Whether Teddi Wetu knew it or not, a promotion to Antioch’s varsity team was always part of the plan for the sophomore guard this season.
That it came so soon — and as a result of a season-ending injury suffered by his close friend Marshall Gehrke — has made this a unique period for Wetu.
“Marshall’s been one of my best friends since sixth grade, so it was terrible to see him get injured,” Wetu said. “I’m grateful for him to be in my life. But the fact is that it gave me an opportunity.”
Wetu has run with it.
Gehrke, a standout sophomore forward, fractured a metacarpal bone in his right hand during Antioch’s game against Fremd on Dec. 27, and Wetu made his varsity debut the next day against Niles North. The 6-foot-2 Wetu averaged 10.5 points in the subsequent four games and turned heads with 23 points and seven rebounds in the Sequoits’ triple-overtime win against Maine West on Dec. 30.
“Teddi is very explosive vertically, with a great wingspan, and is really effective getting to the rim,” Antioch coach Sean Connor said. “He’s learning on the fly a bit, but he’s already shown how talented he is.”
Wetu, who got his first start against Grayslake North on Saturday, said he genuinely appreciates the confidence of his coaches and teammates as he plays major minutes. He can readily see that he’s a difference-maker for the Sequoits (7-10) but also understands it’s not his place to assert himself too boldly.
“My dad tells me not to be selfish and to make sure I get my teammates involved,” Wetu said. “But I also want to look for my own shot when it’s there.”
His father, Moise, spends many months of the year working in his native Congo, helping oversee large-scale projects in construction, engineering and mining.
Moise Wetu has been back in Antioch for the holidays and isn’t slated to return to Africa until later in January, which created a timely opportunity to see his son’s varsity promotion in person.
“There’s been a transformation for him over the past 10 months, both personally and athletically,” Moise Wetu said. “We’re extremely proud of him, and watching him play in his first game, there were a few tears. We hope he continues to excel and grow.”
Teddi Wetu was born in Arlington Heights after his parents immigrated to the U.S. in 2001. When his father returns to Congo for work, Teddi Wetu has more responsibilities at home.
“I’ve gotten used to helping out as I’ve gotten older, things like helping my sisters with their homework and helping with laundry,” he said.
Last summer, Teddi Wetu split time between his father’s hometown of Lubumbashi and neighboring Zambia. He did some work on one of his father’s projects, the renovation of the school that Moise Wetu and his siblings attended. He also helped distribute toys at an orphanage and visited farms, among other activities, in Zambia.
“The trip was meant to provide a different perspective for how other people live,” Moise Wetu said. “And for Teddi, being our firstborn and a young man, he gained an understanding of where he came from.”
Teddi Wetu agrees with his father.
“It was a very cool experience, and it really opened my eyes,” he said. “Kids over there are more mature and grow up earlier. Life is not as easy for them, and everything they have, they cherish.”
Steve Reaven is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.