Last summer, Wichita State guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet attended elite camps to work on skills and show off in front of the NBA world.
Their trip this summer is all about the name on the front of the jersey. Tryouts for the United States team in the Pan Am Games begin Tuesday in Colorado Springs.
“This is more focused on the team and you actually get a whole month to practice with the teams and work out some chemistry,” VanVleet said. “In those camps, it’s all about yourself and you’ve got 60 guys all trying to show how great they are.”
Twenty-two athletes start tryouts and coach Mark Few, and his assistants, will cut the roster to around 12 for training camp at the Chicago Bulls facility July 13-16. The Pan Am Games begin July 21 in Toronto with a game against Venezuela.
“This is just another adventure for me,” Baker said. “It’s the biggest thing you can represent, in my mind. You grow up representing your family. Then you hopefully get to college. Now, it’s the USA.”
Baker and VanVleet join 14 other college players, five who played professionally overseas and Ryan Hollins, who played with the Sacramento Kings last season. Former Kansas guard Keith Langford, Baylor’s Rico Gathers, Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon and Iowa State’s Monte’ Morris are on the roster. Former WSU assistant Tad Boyle, now coach at Colorado, is one of Few’s assistants for Team USA. Former WSU coach Mark Turgeon, now at Maryland, is an instructional coach during the tryouts.
WSU coach Gregg Marshall is happy to turn his star guards over to Team USA for a few days or a few weeks. Working with new coaches and playing against strong competition in the summer is a plus.
“It gives them a confidence when they go and compete against some of the best players in the country,” he said. “They have a renewed vigor, if you will, when they come back because they’ve been stimulated. They’ve worked very hard, they’ve gotten some new drills, they’ve been in front of NBA people.”
Making the team means roughly three weeks of competitive basketball. In summer practices, Marshall gives Baker and VanVleet time to watch. He doesn’t need to see them run drills and their legs don’t need the wear and tear. It is more productive for them to watch or teach, giving the young players more time for participation.
“You have to be careful not to work them too hard,” Marshall said. “You don’t want them hitting their peak in August.”
Both players are loaded with individual awards and team success after three seasons as Shockers. Adding Team USA to a resume is a special item. They would be the first Shockers to make the United States Pan Am team.
“As far as accomplishments, it would be probably be at the top of my list,” VanVleet said. “That’s a whole ’nother ball-game to be playing for your country.”
The United States plays Puerto Rico on July 22, which could produce a Shocker reunion. Former WSU player Ramon Clemente, who has played in several tournaments for Puerto Rico, will try out for a spot on the Pan Am roster and is confident about making the team.
Moving dates — WSU’s volleyball team makes odd Monday trips to Evansville (Oct. 5) and Southern Illinois (Nov. 2) this season.
Coach Chris Lamb is happy to do it. The Missouri Valley Conference changed its schedule to give schools a more dates for non-conference matches or a fourth tournament. To do so, teams lost one of their nine conference weekends and must schedule two MVC matches during the week.
This season, WSU travels to Evansville and SIU, travel partners, a month apart. Next season, teams come to WSU for mid-week games.
While the change increases travel costs and could result in more missed class time, Lamb considers it a great move for strength of schedule. More chances to play good non-conference opponents means MVC schools can improve their power rankings (RPI).
“Every single conference we’re trying to chase or be like has more play dates,” he said. “Mathematically, we’re at a competitive disadvantage. The only way you can move the RPI dial is through non-conference matches.”
WSU will play in tournaments at Hawaii, Texas A&M and Marquette, in addition to hosting the Shocker Classic in September. It faces six teams who played in the 2014 NCAA Tournament — Oregon State, Hawaii, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Illinois and Marquette.
Now Lamb has to hope other MVC teams take advantage of the dates to play in good tournaments.
“It takes some work to put together non-conference weekends,” he said. “We took a big step by creating another weekend.”
Hot in the summer — Former WSU first baseman Casey Gillaspie is putting on a power show in Class A.
He hit a grand slam in his debut for Charlotte on June 28. He hit 16 home runs for Bowling Green, leading the Midwest League, in 64 games before moving up in Tampa Bay’s affiliate ladder. He earned a spot in the Midwest League’s All-Star game, although he didn’t play.
Shooters wear No. 33 — WSU posted its men’s basketball roster and revealed jersey numbers for its newcomers.
Freshman guard Tyrone Taylor is No. 10, previously worn by Ria’n Holland and earlier by players such as Karon Bradley, L.D. Swanson, Cal Bruton and Preston Carrington.
Freshman guard Landry Shamet takes No. 11, Cleanthony Early’s number. Players such as Bruton, O.J. Robinson, Fridge Holman and Phil Thomasson also wore No. 11.
Freshman forward Brett Barney is No. 12, taking Darius Carter’s number.
Senior center Anton Grady will wear No. 15 for his one season at WSU, worn last season by former walk-on Jared Walker. Nick Wiggins also wore No. 15, as did Terrell Benton and Paul Guffrovich.
Walker is no longer on the team after he decided to focus on academics and stay at WSU.
No. 25 goes to freshman forward Eric Hamilton, a number last used by Derek Brown in 2010-11. D.J. Bowles was assigned No. 25 in 2013, but a medical condition kept him from playing.
Freshman forward Markis McDuffie is No. 32, worn by Tekele Cotton and Gabe Blair in recent seasons. Kyle Wilson, C.C. McFall, Chris Grill, Jay Jackson and Rich Morsden also wore No. 32.
Sophomore guard Conner Frankamp takes No. 33, after wearing No. 23 at North and Kansas (VanVleet’s number). Zach Bush wore No. 33 one season before switching to No. 5. Mantas Griskenas, Sean Ogirri, Rob Kampman, Jason Perez, Ryan Herrs and Mike Jones also wore No. 33.
Worth noting — WSU’s Volleyball 101 Dinner is Aug. 22 at Koch Arena. Tickets are $40 and available at goshockers.com. For information call 316-978-5549 … WSU volleyball camps begin Monday and run through July with individual skills and team camps. For information call For information call 316-978-5549 … Early will hold a clinic from 9 a.m.-noon on July 30 at Next Level Hoops Academy. Cost is $60. For information call Jason Perez at 316-312-1507.