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    Then & Now: Craig Wortmann

    Then & Now: Craig Wortmann

    Compiled By Dave Brandon

    (Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)

    Craig%20Wortmann.jpgCraig

    Wortmann played at Nebraska from 1999-2001, and is one

    of the more successful walk-ons in school history.

    Wortmann began his career under Danny Nee, and continued

    his progression with the hiring of Barry Collier. In

    fact, Wortmann grew as a player so much that he

    accomplished a rare feat for a walk-on in 2000-2001 as

    he cracked the starting lineup.

    Wortmann recently sat down with HHC as our latest Sunday

    guest in the feature "Then & Now."

    HHC: Craig,

    thanks for joining us on HHC.

    CW:

    Not a problem. I’m really glad to find out about this

    website.

    HHC: You grew up in Hartington, Nebraska,

    and attended Cedar Catholic High School, where you

    helped lead your team to a 24-1 record your senior

    season. Talk about what playing basketball at that level

    was like, and did you find it hard to get recruited

    because of the small town?

    CW:

    I think so, but just a little bit. There were offers

    from the schools in the northeastern part of Nebraska,

    obviously. But, to get out of that region was pretty

    difficult, especially in getting noticed. You basically

    had to do a lot of different things in the summer to get

    any kind of attention.

    But

    playing at that level, it was great, and at our school

    there was a lot of tradition from all of the players

    before me. There was a bunch of stuff there that we

    watched growing up that we all wanted to be a part of,

    and I think that while we were there, we did some nice

    things as well.

    But

    yeah, growing up together as a group and playing

    together from the 4th grade and on was fun.

    So, it was nice being in a small school for that reason,

    because you got to know your friends and people you were

    playing with. I still have some of those friends to this

    day.

    HHC: You ended up going to Northeast

    Community College out of high school, where you were

    teammates and split minutes with former Husker Ross

    Buckendahl. Talk about the competition at that level,

    and did it prepare you at all for your arrival at

    Nebraska?

    CW:

    I think so, because it helped me grow and mature quite a

    bit. What I mean is that coming from a small school,

    you’re the best player on your team, and you don’t

    really find that level of competition all across the

    board that we had at Northeast.

    We had a

    lot of fun there at Northeast, and a lot of us knew each

    other from the small schools that we were playing

    against in that area. I played against Ross in

    basketball and football growing up, so we knew of each

    other, but obviously got to know each other better,

    which was great. But yeah, playing at Northeast really

    helped me develop into a better player, as far as

    finding a few things you were good at it, and realizing

    your weaknesses, as well. That’s what really made you

    better. 

    HHC: How much did it mean to you and Ross

    being teammates at both Northeast and Nebraska?

    CW: I think it helped us get through some

    of the first challenges of walking on, since we did that

    at the same time. And, our decision to leave Northeast

    to take that chance, it was nice having somebody to do

    that with. We were even roommates at Northeast. So, we

    talked about leaving and decided that we both wanted to

    take that chance, to see what we could do. And, growing

    through those stages helped us, because we had so much

    history together – kind of like having a brother there

    for you at all times. And then you also had a friend

    there when things were good or bad – just always someone

    there to share different things with. So, I think having

    him there made it easier to adjust with all took place.

    HHC: We've

    talked to former Husker walk-on Jeremy Glenn from

    Ogallala, and he's told us that former assistant coach

    Jeff Smith sought him out to walk on upon arriving on

    campus. How did this process work with you - did the

    coaches know you’d be coming ahead of time, or did you

    come to campus with just an outside chance?

    CW:

    It was more of me wanting to come. I had thought about

    trying to walk on in high school, and it just wasn’t

    working out, so I decided to go to Northeast before

    taking the chance. So, I came, got all the paperwork,

    and it took off from there. We had tryouts and actually

    the first tryout that we had, I didn’t make it, and Ross

    did. But, they called me back two or three days later

    and told me they needed another player, so it started

    from there. It was a week of let down, but after that,

    it was nothing but good experiences.

    HHC: Does the walk on process always work

    that way, or does it vary from player to player and year

    to year?

    CW: We had an open tryout, and I went in

    and talked to coach Nee before hand when I first got

    onto campus. So, I knew what to do before I got started.

    And, they always had a time where players got together

    and play, so Ross and I tried to do that as much as we

    could. And then we interacted with the coaches to see

    when we’d have tryouts, and we had 8 or 10 player’s

    total tryout. So, they took Ross off the bat, and me

    later.

    I don’t

    know if that’s the standard process every year, because

    it depends on what they have at that time. If they have

    a lot of players and don’t need more, then I don’t think

    there’s a huge need for it. I don’t know if they look

    for players or not. Coach Collier may have at the

    beginning, but now that he has his own recruits, I’m not

    sure. I don’t know how its been done lately, but that’s

    how it was done when I was there. 

    HHC: Talk

    about the average day in the life of a scout-team

    member, as far as practice goes. What kind of things

    would you do, and how did it differ from the scholarship

    players?

