Atlanta Celtics summer basketball coach DeWayne Jackson watched Fred VanVleet carry Pryme Tyme to upset after upset.
Impressive, but Jackson also paid close attention to VanVleet's behavior off the court. VanVleet, a senior point guard from Rockford, Ill., orally committed to Wichita State in July. Then he stuck with the Shockers even as his reputation grew and high-profile schools made inquiries.
"He's at a tournament at Minneapolis and I see him wearing a Wichita State shirt," Jackson said. "That kid will tell anybody he's committed to Wichita State because that was the first school that recruited him. To be able to get a kid like that to stay loyal after he started getting a lot of recognition... that story about him is a better one than any you could tell."
VanVleet's story on the court is pretty good, as well.
Jackson coaches one of the nation's top summer programs, one that produced NBA players such as Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Dwight Howard and Josh Smith. Pryme Tyme, from Illinois, isn't supposed to match up. The Celtics went 6-foot-8 and bigger across the front line. Pryme Tyme didn't start a player taller than 6-5.
"We were one of the teams they upset," Jackson said. "He was the most underrated player I saw all summer. He made an average team good."
VanVleet, from Auburn High, spent all summer raising his game. He proved he can make jump shots. He continued to prove he can run a team with more maturity and efficiency than most point guards. Pryme Tyme coach Anthony Cornell said he took calls from coaches at schools such as Stanford and Michigan wanting to know how solid VanVleet's commitment stood.
"He told all of them, 'I'm not into that,' " Cornell said.
VanVleet's upgrade started with weights. He added enough muscle to boost his bench press around 20 pounds, up to 230, over the summer. In Cornell's judgment, VanVleet (5-11, 175) outplayed Indiana commit Yogi Ferrell and Houston's Andrew Harrison, ranked No. 4 in the class of 2013 in ESPNU's Super 60.
"He can out-muscle a lot of players," Cornell said.
Jackson, a former Wichitan, also pointed to VanVleet's physical maturity as a key to his success.
"Fred matched up with every elite player he played against," Jackson said. "His strength is getting into the paint, his mid-range game. He is either going to score, or he is going to get the ball to a guy who is going to score."
VanVleet is scheduled to sign with WSU in November, perhaps giving Shocker coach Gregg Marshall — who can't comment on his recruit until he signs — much-needed long-term stability at point guard. ESPNU ranks him No. 27 among point guards nationally in the class of 2012.
"Fred can pinpoint and pick out the weak spots in a defense," Cornell said. "They're making checkers moves, and he's making chess moves."
During a busy summer, VanVleet made a lot of moves that impressed onlookers.
"The way college athletics has turned, he's going to be refreshing because he's a humble kid," Jackson said. "He's got a good, strong texture about him."
Different kind of helmet — In an age of sports specialization, two WSU baseball recruits can't wait for football.
Tanner Kirk, a running back/linebacker from Lincoln (Neb.) Southeast, and Parker Zimmerman, a linebacker at Stillwater (Okla.), gave WSU oral commitments for baseball this summer. Kirk is an infielder; Zimmerman a catcher.
Neither wanted to miss out on their senior season as a football player. Some athletes fear injury or falling behind peers who focus on one sport.
"I wanted to be with all my friends, and I didn't want to miss being in that team picture if we win (a championship)," Kirk said. "We're going to be a pretty good team this year."
Lincoln Southeast, 10-2 last season, is No. 5 in the Class A preseason rankings. At Stillwater, Zimmerman is excited to play his final season with a new coach after the team struggled in 2010.
"The WSU coaches encouraged me to play," Zimmerman said. "They all played football, and they know there's nothing like Friday night football."
WSU coaches aren't the only ones who see the value in playing different sports. Johnny Graves, who coached Kirk with the Nebraska Sluggers, believes specialization can wait. Playing games — any games — can be just as beneficial.
"The competitive juices are always good," Graves said. "There's nothing like game-time atmosphere for anybody, getting the mind ready to compete."
Early choice — Newton setter/middle blocker Emily Hiebert, a junior, has given WSU's volleyball team an oral commitment, according to Ron Hiebert, her father.
Emily Hiebert was a second-team All-Class 5A selection by the Kansas Volleyball Association coaches as a sophomore. She was also named co-Most Valuable Player of Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I.
She cannot sign a letter of intent with WSU until the fall of 2012, her senior season.