Ben Weisbeck wanted basketball to be fun again.

The two-time all-state performer at St. Mary's was burnt out at Augustana University, the NCAA Division II program of the NSIC. He left the Sioux Falls, S.D.-based program and did not know what was next.

He took a semester off to weigh his options, a decision he called, "The best thing I ever did." With likely just one year of eligibility remaining, he needed to make the right decision. Based on early returns at the University of Jamestown, Weisbeck has done that and again found happiness on the court.

"Basketball just wasn't fun for me more anymore at Augustana. Sometimes, you need a fresh start," Weisbeck said. "It was a lot of prayer. ... A lot of getting advice from my parents and people that care about me and it has ended up working out great."

Weisbeck has been a key cog in an early-season surge for the Jimmies, who are off to a 6-2 start. They own a win over the No. 10 team in the NAIA (Dakota Wesleyan) and nearly beat No. 5 Northwestern (Iowa). Their best showing may have came Monday night in Bismarck when the Jimmies spoiled the University of Mary's season opener, 86-76.

"I just love playing with these guys," Weisbeck said of his UJ teammates. "We play really well together. There's no selfishness. It's just a group of guys that are committed to playing for each other."

Through eight games, Weisbeck is averaging 14.3 points per game. He ranks second on the team in rebounding (5.3) behind Leighton Sampson, another senior transfer.

Danny Neville, head coach of the Jimmies, said Weisbeck has been an ideal fit on and off the court.

"Ben's fit in so smoothly. He's a great kid, a hard-worker. He's the type of player we want in our program and the type person we want at our school," Neville said. "Basketball-wise, he's brought a different dynamic to our team. He rebounds, he defends, obviously he's super athletic. He's been a great addition, no question about it."

Neville and assistant coach Michael Iseman put in the work to land the former Mr. Basketball finalist.

"I was on him for about three months trying to talk him into coming here," Neville said. "We just knew what kind of impact he could make on our team."

The pull of being closer to home also worked in Jamestown's favor.

"Coach Neville and coach Iseman contacted me right away. I was keeping my mind open and I wasn't going to close the door to anything," Weisbeck said. "The opportunity to get back closer to home was huge. I love being close to my family. They can come to all of my games. It's really special. I'm so happy."

Weisbeck is studying health and fitness administration and business marketing at UJ and is about a year-and-a-half from graduating. Due to an unfortunate circumstance at Augustana, he lost a year of eligibility, although there is a slight chance he could get the year back. If he's unable to play next season, he already has plans to serve as a student assistant on Neville's staff.

"If it works out where I get the year back to play, that'd be great. If not, everything happens for a reason," Weisbeck said. "I'm really happy with how everything worked out. I'm so glad I made the decision to go to Jamestown.

"It was meant to be for sure."

Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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