Warren Central hoops star Fant gives verbal commit to WKU

Warren Central forward George Fant, a three-star recruit as rated by Rivals.com, announced his verbal commitment to the WKU basketball team on Monday.

Zach Greenwell

Warren Central senior standout George Fant has taken several college visits recently.

But after a whirlwind of campus tours, the 6-foot, 6-inch power forward’s ready to take his services just down the road to WKU next year.

Donning a WKU basketball polo and hat at a signing ceremony Monday at Warren Central High School, Fant announced his intention to sign with the Toppers, who offered him a scholarship during his freshman season.

“I sat in bed, and I was like, ‘Do I want to stay at home or go nine hours away?’” Fant said after his announcement. “I really just didn’t want to leave.”

Rated a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, Fant led Warren Central to a 4th Region title as a junior last season, averaging 15.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

“As a coach, you project,” Warren Central coach Tim Riley said. “You look at him and say, ‘What do you think he can do?’ I thought he was special early on. I thought he had a chance to be a really good player, but I didn’t know the level he would get to.”

Fant, a cousin of WKU basketball great Jim McDaniels, has already been a regular fixture in Diddle Arena for years.

He’s been sighted at nearly every home basketball game for the past several seasons, and said he’s formed close relationships with many current players through open practices and camps.

“I think those guys knew I was going to come,” Fant said. “I’ve been at every game since those guys have been here, so I think they kind of knew. I just didn’t tell them.”

It would have been hard for Fant to let many people in on the secret, considering he said he didn’t make the decision until Sunday night.

He said his choice came down to WKU and Penn State, which he toured on an official visit the weekend of Sept. 24. He took his “official” trip to WKU on Sept. 17 and also visited Iowa on Oct. 1.

Riley said Fant had also drawn interest from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Cincinnati.

“I think if Western Kentucky wants to be a big player, they have to beat the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Big East out of some players,” Riley said. “That’s ultimately what they did here.”

Fant said he informed WKU Head Coach Ken McDonald of the decision Sunday night, and the two ended up talking on the phone for about two hours.

“Coach Mac was really happy,” Fant said. “We talked for a long time. I probably called him at 10, and he probably talked until 12 – just talking about what I’m going to be able to do for the team.”

Fant provides some depth for a WKU team that will be shallow in the frontcourt.

Senior forwards Sergio Kerusch, Cliff Dixon, Juan Pattillo and Steffphon Pettigrew will all graduate after this season, and Fant said he thinks he can come in right away and produce as a small forward.

“Hopefully I make a really big impact, but that’s something I have to work on before I can say that,” he said. “High school basketball and college ball are different. I’ve got to become a stronger player and faster and just smarter.”

Fant said that he would like to wear McDaniels’ retired No. 44 jersey next year with his cousin’s blessing, but that he knows that association will create some “big shoes to fill.”

But Riley said Fant has always handled pressure well, both on the court and from the community.

“There was a lot of pressure for him to stay at home,” Riley said. “I tried not to be that pressure guy. Western doesn’t need him to be there and have George thinking he’s doing them a favor. He needs to be there because that’s where he wants to go to school and play.”

Fant said he feels right at home at WKU, just a five-minute drive from Warren Central.

Asked if he planned to walk to school next year, a big smile broke out on his face.

“It’s right around the corner,” he said, laughing. “That’s walking distance.”