ST. JOSEPH (WCIA) — Ty Pence always looked up to the great players of St. Joseph-Ogden basketball past. Now he stands alone with his place in the Spartans record books.

“I’ve grown up watching Spartan basketball,” Pence said. “I’ve seen the great players like Brandon Trimble. Obviously I wanted to be like them.”

And in more ways than one, Pence has cemented himself among the Spartan greats.
But his path to the top of the record books wasn’t always certain.

“He was bigger than everybody else, but he had a lot of baby fat on him,” St. Joseph-Ogden head coach Kiel Duval said about Pence’s younger years. “You never knew how he was going to turn out.”

Pence found his love for the game during the AAU season after his 8th grade year, dropping football and baseball to focus on the hardwood shortly after. He picked football up once again his senior year, suiting up at receiver and earning all-state honors, but only after his basketball future was locked in. A once lanky freshman showed flashes of what he could become and then blossomed into a star.

“We come in sophomore year and he looked like a different kid,” added Duval. “Freshman year he was just this skinny, 6-foot-4, 3-point shooter. He comes in sophomore year, he’s about 200 pounds, muscle, gets up by the rim, scores mid-range.”

“I realized that, I worked really hard for this and it’s something I really enjoy,” Pence said. “There’s always high expectations, and that’s why I think I push myself towards to try and prove those people wrong.”

From that point on, Pence was dominant every time he stepped on the court. He led the Spartans to two regional titles, climbing recruiting rankings to a Top 200 prospect in the country. It added up to SJO’s all-time leading scorer with more than 2,100 points and when it was all said and done, he surpassed the guy he always looked up to, Brandon Trimble.

“It means everything, I grew up watching Brandon,” Pence said. “Just thinking how great he was. Now to be able to surpass him in points, that’s something I’m very proud of myself for.”

It didn’t take long for Pence to catch the eye of college’s top programs, going on visits to power programs like Michigan State and Illinois. The 6-6 guard held offers from the Illini, Iowa State, Wake Forest, Butler, and more, but ultimately believed in the rebuild going on just up I-74 at Illinois State.

“It was definitely stressful to say the least,” Pence said about the recruiting process. “I really trust Coach [Ryan] Pedon and what he’s going to help do. It’s close to home, unlike some of the other offers I had. All those key factors going into it, it felt like it was the best fit for me.”

The SJO basketball history books will now always include Ty Pence but between the records and trophies, what was most important was inspiring the next all-time scoring leader?

“I think for my legacy, someone that the younger kids can really look up to,” said Pence. “And I always wanted to compete at the highest level, and on the court I was able to accomplish great things.”

And that legacy now includes WCIA 3 Boys Basketball Player of the Year.


2023: Ty Pence, SJO

2022: Jalen Quinn, Tuscola

2021: Tevin Smith, Danville

2020: Connor Heaton, Central A&M

2019: Christian Stadeli, Cissna Park

2018: Kendle Moore, Danville

2017: Tim Finke, Central

2016: Brandon Trimble, SJO

2015: Christian Williams, St. Teresa

2014: Michael Finke, Centennial