Northwest Native Tony Wroten Represents
June 6, 2009 - Colorado Springs, Colo.
Tony Wroten (Garfield H.S. / Renton, Wash.) practically was born with a basketball pedigree. The nephew of Northwest legend and Harlem Globetrotter Joyce Walker and the first cousin of the New York Knick's Nate Robinson and former Oregon State standout Jimmie Haywood, Wroten is writing his own basketball story, and at the age of 16, he has a pretty incredible start.
The 6-5 guard is one of 19 members of the 2009-10 USA Basketball Men's Developmental National Team participating in this week's training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The USA Basketball Men's Developmental National Team Committee will select 12 of the 19 players to represent the USA in the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, scheduled for June 17-21 in Mendoza, Argentina.
'(Training camp) is great. It's the top players from the whole country,' Wroten said. 'They are feeling the same way I'm feeling. They're not selfish, just like the Olympic team with LeBron. We can all score. We are all great players, and we all play great together.'
With 2009 Associated Press Class 4A All-State first team and Washington 4A State Tournament MVP honors under his belt, Wroten said playing for the red, white and blue is his biggest honor yet.
'My pops told me that they wanted me to come and play for the USA team. He got the letter in the mail and told me,' Wroten explained. 'It felt good because it's not just playing for a regular AAU team, not just putting it on for your city, you are putting it on for the entire world, and you have USA on your back. You definitely don't want to loose. So, when I found out I was playing for the USA team, it was a feeling of delight. It was great. I couldn't wait to come and play.'
That excitement, however, didn't mean Wroten spent extra hours in the gym or added work outs to his training routine. Instead that excitement fueled an already packed schedule.
'My schedule is already crazy as it is. I'm working hard to the fullest. I feel if I'm sleeping in, somebody else is getting better, so that didn't change. I just had a different mindset, playing for my country, not just my city.'
Wroten displays impressive work ethic for a 16-year-old, but it's not surprising when you consider his family history.
'A lot of people don't know, but there are a lot of great players that come out of Seattle. They think, 'Seattle?' But you know, where I come from, my cousins Nate (Robinson) and Jimmie (Haywood) always pushed me. I always played with older guys, so coming to play with the USA team? It's tougher, but not too tough.'
Wroten said growing up in the shadow of Robinson and Haywood wasn't always easy, and family ties didn't mean Wroten received special treatment.
'Actually, to be honest with you, it was crazy. There were times when I was playing with people twice my age,' Wroten remembered. 'I'd wake up early in the morning and wouldn't want to do it, especially with my older cousin Nate. We used to always go play with Jamal Crawford. They always pushed me to the ground. They didn't pass me the ball because I was so young. But now it is all paying off because I'm stronger, and I know it made me much better as a person and a basketball player.'
While Wroten attributes his toughness to Robinson and Haywood, he says it is his aunt, 1983 USA Basketball World University Games gold medalist Walker, who deserves much of the credit.
'She probably taught the most out of all of them. When I was growing up, I used to watch her play at LSU and watch her play as one of the first girl Harlem Globetrotters. Just the stuff she was doing, no girl was ever doing. I used to be in the gym all the time with her. She used to get the maddest at me because she would push me the most. I am glad she was there and in my life.'
Wroten said he is proud of his roots, and he wants to spread the word that 'Seattle got ballers.'
'Aaron Brooks, Nate Robinson, Jimmie Haywood and Jamal Crawford - all those guys paved the way for us. Brandon Roy went to the same high school I did, and Will Conroy, so there are a lot of basketball players. Now we just got to keep it going and make it even better, so I definitely have to put it on for my city and show them Seattle got ballers.'
That might sound like a daunting task, but it doesn't faze Wroten.
'I never deal with pressure. I don't believe in pressure. When all eyes are on you, that's when I feel I perform the best. I could see if I was just laying around, just waking up to go play a game, not working out, then I might feel it. But the older you get, the harder you work out, the game becomes easier.'
It won't be easy, however, to make this USA roster. The 19 players who comprise USA Basketball's 2009-10 Men's Developmental National Team are some of the nation's best talent, but as per FIBA regulations, only 12 will make the team.
'It would mean a lot (to make the team) - way better than a high school team, way better than an AAU team. Like I said, it's not just AAU, or your city or state, it's the whole country. You're going to let a lot of people down if you get less than gold, and it's going to mean a lot to me if I get the chance.'