One-on-One with Vanilla: Penn State’s Alan Wisniewski
Versatile, determined, and skilled. I’m sure these adjectives have been used many times to describe the play of Penn State walk-on Alan Wisniewski, but the number one word that comes to my mind is no other than “deserving”. This hardworking freshman has contributed 100 percent of his effort on the hard court ever since he started playing in fourth grade, and this mentality has carried on all the way to college where he now finds himself a Nittany Lion. When Wisniewski ventured up to East Lansing as him and his team prepared themselves to play Michigan State, I was fortunate to sit down with the 6’ 10” forward and ask him some questions about his long road to donning the number ‘11’ Penn State basketball jersey.
VanillaSports– When you played at St. Anne’s (Alan’s grade school) what was your ultimate goal, just making the high school team or were you always looking to play college ball?
Alan Wisniewski– When I was at St. Anne’s I was always looking to play high school basketball, and then when I got to high school I thought maybe I could do some college things, so I gave it a shot, and here I am now.
VS- Were you ever concerned about making a team at Bishop Foley (Alan’s high school)?
AW- Yes, freshman year actually, because at St. Anne’s I did not make the seventh or eighth grade varsity team
VS- That’s like a Michael Jordan story right there, huh?
AW– Exactly, they brought me, Matt Morrow, and somebody else into the coaches room and [coach John Reeser] and he said “we only have a spot for one of you guys” and he said he was just kidding, so I was really nervous in the beginning.
VS-So were you offered to play at any other colleges?
AW– Yea a few division three, like U of M Dearborn, Rochester College, Kalamazoo College, but I never really made any visits, I wanted the big campus feeling.
VS– After your last high school game were you already preparing for your Penn State tryout?
AW– Not exactly, I played a few games with Oakland Elite, my AAU team, over the summer, but I thought I was just going to go to Penn State for my engineering degree. When I got there I played at the IM building and played pick up games, and I thought I was doing well, so I continued to work out (Alan put on twenty pounds of muscle over the summer). So about three weeks before the tryout I started some intense training, like running sprints and miles, and playing up and down everyday.
VS– So over the summer you weren’t planning on trying out for Penn State?
AW– No I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it, I thought maybe I would play club for a year and then maybe try out the next year, but I’m glad that I didn’t wait.
VS– How long was the tryout process?
AW– It was in October when I sent them the e-mail, and they e-mailed me back saying it was only one hour for one day, so I went and tried out and the coaches said “We’ll give you a call if we’re interested.” So about an hour after the tryout, actually, they gave me a call and asked me about my school schedule asking if it would conflict with practice time.
VS– So at that point did you know you had it?
AW– No, I mean I kind of had a feeling, but then they called me the next day and set up a meeting with me and Coach Dechellis, and he told me to go see the academic advisor, I’m on the team.
VS– How many other kids tried out with you?
AW– Twelve kids, and they only took two on the team.
VS– OK, so did you ever look at them and say ‘wow, this is in the bag’?
AW– No, there were some other good players but they were smaller, but Sasa Borovnjak went down with an ACL injury just a week before tryouts, so I guess they were looking for height.
VS– So what would you say is the best part about playing for a team as big as Penn State
AW– Oh the experience, I mean playing with players that come from all areas being the best in their areas, there’s just nothing better than that. They’re a great group of guys, hilarious, and I have a great time.
VS– What are your goals for the season and career?
AW– Goals for the season are definitely to become a better basketball player, and to put on about 20-30 pounds before next season. By the time I graduate I would love to get some solid playing time, but I got to make sure I’m on the same page with the coaches to do that.
VS– Have you ever had any hecklers?
AW– Yes, yes, at Purdue. At the last second of the game we lost on a last second jump shot by JuJuan Johnson, remember that? So I’m running out of the stadium and someone from the stands yells “You guys are LOOOOOSERS”, and that really hit that heart, you know? (laughs)
VS– On the flip side have you signed any autographs?
AW– Yeah, people ask me on Facebook, after a game one time me and Jeff Brooks came out and all kinds of people wanted them. There’s also this organization at Penn State were all proceeds [from autographed merchandise] goes to kids with cancer.
VS– Your on the scout team I understand, so who is your favorite player to imitate at practice?
AW– Evan Smotrycz of Michigan, because he shoots threes.
VS– How is it being on a scout team where you get a new player to mimic every week, does it get annoying?
AW– It’s a lot of fun, because you got to change your game and become a diverse player, because one week maybe they’ll want you in the post and the other week they want you shooting threes, and it works on your overall game.
VS– So what coach has inspired you or moved you the most in your career?
AW– Coach West (high school coach), there’s just something about him, he’s got a little fire behind him, he’s worked hard for everything, like the story he told in the locker room about his dad passing away at a young age, its just inspirational.