Six-foot-4 and stocky with hair down to the middle of his back, Andrew Ziemnik looked more like a bouncer or a roadie than a basketball player while leading Oswego to the Class 3A state final as an Oswego junior in 2009.
Four years later he's still flunking every eye test and exceeding every expectation at Illinois Wesleyan.
"Andrew Ziemnik is a unique guy," Wesleyan coach Ron Rose said. "He is a very intelligent young man, he has a terrific perspective and he is not afraid to be himself. He has been one of those guys you love coaching.
"Last year he came off the bench, and I had several people come up to me and say, 'I was wondering why you put him in the game, but after I watched him for a minute or two, I understood.'"
Ziemnik's ascension to a leadership role this season is among be the reasons No. 12 Wesleyan (16-3, 8-0 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin) has not fallen off despite losing four starters from last year's Division III Final Four team.
His 19 points and six rebounds in a 69-61 upset of then-No. 5 North Central on Jan. 23 gave the Titans of a three-game lead in the CCIW.
"Everyone kept saying we are losing those starters, losing Jordan Zimmer, who was an All-American," Ziemnik said. "You just want to accept the challenge. We were excited about it. We knew we had the talent and the smarts to be good."
Supposedly too small to play the 4 spot and too slow to be a 3, Ziemnik has excelled in both roles for the Titans.
After averaging 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench as a power forward last season, he moved to small forward and is registering 10.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in 26 minutes.
"I loved watching him play in high school," Rose said. "I kind of chuckled when he came to Wesleyan. I told him I was concerned if he's big enough to play inside and quick enough to challenge the perimeter.
"I challenged him to get better if he wanted to play here. What I didn't measure was his will. He's a gamer. The bigger the game, the better he is. Talk to his teammates, and they'll tell you he wins at everything. They play Monopoly, he wins. Cards, he wins.
"He's always one step ahead. He sees the game tremendously well. If basketball was checkers, he sees the double jump one step before you do."
College: Illinois Wesleyan.
High school: Oswego.
Numbers: 10.6 points, 5.8 rebounds.
FYI: Ziemnik had game-highs of 22 points and nine rebounds in Oswego's 61-59 loss to Champaign Centennial in the Class 3A title game in 2009. He averaged a double-double as a junior and a senior.