Phil Wheeler will not be going to college, nor will he be finishing high school in the United States.
The 6-foot-8 senior at Ranney, a Tinton Falls, N.J., high school, has signed a professional deal with Stella Azzurra in Italy, according to Sportando, the European hoops site.
Wheeler, who had high-major interest from Seton Hall and St. John’s among others, will be represented by Italy-based agent Mario Scotti. Terms of Wheeler’s deal are unknown.
Stella Azzurra plays in Serie B, which is Italy’s third division. Wheeler is expected to play for Stella Azzurra’s basketball academy program, which is not outside the norm. European clubs often sign teenagers to professional deals, but start them in academy programs.
Wheeler, 17, was a central figure on last season’s 31-win, NJSIAA Tournament of Champions-winning Ranney team, which featured McDonald’s All-Americans Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine. Wheeler’s 14 points and 6 rebounds in the TOC final helped the Panthers to a 67-63 win over Bergen Catholic for the Shore Conference’s first TOC crown on the boys side.
Phillip Wheeler alla Stellazzurra Basketball Academy https://t.co/syQgXHtz1X
— Sportando Italia (@SportandoIT) August 6, 2019
Wheeler’s great-uncle, Clinton Wheeler, had a long professional career, which included stops in Europe, and he also played in the NBA. Clinton Wheeler passed away earlier this year. He was 59.
With the graduation of Lewis and Antoine, Ranney would have had a hard time contending for another Tournament of Champions crown, but Wheeler’s presence would have at least made the Panthers a factor. At a minimum, Wheeler, plus sophomore guard Elijah Perkins would have kept Ranney in the conversation for a third straight Shore Conference Tournament crown.