Catching Up With Dan Dickau's Hectic Summer
Aug. 6, 2001
We have a lot of catching up to do with Dan Dickau -- trips to China and major awards and the like -- but first things first:
He has become an old fogy.
Now, this report is issued with all due esteem from a fellow member of the lodge. Sure, Dickau still has his youth, his game, his hair, his waistline and his future. He would seem, by every measure, to be the Anti-Fogy.
But deep down, he's as cranky as the rest of us.
This shocking bit of self-discovery came last month at the Nike All-America Camp in Indianapolis, where Gonzaga University's senior point guard and more than a dozen other top college basketball players had been invited to serve as counselors.
The Nike camp -- like its Adidas companion in New Jersey the same week -- is not so much a meat market as it is a meat mall. The finest high school players in the nation are flown in and fawned over, ogled and courted by college and pro scouts. The counselors work out as well, in case an NBA team might deign to actually draft a college senior or anyone who's had a fleeting acquaintance with a textbook.
Dickau found those workouts encouraging.
He found the counseling dismaying.
"It was actually weird for me, because I was there as a camper five summers ago," he said, "and this gave me a chance to see how much things have changed.
"All the kids talk about is going to the NBA. It's just kind of sick to watch those high school kids and how selfish they are."
A notable exception, he said, was Ferris' Sean Mallon, who had an impressive week statistically and "was one of the only kids who seemed to care about the game and how it should be played.
"But a lot of these kids are saying things like, `Well, I'm going to go to college for a year and then go pro,' " Dickau said. "I'd overhear them and think, `Man, you've got a lot to work on. You couldn't start at our place after three years."'
Dan, old goat, you forgot to add, "whippersnapper."
Between teammate Casey Calvary's unrequited romance with the NBA this summer and Dickau's horror stories with high schoolers, it's easy to pick up on the ethic -- some would call it a conceit -- that runs through Gonzaga basketball. But, in fact, as central as the three wild runs deep into the NCAA tournament have been to the Bulldogs' surge in popularity, it's safe to say that another reason for Spokane's rabid conversion has been the way the game is played at The Kennel.
It's not as if the Zags have a copyright on it. Conference rival Pepperdine, for example, has put some pretty fair teams on the floor during the same stretch, teams that play hard and whose success has been admirable. But it's hard to imagine Spokane getting as jazzed about Brandon Armstrong cranking up 30 shots in a game as it does about the Zags.
Maybe Dickau has the best chance of any of the Zags of making that culture work for him.
He got a hint that it might when he survived the first cut for the United States team that will play later this month in the World University Games in Beijing. He returns to Denver this week for the final trials -- when the team will be cut from 16 players to 12.
He has been given no assurances by U.S. coach Jerry Dunn of Penn State, but since the team is going straight from Denver to China, Dickau had better pack his monsoon wear.
"I think he likes the versatility I might bring to the team," Dickau said. "I look at the roster and the only other real good outside shooter is Juan Dixon of Maryland, so I can see myself playing some at both the 1 and the 2."
The small irony here is that Dickau didn't think he shot the ball at all well during the first trials session -- though that wasn't the word that filtered back to Gonzaga coach Mark Few.
"I know I hated playing with those plastic basketballs they used," he laughed. "At Gonzaga, we use the real ones. So I've been practicing with the plastic ones this week."
A trip to China would be the memory of a lifetime, of course -- but the opportunity Dickau has had this summer to match his talents against some of the nation's best point guards may well determine the direction that life takes.
Michigan State's Marcus Taylor, Duke's Chris Duhon, Boston College's Troy Bell, Arizona's Jason Gardner -- those are some of the names Dickau has bumped into both in Denver and Indy, with mostly positive results.
"It was an eye-opener to see the stuff the NBA guys were teaching us -- basics that we do every day in practice in Gonzaga, that and more," he said. "It showed me how prepared and well-versed our team is in the fundamentals.
"For me, I'd say it's a matter of becoming even more physically ready to play against the top players, night in and night out. That and paying attention to the details -- trying to find the little things you can expose on a guy."
On Friday, Dickau was named one of the 50 pre-season candidates for the Wooden Award, which goes to college basketball's best player. It's the third straight year a Bulldog has been on the list, with Calvary and Matt Santangelo preceding him.
He has barely seen his teammates this summer -- a few days in July when he returned to Spokane to work at GU's team camps. If he goes to China, he won't get back here until the day before classes begin.
And yet he has no doubt that Gonzaga has a head start on a fourth straight run in the Big Dance.
"I think guys have taken a real mature approach to that," he said. "That success only makes you hungry to do it again. Not to prove something to other people -- I think we're way beyond that -- but just to ourselves that we can do it again and that, even with the ups and downs that there are bound to be, we can keep this program at that level."
Besides, he likes the tradition. It's a fogy thing.
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