one in which he led the Warriors with 22.8 points and 4.6 assists per game while finishing second on the team in rebounding at 7.1 per game.
Domask wanted to go to a team where the system fit his playing style, and the Norse met the mark. They “thought they could really use me,” he said of what he was told by Northern Kentucky head coach John Brannen of how Brannen viewed Domask in Northern Kentucky’s versatile offense.
As far as wanting to play in front of big crowds, Domask said at the end of last season the Norse were filling BB&T Arena with upward of 6,000 fans per game.
“They definitely fulfilled that (criteria) I would say,” he said.
Education was big for Domask and he said he’s still kind of undecided on what he wants to major in but is leaning toward something in business.
However, Domask wants to possibly become a college coach after he’s done playing basketball and said Brannen comes from a really good coaching tree, which Domask likes.
“A lot of that has to do with the connections you have,” Domask said. “He’s got a lot of connections. He showed me all those and how he could help me get that journey started if that’s what I really wanted to do.”
Domask’s decision became front and center rather unexpectedly Sunday, which he thought was going to be a relaxing evening at home watching the Packers game.
But Brannen called Domask at about 1 p.m. to ask what he was doing that night, and when Domask informed him of his plan, Brannen blindsided Domask by asking if he and the coaching staff could come watch along with Domask and his family.
Domask said yes, and in the blink of an eye Brannen and Co. were on a plane to Wisconsin.
“That showed how interested they were in me. They got to our house, hung out and ate a little bit, talked and watched the game. Then afterward they were talking about their program and how they really wanted me,” Domask said.
That’s what sealed the deal for Domask, who said he picked Northern Kentucky over UW Milwaukee.
“One thing led to another and I just felt it at the time and I just committed,” Domask said. “My parents really liked the school and I knew they would be 100 percent with me.”
What the last-minute trip by Brannen and his staff ultimately did for Domask was solidify a bond between him and the coaches set earlier this summer, which was another big criteria in his decision. Domask said he felt a strong bond with the UW-Milwaukee staff, but not to the same level as with the Northern Kentucky staff.
“I felt like they had a really great trust in me and really wanted me,” Domask said. “They worked really hard. They’re watching film all the time and they’re super dedicated. For the players, they were just super tight. I felt wanted by them as well. They treat each other really well. They really felt like brothers to me.”
What he liked about Milwaukee is that it’s an in-state school and he would be better able to surround himself with a support system of people he already knows.
But that wasn’t enough to outdo the Norse.
“In my mindset, I was thinking that I wasn’t going to sacrifice the location for the right fit,” Domask said. “I thought I found the right fit in Northern Kentucky and I wasn’t going to let a distance (from home) separate me from going and getting that right fit.”