What do Ben Wallace
, Darrell Armstrong
, Flip Murray and Charles Oakley
have in common? Aside from being hard-nosed players, they all played their college basketball in the CIAA. Avis Wyatt
is now trying to join the select number of CIAA players to make the jump to the NBA.1913
A tall and very athletic forward, Wyatt spent his college career at Virginia State, where he helped lead the Trojans to a 20-8 record during his senior season. Of course, any time a player outside of D-1 basketball is good enough to draw looks from NBA scouts, the question always is, why isnt he playing at a bigger school?
I think thats because I didnt really start playing basketball seriously until the 11th grade, so I wasnt really highly recruited out of high school by anyone, he said.
Wyatt initially started playing JV basketball at Petersburg High School in Virginia. The team didnt make cuts, so Wyatt, who wasnt even six feet at the time, was able to play on the team. His life would quickly change though when a massive growth spurt left him standing 68 by the start of his senior year. Still, with so little experience playing basketball, only Virginia State came calling for his services.
When I came out of high school, Coach Booker, he was the coach at Virginia State at the time; he came to see me play at the team camp at Richmond, he said. I didnt really get any other offers that I can remember. I enrolled at Virginia State like a week before registration began.
The decision to attend Virginia State would elevate Wyatts budding basketball career, but first he had to adapt to the entirely new world of playing at the college level.
When I first came to Virginia State, it was a whole new atmosphere for me, he said. I had never played AAU or anything like that; it was just high school ball. So coming to college, it was just me. The freshman I came in with, though, we all became pretty tight.
In the early years of his career, Wyatt stated that Virginia State only drew fans to games who were looking to see them lose. With three different coaches in his first three seasons with the team, Wyatt and his teammates had to endure a lot on the basketball court. He added though that the hardship of losing early on and having to adapt to different coaches has made him a better person in the long run.
Like so many other college players across the country, when the buzzer sounded in the final game of his career, things were just beginning for Wyatt, who went on to attend the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. Despite injuring himself in his teams second game of the weekend, Wyatt seemed pleased with his performance on the floor.
I think the first game, I got to showcase a lot of my athleticism and my abilities, he said. I was able to handle ball a little bit, show off my shooting touch; I think I played well within the team, but all-in-all I dont think I showed all that I can do.
For Wyatt, the weekend may have been more exciting than for any of the other players in attendance. While the majority of the D-1 players at the camp were used to the extravaganza that is big time college basketball, Wyatt was coming from a much smaller background.
It was really exciting coming in before the games even started because most of those guys you see on TV at least three or four times a year; you know on ESPN highlights and all that, so it was good just to be on the team with some of those guys, he said.
The experience became even more enjoyable for Wyatt when he got the opportunity to spend time with his new teammates away from the court.
It was crazy because I felt like those are some guys I knew for way longer than just that week I got to spend with them, he said. At the end of camp we all exchanged numbers so we could keep in contact. Off the court it was real laid back, our whole team, no one was really an outcast. Everyone laughed and joked around.
The only controversy of any sort that arose at Portsmouth was the question of Wyatts height. At Virginia State he was listed as 611, while at Portsmouth he was measured at 69 in shoes [68 ½ without]. Wyatt has his own theories on the matter.
I think Im a legit 610. At Portsmouth they measured us in shoes, but I had slippers on and I guess they used those as my shoes. But with basketball shoes on I think Im 610.
While the height is a major plus for Wyatt, his weight is not. The athletic forward tips the scales at 220 pounds on a heavy day, and will need to increase his strength and weight before draft day. As Wyatt pointed out, though, his situation cant be solved by simply eating more.
Im more or less faced with the challenge of trying to put on weight while maintaining my speed and athleticism, he said. Im working out with my coaches, trying to get on the right kind of diet. But really, Id much rather get stronger than pick up a lot of bulky weight.
Another less prominent question that has arisen has been regarding Wyatts statistics. As a senior he posted 17 points and 7 rebounds per game, very solid numbers, but not those that many would expect from a D-2 player looking to go pro. As Wyatt pointed out though, stats dont tell the whole story.
You can look at my stats, but it wouldnt tell you about my game because I got those numbers within a system, he said. There wasnt one time during the season where we were going to razzle dazzle for me. I think that you would get a better understanding of how I got my points if you watch a game. I dont think the stats really tell how I played at the Division 2 level.
It is his speed and athleticism that makes Wyatt so appealing to NBA scouts who see him as a raw talent. Wyatt has said he feels that raw is an accurate was to describe him since he hasnt been playing the game as long as most other players, and his skills may not be as polished; this hasnt stopped him though from hypothesizing how he could help a pro team. The former Trojan says he sees himself falling somewhere between playing the small forward and power forward positions at the next level.
I think a lot of it is going to fall on my ability to be in shape and run the floor hard every play, he said. I think I need to work on my foot speed a lot so I can guard perimeter players. I think I can shoot the ball; Ive already got a pretty good touch but as far as range, I need to get it out to NBA range and become more consistent with that.
These are all aspects of his game that Wyatt will be working on tirelessly in the upcoming weeks. Hell have extra motivation now with the possibility of showcasing his talents in front of scouts again with the NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando looming, a camp that Wyatt recently received an alternate letter for.
You know that was real big for me, he said, and Im really excited about getting the chance to showcase my skills for the NBA scouts again. It just gives me another reason to work even harder; Im going to work hard regardless, but its just that extra chance. Not a lot of people get that chance from my situation.
With a thorough understanding of just how lucky he is, and a fiery determination, Wyatt is ready for the upcoming months of training. The athletic forward of course was able to put it best.
Ive got to get hungry, play hard every play, and be a guy who never takes a play off.