Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, August 17, 1999

B I G _ M A N _ C A M P

Jake on 'the make'

UConn center Jake Voskuhl has
won one national title, but he's in
Hawaii for the Big Man Camp to
make himself better on offense

By Pat Bigold


TURNING to plant his feet as flat as a duck and squaring off to shoot from the side of the lane, Jake Voskuhl looks like he stepped out of the Elvis era.

His expression is dead serious, and his sideburns are long - longer than any of the NBA players at the Big Man Camp on the Kamehameha gym floor would even think of growing them. And his two-tone blond hair is thick from letting it grow all summer.

"I didn't cut my sideburns for like a month and a half," said the gregarious 6-foot-11 center for the NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies.

"My friends were saying, like, 'You need to cut your sideburns, man.' "

Forgive Voskuhl that little eccentricity because that's about as out-of-order as he's going to get.

He's a lot more conventional than many athletes at his level.

Witness how he spent his last few days before coming here. Not partying, not shopping, not lying in the sun.

Associated Press
Center Jake Voskuhl will take on a larger role
in the Huskies' offense this season.

He spent them with Kerry Lucas, his Family Bible Church pastor from Texas.

Lucas is the same pastor who counseled Voskuhl for an hour before the NCAA title game against Duke. The Pastor's best advice: "Stay out of foul trouble."

Voskuhl and Lucas hadn't seen each other all summer and made up for lost time last week talking until dawn a couple of times about spiritual matters.

"There are still things I have questions about, and things that I struggle with, like any Christian," said the native of Katy, Texas.

"Pastor is one of my best friends, and we just like to hang out and talk."

They went fishing in Freeport, Tex., on Saturday. "We didn't get back until 4 or 5 a.m. and then I had to pack and be on a plane five hours later," he said with a contented smile.

"Fortunately, I had enough leg room on the plane to sleep."

Doing 'the dirty work'

Voskuhl is about as unselfish as they come on the basketball court. He's the man shoveling the coal to keep the locomotive running. He's the infantry man whose contribution to the battle is never fully understood or appreciated.

Look for his offensive stats and you won't find anything worth remembering.

He averaged 5.5 points throughout his junior season of 1998-99, and his output in the upset of the Blue Devils was two points.

But around the basket, he planted the seeds of victory which were harvested by teammates Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin.

He did, as Big Man Camp founder Pete Newell puts it, "the dirty work," doubling on Elton Brand and other big men, blocking their shots, rebounding, keeping the ball in play above the rim, and setting picks.

"On any good team, everybody has a particular role to play," said Voskuhl, who doesn't mind being the lunch-pail guy in the paint, as long as the Huskies win.

He credits his blue-collar ethic to his father, Joe, who grew up in Kentucky in a two-room house with eight siblings.

"He had absolutely nothing," said Voskuhl of the man who went on to become one of Tulsa's top-10 all-time rebounders.

'Flat-footed' is good

Newell likes Voskuhl's gritty attitude on the hardwood, and he likes the way he anchors himself. Even if he looks flat-footed.

"The game should be played flat-footed," said Newell. "You don't want the weight to be on the balls of the feet, because in that way you commit yourself in a short chop step before you can go laterally."

Newell said he invited Voskuhl to work out with the pros for a reason.

"I don't have too many college guys with the NBA guys, but I brought Jake in because he's strong enough and aggressive enough to compete with them," he said.

As he enters the NCAA season which will determine how high he goes in the 2000 NBA Draft, Voskuhl is going to be forced out of the shadows. And that's why he came back to the Big Man camp for the second time in three summers.

The silent hero who has led UConn in blocked shots three seasons in a row and been first or second in rebounding over that stretch is going to get the ball more in coach Jim Calhoun's new offense.

"Next year the focus is going to change," said Voskuhl. "Instead of being a guard-oriented offense, as we've been, I think it will be more post.

"That means the 4 (power forward) and 5 (center) will have a lot more opportunity with the ball."

Getting a 'go-to'

Voskuhl said that's why he's been pushing himself harder this summer than at any time of his life. And he has specific learning objectives at the camp.

"I want to come out of here with a 'go-to shot,' " he said.

"Really all you need, like Pete says, are two shots. A go-to and then the counter to your go-to shot. That's my goal."

Newell nodded his head.

"He needs a go-to shot," said the Hall of Fame coach.

"Right now he has a tendency to have his palm on the shot too much. Your sensitivities are in your fingertips."

Newell said there's no doubt about Voskuhl's value as a player in next year's draft.

"He already does a lot of things to help a team win," he said.

"He's a really good rebounder. He really competes. Contact doesn't bother him a bit. In fact, he probably gets into too much contact because he gets into foul trouble. But he is an aggressive player, and aggressive players will get fouled."

Newell believes he can help Voskuhl become more visible in the box scores next season.

"But he's already got one real good stat," Newell said.

"He was the center on an NCAA championship team."

Big Man Camp

Bullet At Kamehameha Schools' Kekuhaupi'o Gym:
Bullet NBA players: Tomorrow - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Bullet College players: Today - Saturday, 2:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

E-mail to Sports Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin