Connor Vanover Shooting Big As One Of 17 USA U16 Finalists
As a nickname, “big shot” usually refers to the boss. How about a long-range basketball shooter who stands 7-foot-3?
Rather than address him by a nickname, Connor Vanover (Arkansas Baptist/Little Rock, Ark.) said people instead tend to compare him to NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, a 3-point shooter who is 7-foot tall. And in his opinion, that is a fine comparison.
“I’ve always had a game like him,” Vanover said. “He is a really great shooter, and I was really fond of him.
“Ever since I was growing up. I just started shooting outside, and that has just carried on to me shooting well now.”
Before anyone knew how tall Vanover would become, he was growing up in an athletic household with twin brothers who are about two years older and are now 7-foot tall. His mother played basketball at the University of Arkansas, his grandfather played football at Texas Christian University and a pair of his cousins play football at the University of Colorado – Jeromy and Sean Irwin, who are two-thirds of a set of triplets.
“We played lots of sports when we were little,” Vanover said. “I played football, basketball, baseball, all those different things. We were just around sports, and it shaped our lives.”
It was not very long, however, before Vanover began to focus on basketball.
“It was probably in the second grade when I started playing AAU,” said Vanover of when he began to take basketball seriously. “I started training a lot more. In my earlier years it was just practice with my AAU team, but then as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had trainers and done other workouts outside of practices.”
That hard work has led Vanover to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where on May 30 he was named as one of 17 finalists for the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team. Thirty-two players took the court on May 28, and a final, 12-member roster selection is still to come.
“I was really excited,” Vanover said of being named as a finalist. “I was kind of nervous if I was going to make the cut or not, but I’m really excited. But, I’m not content with being just a finalist. I want to get all the way.”
Beyond showcasing his range, Vanover wanted to show the selection committee that he is a hard worker who crashes the boards.
“I was nervous because you never know if you are going to make it or not,” Vanover said of his performance so far at training camp. “I was just trying to play hard. I think I did well shooting and getting inside and rebounding a lot.”
This weekend is Vanover’s second USA Basketball experience. He also took part in the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team October mini-camp at the USOTC.
“I was very nervous,” Vanover said of the October camp. “There were all these great players there, and I was just one of the young ones. I still tried to play as hard as a I could. I was still nervous so I wasn’t playing the best that I could, but I was still trying.”
Between USA Basketball training camps, Vanover completed his freshman season at Arkansas Baptist in 2014-15. Playing alongside one of his older brothers, Vanover averaged 14.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game to help his team to a 25-8 record a the Arkansas 4A state tournament semifinals. He was named to the Arkansas 4A All-State team, to the 4A-4 All-Conference Team, to the Arkansas Preps All-Underclassmen Team and as an Arkansas Basketball Coaches Association 4A Top Five Player.
“It was a successful season,” Vanover said. “I thought we should have gone all the way, but we still did really well. It was our first season with our new head coach, and we did really well with him.
“I was shooting for all-state, and I also got in the all-prep team for the underclassmen, which I was very proud of.”
For next season, he already has one goal in mind, which is to, “just try to be the best that I can.”
Under the direction of USA head coach Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa), who has won six-straight gold medals with USA Basketball, as well as USA assistant coaches Miles Simon (California Supreme AAU) and Sharman White (Miller Grove H.S., Ga.), Vanover said he is doing just that during camp. And in his second USA Basketball training camp, he has more confidence.
“I was very nervous in the October mini-camp, but here, I’ve already had the experience,” Vanover explained. “I know what is going to happen.
“I’ve been learning to get lower and wider in my defensive stance.”
Improvement is Vanover’s secondary goal, however, coming just behind being selected to represent his country at the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship from June 10-14 in Bahia Blanca, Argentina.