    CW: The average day was pretty much the

    same for everyone. We had a pretty structured schedule,

    with weights before or after practice, and then drills.

    The only breakdown of differences was a point in

    practice when scout team guys would sometimes get

    together and learn the plays of the opposition. But

    after that, we’d get back together and play. So really,

    we were all together, and you wouldn’t know the

    difference between a walk-on and scholarship player.

    HHC: Did you

    ever have any idea that you would become a starter by

    your senior year at Nebraska, and how much did that mean

    to you?

    CW:

    As I first came in, I didn’t think so. In the program we

    were in at that time, and the way things were, I kind of

    thought scout team was the highest I’d get to, which was

    okay by me, because I’d made it, and it was a goal I was

    trying to do. It kind of helped me to relax, and to be

    able to just sit back and learn from the older players.

    When I

    first got the idea that Coach Collier was going to start

    me for that first game, I was a little nervous, but not

    that much because of what I’d gone through the previous

    two seasons. But, it meant the world to me at that time.

    Just getting on the team was one transition, and then

    getting to play was everything coming true that I’d

    worked for up to that point. So, it was a fun time, as

    far as the relationships we built and teams we had.

    HHC: Talk a little bit about what it was

    like playing under Danny Nee compared to Barry Collier,

    as far as describing each as both a coach and man.

    CW:

    It was definitely two different personalities. There

    were good and bad things on both sides. Coach Nee was

    more laidback, but we were able to do different things

    to bring out individual talents, which can hurt you

    sometimes. Under Coach Collier, it was more of an effort

    to bring out the team aspect, as far as more discipline,

    which worked out well, too.

    Coach

    Collier was definitely more disciplined and a straight a

    shooter. He’d tell you the way it was, and what you

    needed to do to play. Coach Nee was more roundabout, and

    maybe sometimes you didn’t get it. So, in that aspect it

    was kind of nice, because I know there were a few times

    that Coach Collier told me that, “you need to do this,”

    and it helped a lot. I enjoyed both coaches very much.

    HHC: We ask every player who played under

    Danny Nee for a classic Danny Nee story or two to add to

    our ongoing collection. What can you contribute?

    CW:

    What sticks out with me about Coach Nee was when we’d be

    in Kansas City, and especially since I live here now.

    But anyway, we’d always go to Houston’s, which is a

    great restaurant and steakhouse here. So I guess that

    just thinking back to the places he’d take us to eat, it

    gave us a little culture. Some of our guys never had the

    chance to go into those kinds of places and eat, so that

    was something we did every time we came to Kansas City. 

    HHC: What are your favorite memories of

    your times at Nebraska, both on and off the court? Any

    particular games stick out?

    CW: Well, probably the favorite games to

    play in were the home games of the Big 12. The crowds

    there at the Devaney Center were great, as far as the

    excitement. That’s just something that coming from a

    small town, was enormous to be a part of. You just can’t

    describe it until you’re inside of it.

    Probably

    what I remember most is that you would think that with

    that large of a crowd, you’d get distracted. But, as you

    got onto the court, everything went away, and it was 5

    on 5 with coaches screaming at you. And I just always

    remember thinking, “We’re sitting here in front of so

    many people, but it seems like there’s only 12 people

    out here trying to beat the other team.”

    Off the

    court, I think it was the friendships that we built,

    because we had a lot of fun goofing around on road

    trips. Then going to class, and just doing the normal

    college things.  

    If we

    were closer, I think that some of us would still be

    together and hanging out, but unfortunately, we’re all

    dispersed and have gotten on with our lives.

    HHC: Before we get to what you're doing today,

    answer us an honest question. Who was better with the

    ladies, yourself or Ross, because we hear he's quite the

    bragger.

    CW:

    (Laughs) Ross… Well, I don’t know if I can say anything,

    because I don’t want to get him into trouble since he’s

    married now and so am I. (Laughs) I think we both just

    had a lot of fun, because him and I were together for a

    lot of years, and we were almost like brothers with the

    things that we did together, as far as joking around.

    But, I’d probably have to say that I’d have to be better

    with the ladies than him. And, I would assume he’d

    expect that answer from me.

    HHC: (Laughs)

    We thought so... Hey, what is Craig Wortmann up to these

    days, both personally and professionally?

    CW: Like I just mentioned, I recently was

    married to my wife Wendy. She was a track athlete at

    Doane, and we just built a house here in Olathe, just

    outside of Kansas City. I work in KC for U.S. Bank in

    the private banking area, and am enjoying it a lot. And,

    besides that, I’m just trying to enjoy life right now

    and play a little basketball on the side, along with a

    little flag football. Just trying to have fun and enjoy

    life.

    HHC: Craig, thanks a lot for taking the

    time to join us. Are you cool with taking reader e-mails

    at

    [email protected] if we set you up an

    account?

    CW:

    Thanks for having me, and yeah, I’ll definitely take

    some e-mails.  Keep up the great work with the site; I’m

    glad that I know about it now.

    ***UPDATE***

    As of

    05/01/06 Craig Wortmann is now a sales representative

    with Perceptive Software.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">



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