Then & Now: Craig Wortmann
Compiled By Dave Brandon
(Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)
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."
thanks for joining us on HHC.
Not a problem. I’m really glad to find out about this
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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
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
(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.
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
HHC: Craig, thanks a lot for taking the
time to join us. Are you cool with taking reader e-mails
[email protected] if we set you up an
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.
05/01/06 Craig Wortmann is now a sales representative