Baker And Van Vleet Come As A Pair
For Fred Van Vleet (Wichita State University/Rockford, Ill.), attending USA Basketball Men’s Pan American Games team training camp is like going to the amusement park, movies or a sporting event.
“It is like going through anything in life, if you have a friend, a brother or family member that is going on the ride with you it makes it that much better,” Van Vleet commented. “Just having someone you are familiar with to go through the process with it is a great experience.”
Van Vleet and his 6-foot-4 Shockers teammate, Ron Baker (Wichita State University/Scott City, Kan.), arrived as a pair to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs on July 8 for training camp.
“We have pretty much done everything together for the past three years,” said Baker. “We have done Nike Skills Camps together and now this. It is obviously a great accomplishment for both of us to be here, for both of us to share this opportunity together, something we will definitely cherish for as long as we live. We are thrilled and happy to be here.”
After a couple of practice sessions, the two Shockers were included among 16 finalists for the U.S. team that will compete in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada.
“It was nerve wracking,” Baker said of the finalists announcement. “But Fred and my names were called within the first three names, so the nervousness went away pretty quick. But sitting there in those seats, realizing that some people were unfortunate and going home while we are staying here made me feel pretty lucky.”
According to Van Vleet, who ranks as WSU’s all-time leader in assists (465) for the top assist-to-turnover ratio in school history, making the cuts was not luck, but a by-product of their hard work.
“We worked our butts off all June,” Van Vleet said when asked what he did to prepare for training camp. “We worked out once or twice a day for conditioning, to try to get into good shape. We repeated our long, 3-point shots. We put in that extreme amount of work, which we were going do anyway, but knowing this was coming up it made the workouts more meaningful.
“It is a testament to our hard work. Obviously, we are talented players. We work hard. We play the game the right way. We play as hard as we can.”
The two that have helped Wichita State compile a three-season record of 90-15 (.857 winning percentage), while making three NCAA Tournaments including a run to the Final Four in 2012-13, do agree however, that the best way to make the 12-roster team is to continue to play their personal style of basketball.“Right now, I think it is just being a good listener,” Baker explained. “Mark Few (the head coach for the 2015 U.S. Pan American Team) likes to move quick, so we put some transition offense in. I have to study that to make sure I am not dragging the wagon in the games, got to stay on top of your body. I also have to keep being me, playing hard. On offense, I have to make the simple shots. I also have to be a good teammate. Having fun while out here is the most important thing.“
“The same things that I have been doing,” Van Vleet said of what he should do to make the team. “I am not really a guy that tries to do too much. I will be me, play the game as hard as I can. If that is enough to make it, I would be ecstatic, if not I will live with no regrets.”
Along with his physical abilities, Van Vleet is using self-motivation for training camp.
“I visualize things a lot in my head. I have visualized making the team and winning gold, so I try to put that into the atmosphere and hope it happens.”
Though Baker is focusing on the present, he too has envisioned standing on a podium with a gold medal.
“Just saying that gives me the chills,” said Baker. “If I slow down to think of that, for me it would be amazing considering how hard the road as been just to get to, to be in college. It would be an accomplishment and honor.
“But, most importantly right now is to make the team. There are a lot of great opportunities right in front of us, but there is still work to be done. We have to work to try to get a spot on the roster.”
But regardless of the outcome, the guards from Wichita State are grateful for the experience.
“It has been fun,” Van Vleet said.” It is a lot of learning, but there is also a lot of competing against great players in the first few days. I am a really competitive guy. I like playing against other great players. It has been fun trying to take it all in. Obviously, it is a huge and beautiful campus (USOTC) they have here with all the stuff they have. I have been doing a little bit of sight seeing while I am here. I am trying to take it all in while staying focused on the goal, which is to make the team, then win gold.”
“The experience for me has been really wonderful,” commented Baker. “A lot of people back home are really excited for me. There is a lot of support of Fred and I. There is not a better teammate than Fred Van Vleet to spend this quality time here in Colorado Springs with.”
The 12-man U.S. Pan American Men’s Basketball Team roster is expected to be announced Sunday, and the 12 selected players will travel to Chicago and train at the Chicago Bulls practice facility July 13-16. Pan American Games play starts July 21 and the USA opens its preliminary round play against Venezuela at 9 p.m. EDT. The Americans face Puerto Rico on July 22 (9 p.m. EDT), then Brazil on July 23 (9 p.m. EDT). The top two teams from each of the two preliminary-round groups advance to the medal-round semifinals on July 24, while the third and fourth-placed teams will play for fifth-eighth places. The semifinal winners will compete for the gold medal on July 25, and the semifinal losers will play for bronze.