Lucas Moerman entered into his basketball recruitment with a specific vision.
It turned out to be factors he didn’t envision that ended up pointing the 6-foot-10 Doherty senior toward Air Force.
The center with a 3.7 GPA, 1,240 SAT score, enough credits to enter some colleges as a sophomore and a basketball stat line that included averages of 12.9 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.4 blocks for the Spartans as a junior signed with the Falcons in front of a standing room-only crowd of about 60 in Doherty’s Spartan Room after school Wednesday as part of National Signing Day.
“Go compete,” he was instructed by Doherty athletic director Stephanie Leasure, a former Division I college basketball player. “You make Sparta proud, you will continue to make Sparta proud.”
For someone of Moerman’s body-type and skill level — his high school coach Eric Steinert describes him as an elite defender, shot blocker and athlete with a developing offensive game — it was never a question of if he’d play basketball in college, but where.
His only other official offer came from Northern Colorado, but he had conversations with Colorado, Colorado State, Boise State, Utah State, New Hampshire and multiple Ivy League schools.
It was a process Moerman took seriously.
Some of those big-picture items made the Falcons seem the obvious choice. He developed a fascination with airplanes at a young age, and when he later discovered a proclivity toward math and science, an aeronautical engineering major became his target.
Sorry, he told Ivy League programs that didn’t offer full scholarships or his specific engineering track, but they just didn’t fit.
“He knew what his standards were and his expectations, and he didn’t want to waste his time on a program that didn’t meet that for him,” Steinert said. “I thought that was impressive in a day and age when everybody’s tweeting out every offer that they get.”
In his visits to Air Force, Moerman took note of something beyond the chance to advance in engineering, play Division I basketball and stay close to the home he’s known since Calen and Heather Moerman moved their family — Lucas is the oldest of four, with three younger sisters — to Colorado Springs from northwest Iowa seven years ago.
When he watched other college teams practice, he was turned off by the foul language. More than that, he took note of small moments that showed disrespect and reflected a lack of discipline.
He didn’t know how much that would matter to him until he witnessed the contrast.
“At Air Force it’s nonexistent,” Moerman said. “That discipline was pretty appealing to me.”
The Falcons are not allowed to discuss recruiting classes, and Air Force commits sign a nonbinding agreement that differs from those that link athletes to other schools on signing day. So the Falcons could not comment on Moerman or the rest of their class, which according to The Gazette’s sources at this point also includes Jeffrey Mills (6-4, Flower Mound, Texas), Reggie Morris Jr. (6-2, Grandview, Mo.), Ethan Taylor (6-5, Houston), Khalif Allim (6-6, Houston), Kaleb Lichau (6-9, Gig Harbor, Wash.) and Carlos Miller (6-2, Little Rock, Ark.).
“I love all the coaches,” Moerman said of Dave Pilipovich and his Air Force staff. “They’re so nice. They care for you and want the best for you, even beyond basketball."
He said about 60 percent of his decision was based on the academy, while the rest was his connection with staff and players.
Those connections are clearly important to Moerman, as demonstrated by the mob of high school teammates who swarmed him after signing and the care he took to single out Doherty assistant Shawn Tarver and thank him for his part in his development.
“(Tarver is) the best coach we ever could have hoped for for Luke,” Calen Moerman said.
Moerman, like the others signing with Air Force on Wednesday, will attend the prep school. He hopes to use the year for additional development and hopes to add about 20 pounds to his 200-pound frame by his freshman year. He demonstrated this commitment by gobbling up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich shortly before signing.
The Doherty administrators who touted Moerman didn’t hide their excitement.
“For a coach, you want your best players to be great people,” Steinert said, “and he’s a perfect example of that.”
Leasure quoted a book of sayings from legendary coach John Wooden, connecting them with Moerman.
“Everyone knows that Lucas is the same all the time,” Leasure said. “No one has to question your character because you consistently act and speak with integrity.
“You are where you are supposed to be.”