Vandal Nation launches a new feature today — Vandal Spotlight, where we go one-on-one with Idaho Vandals players and coaches. Our first victim is freshman center Joe Kammerer – a 6-9 big man from Eugene, Ore. with big goals on and off the court. Tomorrow, senior guard Steffan Johnson will enter the spotlight, marking his first interview as an Idaho Vandal.
Vandal Nation: How’d you get your start in basketball?
Joe Kammerer: I started playing just for fun in fourth grade, and got serious about it in middle school. I did some camps and joined an AAU squad and just kept getting better. That’s when I really got the feeling that I could be good enough to play college ball.
Talk about your high school career – a lot of success there, right?
I played for the North Eugene Highlanders. Right from my freshman year, I was on the varsity squad, though I didn’t play a whole lot. My sophomore year, I played more and we went undefeated, winning the Class 5A state championship. The last couple years, we struggled a bit in league, but we made it to the state tournament both times – as a junior we were sixth in the state and as a senior, we made it to the third-place game.
(Kammerer was named First Team All-Tournament as a senior, averaging 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while hitting 11-for-13 from the free-throw line.)
Who was looking at you, and what made you choose to become a Vandal?
I had interest from a lot of teams – Portland State, Weber State, USF, Santa Clara, UC Irvine, Utah State, San Diego State, Boise State, and of course here. I met Coach Verlin at an AAU tournament in Las Vegas, and I liked what he was saying about where he wanted his program to go. When I came to visit, I really liked it here and I knew right away that Idaho was the right fit for me. Moscow is a great town and the college environment is wonderful.
What are your thoughts on Coach Verlin?
When I came and visited, he was in full-on rebuilding mode. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as we talked, I thought that for sure he was going to have the Vandals heading in the right direction. He’s a really nice guy on a personal level, and as a coach I feel like he knows how to help me grow as a basketball player, just as he’s helped the program grow.
How would you describe your playing style?
Physical, for sure. I think to be playing where I’m at in the college game, you have to make your presence felt, get in there and be strong. That’s the only way. I like to shoot the three, too – it keeps the defense guessing. I’ll do whatever the coaches want me to do, though – ultimately, it’s all about getting the W.
You came up to campus for the summer workouts – how are those going and what are you learning?
It’s really important for me – getting to experience the whole different level of play is key. I’m really trying to work hard on building my strength – I’ve always been able to do some damage in the paint, but I found that in college ball, everyone is that much bigger. It’s a lot of hours in the weight room, a lot of protein shakes and a lot of work with the trainers. The gym time is also good from the standpoint of the team – I’m getting to play with and against everyone, seeing how all the pieces fit together. It’s making us all better.
Do you know yet if you’re going to play or redshirt this season?
I’m not sure, but originally the coaches said I would be playing. They haven’t told me officially, but I definitely want to play if they think I’m ready. It’s kind of motivating – I know that if I want to play, I’ve got to work as hard as I can to show that I can play at this level right away. But if I do redshirt, it’s no big deal – I’ll use the year to get even better.
You’re planning to major in film – how’d that come about?
I always loved the movies, and wanted to do something with film from when I was a kid. My freshman year in high school, I started taking film classes and decided it was a really wonderful creative process that I could see myself doing as a career. I even made a short zombie horror flick as my senior project – it was great fun, but I learned that the editing part is a real pain!
Do you have a favorite professional player?
Dwight Howard, for sure. The way he plays – very physical and yet athletic at the same time – is impressive. I’d like to be able to do that.
Any message you’d like to send to the Vandal faithful?
Come out and see us play, because this year’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m expecting the Spectrum to be packed every night, and I promise we’ll put on a good show.