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Thursday, February 9, 2023

Men's Basketball

Despite walk-on status, sophomore VanBeck’s shooting impresses


Sophomore guard Wes VanBeck may not play much, but high praise from his coach speak to more levels to his game. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

When Cougar fans come into Hofheinz Pavilion, they should expect to see three-point shots raining in from all over the court.

Head coach Kelvin Sampson has shooters at every position, but if fans started to wonder who could possibly be the best shooter on the team, one player always comes to mind: sophomore guard Wes VanBeck.

VanBeck grew up in Houston and started playing basketball at a young age. His childhood days were filled with basketball memories. Like many ’90s kids, his career started on a plastic kiddie hoop. Of course, he progressed to more competitive ball.

“I was shooting on those play goals ever since I could walk,” VanBeck said. “Organized basketball, my first year was in the fourth grade in a little referee league where my dad coached me. My dad taught me a lot in basketball. (He) taught me how to play the game, how to play hard and how to shoot.”

VanBeck credits his father as the person who placed the love of basketball into his life, bonding with him over the game.

“I went to some camps where they work on your shot, but the most influential would have to be my dad,” VanBeck said. “If my shot wasn’t falling, he would just say one or two words. I’d fix it, then it would go in. I was always amazed how he could come in the gym without shooting for months and just make shots.”

VanBeck graduated from Westside High School in Houston, where he played basketball.

VanBeck had a successful career, as he was selected as the team’s offensive player of the year as well as being selected as an HABC All-star player. He also played for AAU basketball with T.J. Ford Elite.

“I had a good high school (career)…My junior year we ended up going undefeated in district.” VanBeck said. “That was probably our best team that year. And my senior year we lost one district game.”

His time with T.J. Ford aided him in his attempt to walk-on the Cougar basketball team.

“I didn’t even know who (VanBeck) was until T.J. Ford called me,” Sampson said. “I said ‘T.J., I’m looking for a good walk-on. I’m not looking for someone that wants to come in here and think he’s going to beat everybody out.”

As a member of the Cougars, VanBeck has proven that he is more than just a walk-on. In a year and a half, VanBeck has become a fan favorite. The crowd explodes when he checks in to the game.

His teammates truly believe in the hype.

“He’s the better shooter on the team, and he never has a bad day,” Junior forward Danrad Knowles said. “He’s efficient, he doesn’t miss. He makes you work, he makes you work hard.”

Sampson believes they found a diamond in the rough.

“We got lucky with Wes,” Sampson said. “He’s (like) a scholarship player. He’s more than that.

He also knows, while he may not be the most prolific players in terms of stats or minutes, VanBeck has had a huge impact on this team.

“One of the best things to happen to our program since I’ve been here is when Wes VanBeck decided to walk on and be a part of this program,” Sampson said. “He makes guys better, he exposes guys… If Wes stays here until he’s a senior, he will be on scholarship. He’s earned it.”

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