By Dan Russo
DUBUQUE — Cordell Pemsl, a key member of Wahlert Catholic High School’s two-time state champion boy’s basketball team, signed his letter of intent to attend the University of Iowa next year, accepting a full athletic scholarship.
With his mom, Katy; other family members; teammates; and teachers looking on, the 18-year-old senior smiled brightly as he finished the paperwork at a ceremony in the school library.
He thanked his family, teammates and coaches for helping him achieve a goal he’s been working toward for years. He recognized his mom in particular for her role in his success.
“My mom has been by my side since I first picked up a basketball,” Pemsl told The Witness. “I’d like people to know about the love I have for her and that she’s been able to support me.”
Holding back tears at times, Katy Pemsl joined other friends and family members in hugging the standout athlete.
“I feel that all of Cordell’s hardwork, determination and sacrifice have paid off, and he’s living his dreams,” said the proud mom.
The goal to play college basketball at the highest level formed over the years after the young man first started playing the sport in third grade, forging strong bonds with teammates and coaches along the way.
“We know that when he was a little kid playing on those young Eagles teams — we knew he was going to be something special,” Wahlert Boy’s Basketball Coach Tom English told the crowd.
During his three seasons playing for the high school so far, Pemsl has distinguished himself by making both the all conference and all state teams in his junior and sophomore years. He has already passed 1,000 points in total scoring and has a great chance to break the school’s all time scoring record at some point during his senior season, English said.
During his sophomore and junior years, Pemsl was part of two state champion teams that also featured many other talented players, including David Wedewer, who has accepted an athletic scholarship to Sioux Falls University. During his time with the team, Pemsl faced some adversity, dealing with a knee injury last year. He is on his way to recovery and will be able to play this season. Pemsl credited his teammates and coaches for helping him become a better player.
“The IQ of the game is something I learned a lot about since my freshman year,” he said.
For a small Catholic school to send an athlete to play at a division one school like Iowa is an unusual honor, according to Coach English, who recalled that the school had the distinction one other time in recent history when Wahlert graduate Eric May joined the Hawkeyes’ basketball team from 2009-2013.
After the signing ceremony, faculty and other members of the community, including his teammates, congratulated Pemsl. In his senior year, the young man said he and his team are aiming for a three-peat as state champions in Iowa’s high school boy’s Class 3-A.
“We’ve got some unfinished business,” said Pemsl.
This story is provided courtesy of The Witness, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.