T.J. Berger went to Westtown School as a skinny 5-foot-9 guard about to share a practice court with two eventual NBA draft lottery picks and nearly a half dozen Division I players.
Now, ahead of his senior year, the 6-foot-3 team captain announced this week that he has committed to Penn.
Berger said he was drawn to Penn by “the reputation and tradition they built there over the last couple years with coach [Steve] Donahue. He just brought in a great recruiting class this year, so I know I’m going to be challenged every day in practice to be as good as I can be. My ultimate goal is to be in the NBA and have a long career there, and I know going there will help challenge me to be better.”
The first-team All-Friends School League selection said his decision came down to the Quakers and Yale, but he ended up choosing his parents’ alma mater. Deciding between Ivy League schools freed him up to pick a school based on on-court factors.
Penn started recruiting Berger during his sophomore year. That and the impression that Donahue left on him were two major selling points.
“Coach Donahue said my best basketball is ahead of me. The fact that he saw that so long ago, and he sees what I can do means a lot,” Berger said. “His basketball mind is just on a different level from a lot of other people I’ve been around in the basketball world.”
Berger’s father, Westtown coach, Seth Berger, typically has a roster full of players being recruited at some level, but he was in uncharted territory watching his son go through the process.
“To see him really develop as a leader and a captain, to turn into a true point guard, it’s been fantastic to watch his development,” Seth Berger said. "I think somewhere in his sophomore year I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s definitely going to be a D-I kid, and he’s got a chance to be a very good one.' ”
Seeing so many players leave Westtown for the college ranks gave T.J. Berger the chance to learn from their experiences. He prioritized making a college decision before the start of his senior year so he could focus on basketball.
The daily competition didn’t hurt, either.