CEDAR FALLS — Trae Berhow has decided to trade Pepperdine’s picturesque Malibu, Calif., campus for an opportunity to make a difference within Northern Iowa’s basketball program.
It’s a change of scenery that figures to provide a bright outlook in Cedar Falls.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound freshman guard from Watertown, Minn., confirmed to The Courier Tuesday night that he will be transferring to UNI following a visit this past weekend. Per NCAA rules, he will sit out the upcoming season and be eligible for the 2019-20 campaign.
Berhow was initially recruited by UNI during a high school career in which he finished as Watertown-Mayer’s all-time leading scorer, averaging 25 points per game his final two seasons. After already developing a relationship with recruiting coordinator Kyle Green and UNI’s staff, the guard felt comfortable giving the Panthers another look.
“You already have the trust factor with those guys and what they’re all about,” Berhow said. “I knew what their system was and knew what they believed in and how they wanted to make you a better player. That was a big thing for me.”
During his visit to Cedar Falls this past weekend, Berhow quickly gelled with the team during a pick-up game. While he hadn’t crossed paths often with fellow former Minnesota prep standout and UNI freshman Tywhon Pickford, they did play together in a Super Seniors event at the end of their AAU careers.
“Some teams you go play with, and I guess you could say it’s a little awkward,” Berhow said. “But coming in and playing with UNI’s players, I felt really comfortable. They fit my playing style and it just felt right.”
Berhow is coming off an impressive collegiate debut at Pepperdine. He averaged 10 points and 5.7 rebounds in 28 starts, while also growing through adversity.
It was announced toward the end of the season seventh-year head coach Marty Wilson wouldn’t be returning to lead a program that finished the year with a 6-26 record.
“I feel like I matured a lot,” Berhow said. “Learning to cope with the fact that you’re not winning and learning how to keep your focus when you’re losing and keep pushing, wanting to get better and fighting through all the adversity was a real big thing. I grew up as a person more than just a basketball player in that aspect.”
At UNI, Berhow could potentially form a lethal backcourt with his accurate distance shot complementing 2018 recruit AJ Green of Cedar Falls — Iowa’s top all-time high school 3-point shooter in Class 4A. Berhow led Pepperdine with 48 3-pointers at a 40-percent success rate, highlighted by a game-winning triple against Loyola Marymount.
“Overall, Trae is a fierce competitor,” said John Williams, who coached him from eighth through 11th grade with the Minnesota Powerhouse Hoops AAU program. “He’s one of those guys that plays with passion.
“He’s an extremely good shooter, has the range to shoot from deep, but he also does other things. He has good size and athleticism that he can guard bigger guards, sometimes go in and guard smaller forwards. He has a knack for rebounding, as well. ... He had a great feel for the game, still has a lot to learn, but he has a bright future.”
While having to sit out a season of basketball isn’t easy for the fierce competitor, Berhow is looking forward to the opportunity to get physically stronger and become a more complete player.
“One big thing I’d like to work on is my ball-handling skills,” Berhow said. “That’s one thing if I added this year the game would have slowed down a lot more so I could be more patient, more comfortable with the ball.”
The incoming transfer is looking forward to UNI’s traditionally strong non-conference schedule, in addition to playing within a Missouri Valley Conference represented by Loyola Chicago during the recent Final Four.
“I’m going to come in and bring a lot of energy,” Berhow said. “That’s just the kind of person I am. I’m a big energy giver. That’s just one good thing that they (UNI fans) can expect and wait for.”
The future Panther added UNI coach Ben Jacobson’s track record of successfully developing athletes of similar builds and skill-sets was among the biggest factors in his decision to trade in life on one of America’s most scenic campuses for a return ticket to the Midwest.
“I’m a Minnesota boy,” Berhow added. “I’m used to the cold. That’s just home.”