Developing productive post players in basketball is no easy task, but for teams who are patient with hard-working young big men, the payoff is often great. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central and Wake Forest great Kyle Visser is a perfect example.
Visser, a 6-foot-11 center, played four seasons at Wake Forest. For his first three, he was a reliable role player who could get a basket or two in the post and grab some rebounds in the 15 or so minutes per game he played. But as a senior, his game took a huge leap forward with an expanded role. In 29 minutes per game, he averaged 17 points (on 58 percent shooting), 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Visser’s performance earned him NBA consideration (he played in the summer league) and resulted in an opportunity to play professionally overseas.
“I played and contributed as an underlassman, but I continued to work hard to get better every year,” Visser said. “My senior year, there was an opportunity for me to be more of a go-to player, and I was able to take advantage of it because of the work I’d put in (previously). Big men tend to blossom late. In high school, I improved between my junior and senior year and I did in college as well.”
That firsthand knowledge of how big men develop is the inspiration behind the first annual Kyle Visser Big Man Camp for players ages 11-18, which will be held July 16-18 at MVP Fieldhouse in Grand Rapids (Note: See the flyer at the bottom of this post or follow the link for details and to register.).
“I chose to work with big men for this camp because it’s what I’m most comfortable teaching,” Visser said. “I understand how big men develop and grow into their own body later than guards do. We’re really going to stress and teach the fundamentals of post play — footwork, defensive strategies, playing with your back to the basket. There’s only so much we can do in a three-day camp, but we’re going to try to make it as valuable and informative as possible.”
Visser plans to make his camp an annual event and wants to see it grow and expand each year.
“We really want to make it both a quality, informative camp and to have a lot of fun as well,” he said. “In 5-to-10 years, I’d like to see it as one of the best big man camps in the Midwest.”
Although Visser’s college and pro career has taken him out of state and out of the country, he still considers Grand Rapids home. His camp is part of his desire to give back to the basketball community that helped him get his start.
“I played for so many great coaches growing up,” Visser said. “I really believe Grand Rapids is a great place to live. My family is still there and I just want to give back any way I can.”
Visser plans to stress the importance of developing a dogged work ethic at the camp. Although big men sometimes take a bit longer to develop than perimeter players, the overall dearth of quality power forwards and centers in basketball is an advantage for young players with both potential and work ethic at those positions.
“I plan to really hit home about the importance of character on and off the court,” Visser said. “Being a good, hard-working person is the most important thing you can be. Big guys have such an advantage in this sport because there are so few of them. There are plenty of opportunities for big guys to play beyond high school if they are motivated and focused enough.”
As a high school senior at Forest Hills Central, Visser finished sixth in the 2000 Michigan Mr. Basketball voting. He moved on to Wake Forest, where he played his first two seasons with All-NBA point guard Chris Paul.
“We all knew he (Paul) was something special, but when you see it day in and day out, you kind of take it for granted,” Visser said. “He’s a great leader and a great person, so I’m not surprised he’s made it to the level he has.”
After college, Visser worked out for several NBA teams and played for the Washington Wizards in the Summer League. Rather than accept an invitation to training camp, Visser instead signed a contract to play in Germany, where he’s been the past five seasons. This season, he averaged 11.0 points (on 60 percent shooting) and 5.3 rebounds in 22 minutes per game for the NY Phantoms.
“Guys in this league can really play,” Visser said. “It’s a very team-oriented game and tough, physical defense is emphasized. It’s quickly becoming one of the best European leagues.”