Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet knows he needs to get quicker to play basketball as a sophomore. He went to Kerry Rosenboom and asked for extra speed work.
That tells Rosenboom, WSU’s strength and conditioning coach, two things: VanVleet is eager to improve and he is leading by example. After VanVleet started showing up before weights to run the Cessna Stadium ramps, other Shockers followed.
“He knows he’s got to get faster, so he was the one who came to ask me first,” Rosenboom said. “Now more people are coming and coming and he’s taking really good leadership roles.”
VanVleet wants to lose about seven pounds to play at 183. He will be WSU’s starter this season, in charge of running the offense and starting the defensive pressure. Every step he can pick up is important. So he runs the ramps, steps and hills around campus, working on defensive slides and moving his feet.
“Just trying to get my hips loose so I can play a little bit lower and be a little quicker,” VanVleet said. “The more loose and open your hips are, then you can move better and quicker. You want to play low at all times.”
VanVleet isn’t the only Shocker putting in extra time. Nick Wiggins and Kadeem Coleby come in mornings for an extra hour of weights and will soon be joined by Ria’n Holland. Cleanthony Early is doing flexibility training daily.
“This team will not be as physically imposing as some of the teams we’ve had,’ Rosenboom said. “But this team, pound for pound, is probably going to be stronger than (recent teams) and, up and down, more athletic. This is a fun team to work with.”
• Rosenboom expects five Shockers, perhaps more, to bench press 185 pounds at least 20 times by October. That is a mark Rosenboom tracks because the NBA tracks it at its draft combines. According to Rosenboom’s figures, only 54 players reached that standard since 2000. Two of those — Maurice Evans and Paul Miller — are former Shockers. After the summer lifting, Chadrack Lufile can do 20 reps, with Evan Wessel and Ron Baker (18) and Early (17) close. Baker, Rosenboom said, did four reps when he arrived in 2011.
• WSU’s big men are Rosenboom’s most important weight projects. Lufile has dropped 17 pounds from the start of the summer and is at 255. Early is up to 213 and Rosenboom wants him to add at least five more by the season. Coleby weighs 248 pounds and wants to play at 255. Freshman center Shaq Morris is down 12 pounds to 270 and Rosenboom wants him to lose 10-15 more. Forward Darius Carter is up eight pounds to 233 and is expected to add a few more for his playing weight.
“I can’t think of anybody (among transfers) who is so time-oriented, so goal-oriented,” Rosenboom said. “A lot of juco guys, when they come in, don’t understand that being 10 minutes early is on time.”
Carter asked to be paired with a lifting partner who would push him. Rosenboom matched him with Coleby and likes the results.
“He pushed Kadeem as much as Kadeem pushed him,” Rosenboom said. “He doesn’t talk; he doesn’t worry about what music is being played. He just works.”
Carter, 6-foot-7, came to WSU knowing he needed to get bigger and stronger to battle bigger players.
“The weight room is going to be really important for the progression of my game,” he said. “I was never really a big weight-lifting person, but over past summers I’ve been doing a lot of weight training and I like the way it feels.”
He needed that motivation again when the Puerto Rico national team gave him a chance to try out to play in the FIBA Americas Championship in Venezuela. He got his chance when three players withdrew from the team. Clemente, whose father is from Puerto Rico, went to training camp determined to seize the opportunity.
“I felt like I was playing for something,” he said. “I took it personal. This is a makeup for not making my high school team. I hadn't had a tryout for a team since.”
Clemente, a 6-foot-6 forward, found out he made the team after a warmup tournament game in Puerto Rico. The coach informed the team of the cuts (made privately earlier) with all players assembled, so Clemente couldn’t celebrate in front of his less-fortunate teammates.
“Inside, I’m jumping up and down,” he said. “I got back to my hotel room and started crying.”
Puerto Rico finished second in the FIBA Americas, losing 91-89 to Mexico in the title game Wednesday. It went 7-3 in the tournament with Clemente playing in nine of the 10 games and scoring five points and grabbing 18 rebounds. He played 25 minutes in an earlier loss to Mexico, his most extensive playing time, and totaled nine rebounds. The minor role didn’t bother him. Playing with NBA teammates such as J.J. Barea and Carlos Arroyo and against NBA players such as Mexico’s Gustavo Ayon and Luis Scola of Argentina provided a thrill.
“They didn't call me to come out there and shoot all these shots,” Clemente said. “Rebound, set screens. I had no problem doing that.”
Clemente played the past four years in Israel (where he gets plenty of shots). After playing in the FIBA tournament, his options for this year in Europe are growing and he will sit down soon with his agent to discuss his next job.
Puerto Rico qualified for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain and Clemente said he believes he can earn a spot on that roster if he continues to play well in the professional ranks. That could mean a chance to play against the United States.
“You can’t pass that up,” he said.
Maybe it’s a challenge. Maybe it’s an invitation. Whatever the level of attitude you want to place on the campaign, WSU associate athletic director John Brewer said it is primarily about inducing people to think about Wichita State differently.
“There’s some feedback that Wichita State is taking shots at KU and K-State,” Brewer said. “It’s really not, except in the idea that Wichita State belongs in the same conversation in both education and athletics.”
The message of the campaign, once again driven largely by social media, is to expand WSU’s appeal outside its traditional geographic boundaries. With a Final Four (men’s basketball), a Sweet 16 (volleyball) and NCAA appearances by several sports in 2012-13, Brewer and his marketing team decided to give that success a bigger voice.
“The brand that is Wichita State deserves to be in the national conversation,” he said.
Like the #WatchUs campaign from last year, #MyState is a blank canvas for fans. They can define #MyState however they choose, on signs, Twitter or Facebook. Athletes and coaches quickly set the example with messages such as “#MyState is running faster, throwing farther, and jumping higher.”
“We’re using #MyState to complete a sentence or complete a thought,” he said.
And if you liked #WatchUs, don’t worry. WSU will continue to use that hashtag and Brewer doesn’t see it as competition for the new slogan.