The guardianship of Wharton High boys basketball has been bequeathed to one of the greatest players in Wildcats history.
A month after announcing his retirement, program founder and 500-game winner Tommy Tonelli confirmed Friday former ‘Cats guard Shawn Vanzant will replace him. A 2007 Wharton alumnus, Vanzant, 33, has spent the past four seasons as coach at Bloomingdale, which captured the program’s first district title in six years in February.
As a collegian, he helped lead Butler to consecutive national title game berths in 2010 and 2011.
“He did a phenomenal job as a player, he did a phenomenal job in his career at Butler, and he’s been unbelievable as a young coach,” Tonelli said. “It’s just amazing what he did in four years at Bloomingdale, building things up and culminating that in his fourth year with a district championship.”
The first four-year varsity letterman in Wildcats hoops history, Vanzant also was the first to score 1,000 career points. As a senior, he averaged 16.4 points, 4.4 assists and 3.4 steals, leading Wharton to a 29-2 record and a Class 5A region title.
As a professional, Vanzant played internationally and had a brief stint in the NBA Development League. At Bloomingdale, his initial team won only three games, but the Bulls increased their win total each of the next three seasons (from nine to 12 to 17), culminating with a 17-10 mark and their district crown this past winter.
“I’ve been knowing (Tonelli) since I was 8 years old,” said Vanzant, who will teach health at Wharton High.
“I have big shoes to fill and I’m very aware of that, but I think I’m more than capable of doing it. I learned a lot from him as a player and as a coach, just sitting back watching him and how he does things. He’s always been there for me with a listening ear through my playing days and now even my coaching days. I love him like he’s my own dad.”