Daniel Landram played a grand total of 28 minutes at Pacific Lutheran University as a basketball freshman last season.
That isn’t a huge body of work when it comes to trying to persuade Lutes coach Steve Dickerson that you are his point guard of the future – the post-James Conti era.
But in the hours of practice behind the closed doors of Olson Auditoriumice, people began noticing how supremely athletic the former Kentlake High player was – and how he could develop into an important piece for 2012-13.
“For him, it was just a matter of time controlling this great quickness he has,” Dickerson said. “And when he was not out of control with it, he would then be overconservative – walk the ball up, and dribble, dribble and dribble.”
First, Landram had to go through an indoctrination of sorts, guarding the fiercely competitive and undisputed leader of the team – Conti.
Conti had waited three seasons for the opportunity to seize the point-guard job for himself – and rewarded Dickerson and teammates by having the best season on the team a year ago.
Landram not only witnessed that every day in practice, but he also had to go toe-to-toe with Conti.
“The No. 1 thing I can say about James, he was the perfect leader in the fact (that) every day in practice he challenged us and made us better,” Landram said. “I had to battle him and he was not easy on me.”
Landram noted the tussles were intense, and pointed out one example that stuck with him.
“We had trouble rebounding in a game so we held a drill where Coach Dickerson wanted us to scrap with each other to get the ball,” Landram said. “I got stuck with James on that drill, and it turned into a hack-fest, one-on-one, and I lost every time our turn came up.
“We beat up on each other. But there was no anger in it. Even after me hitting him in the back of the head, or him scraping my arm; we’d eventually pick each other up.”
As soon as the toughness was integrated with the other skills, Dickerson began seeing a different Landram during the summer.
“A light bulb came on,” Dickerson said.
As the summer closed, so did the competition for starting point guard.
“At the end of games, you are the one with the ball in your hands, and you are controlling the flow of the game,” Landram said. “It sort of molded me to understand it would be my job. I could either embrace it or run from it so I was happy to be in that line of fire.”
Of course, it is not solely Landram’s job. Though he is likely to start the game at point guard, will cede some of the load to Terrell Williams, who was Conti’s primary backup last season.
And there will be times this season when Landram and Williams will play together. They are used to that, too. Both played on the same select team in high school – Pioneer Tech – coached by former Olympia High coach John Kiley.
“We’ve been playing together for a while now, and get along great,” Landram said. “I would say right now, we have a lot of the load to carry so it is ours to share. As time goes on, we want to get to the point where we have our own job for the team.”
Landram is expected to see plenty of playing time. In fact, his 21.4 minutes a game from the non-conference season is third highest on the team behind seniors Cameron Schilling and Andrew Earnest.
“I feel I’ve had a little old school (basketball) in me from the way my dad taught me,” Landram said. “He placed emphasis on getting the job done and there being no time for excuses, problems or aches and pains.
“You can make all the excuses you want, but someone has to get the job done. It might as well be me.”
PACIFIC LUTHERAN basketball preview
Coach: Steve Dickerson, seventh season (63-79 record)
Last season: 12-17 overall, 9-7 Northwest Conference (tied for 4th)
Projected starting lineup: C Bryce Miller, 6-7, fr.; PF Cameron Schilling, 6-5, sr.; SF Cameron Reister, 6-5, sr.; SG Drew Earnest, 6-0, sr.; PG Daniel Landram, 6-0, so.
Key reserves: SF Arvid Isaksen, 6-1, jr.; PF Kai Hoyt, 6-4, jr.; SF Johnny Tveter, 6-4, jr.; C Cole Parker, 6-8, so.
Outlook: Who said PLU isn’t a basketball school? These days, a T-shirt craze has gone around campus – with the main image a silhouette of Dickerson and his trademark moustache. It’s because the coach has brought a style of basketball to the program that people can embrace – unselfish and defense-oriented. An offseason emphasis was to get bigger bodies, and the Lutes think they have done that by recruiting Miller and Seth Anderson, and getting second-year players Parker and Austen Wilson healthy. Earnest looks quicker and, more important, has been freed up to shoot about 15 times a game – something the coaches have implored him to do for years. He will handle the basketball more, too.
NWC schedule (all games at 8 p.m. unless noted): Jan. 2 at Puget Sound; Jan. 5 at Linfield; Jan. 11 vs. Pacific; Jan. 12 vs. Willamette; Jan. 18 at Lewis & Clark; Jan. 19 at George Fox; Jan. 25 vs. Whitman; Jan. 26 vs. Whitworth, 6 p.m.; Jan. 29 vs. UPS; Feb. 1 vs. Linfield; Feb. 8 at Willamette; Feb. 9 at Pacific; Feb. 15 vs. George Fox; Feb. 16 vs. Lewis & Clark.
Coach: Kelly Robinson, sixth season (48-76 record)
Last season: 7-18 overall, 4-12 Northwest Conference (tied for 7th)
Projected starting lineup: C Sam Potter, 5-10, jr.; PF Chrissy Swope, 6-0, jr.; SF Kara Sherman, 5-6, so.; SG Andi Adams, 5-6, so.; PG Megan Abdo, 5-7, fr.
Key reserves: SF Austin Schorno, 5-9, jr.; PF Katelyn Smith, 6-0, jr.; C Amber Stokes, 6-1, fr.; SG Sarah Barnes, 5-9, fr.
Outlook: With finding a point guard a top priority in recruiting, Robinson got one in freshman Abdo, who has the ballhandling ability and court sense the Lutes have been lacking recently. Abdo also is one of the team’s best defenders, which fits right into the team’s recommitment to that aspect of the game. That is the biggest reason why Sherman is in the starting lineup – she is arguably the Lutes’ best on-ball stopper. Of course, when you have one of the best post players in the conference in Potter, it is easy to see why PLU wants to make her the focal point of the offense. Throw in Swope, a recovering Smith (knee), and freshmen Stokes and Michaela Edgars (who is 6-foot-4), and the Lutes have the makings of a really good frontcourt.
NWC schedule (all games at 8 p.m. unless noted): Jan. 2 at Puget Sound; Jan. 5 at Linfield; Jan. 11 vs. Pacific; Jan. 12 vs. Willamette; Jan. 18 at Lewis & Clark; Jan. 19 at George Fox; Jan. 25 vs. Whitman; Jan. 26 vs. Whitworth, 6 p.m.; Jan. 29 vs. UPS; Feb. 1 vs. Linfield; Feb. 8 at Willamette; Feb. 9 at Pacific; Feb. 15 vs. George Fox; Feb. 16 vs. Lewis & Clark.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org @ManyHatsMilles email@example.com