Boys' basketball notebook: Diverse coaching staff buoys Solon

The Solon coaching staff: Miguel Villagrana, Jason Pershing, Bobby Welch, Jacobe Julien and Matt Messenger (left to right).
The Solon coaching staff: Miguel Villagrana, Jason Pershing, Bobby Welch, Jacobe Julien and Matt Messenger (left to right).

CEDAR RAPIDS — Jason Pershing filled out his preseason questionnaire perfectly. He provided his career record, names of his returning starters and letterwinners at Solon High School and comments about his team and the conference in which it plays.

Then in the “additional comments” section, he wrote something that caught your eye.

“Potentially the most diverse staff in Iowa.”

It is an interesting mix of guys who help out Pershing. Matt Messenger and Bobby Welch are his varsity assistants, Miguel Villagrana his sophomore coach and Jacobe Julien his freshman coach.

Messenger is an area guy from West Branch, Villagrana from Columbus Junction. Welch is from Florida and played briefly professionally in China, while Julien is from the Quad Cities and played at Mount Mercy.

“We’ve got different states, guys from pretty diverse backgrounds and experiences,” Pershing said. “All together at basically a privileged all-white school. That’s a pretty cool story, especially with how important diversity is nowadays. With all the stuff going on in our country.”

Pershing played prep ball at Cedar Rapids Washington, so he always has had an appreciation for diversity. Welch and Julien are African-American, while Villagrana (whose son, Emilio, was a fine player at Solon) is Mexican-American.

This wasn’t necessarily intentional, more happenstance. For instance, Welch works in the compliance department at the University of Iowa and was just looking to help out somewhere.

But Pershing is celebrating the makeup of his staff.

“It’s great to see how embracing the school and the community is. It has been awesome,” he said. “The kids are super responsive to it, very appreciative of it to have guys with different backgrounds and experiences. They want to know about Florida, or Rock Island, Ill., or Cedar Rapids Washington, where I went to school.


“The parents, I have never heard a whisper (of negativity). It’s the real world.”

Solon is 13-7 with one game to go in the regular season and is a No. 2 seed in its Class 3A substate. The Spartans have been led most of the season by the sophomore-senior combination of A.J. Coons and Ben Krutzfeld.

And this distinct collection of coaches.

“They bring a different understanding of the game, too,” said Pershing, in his third season at the school. “Which I think has helped this year a ton.”


Class 1A second-ranked North Linn concluded a perfect 22-0 regular season Tuesday night with a 106-33 win over Alburnett. The Lynx set a state record with a 93.1 season scoring average, hitting triple digits five times, including a high of 115 points. The fewest amount of points North Linn scored was 75 in a 75-34 win over Calamus-Wheatland. The Lynx allowed an average of 35.6 points, which means they outscored opponents by nearly 58 points a game.


Muscatine senior forward Joe Wieskamp poured in 44 points Tuesday night against Burlington to become Class 4A’s all-time leading career scorer. The University of Iowa signee has 2,208 career points, surpassing former Hawkeye Jeff Horner’s mark of 2,194. Horner played at Mason City. Wieskamp’s total ranks 14th all time in the state, regardless of class.

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