Wofford Terriers guard Eric Wagenlander just wrapped up his final day of camp at the University of Texas, his second campus home in just a few days, and already he’s looking forward.
Wagenlander, a rising senior, isn’t just daydreaming about his flight tomorrow back to South Carolina. He’s thinking about his future.
“About a year ago, I had the realization that I wanted to get into coaching,” Wagenlander said.
Unlike some of the other, more conventional career fields he was considering, there’s not a steady supply of internship and first-hand experience opportunities to help break into the business of basketball coaching. So, with the help of the Wofford staff, Wagenlander pieced together a path of his own.
After Memorial Day weekend, Wagenlander embarked on what he calls “Summer Sixteen” — another name for his participation over the summer months in a collection of college basketball camps held on at least eight different campuses throughout the country.
He began last weekend in Denver, where he took part in the Chauncey Billups Skills Camp, and will continue, with few interruptions, well into July.
Wagenlander will spend the entire month of June and most of July relentlessly on the road, practicing and establishing the connections so crucial to a successful coaching career, all in time to return for his senior year in Spartanburg.
But don’t expect that to faze him.
Wagenlander, a native of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., was a standout player at Wando High in Charleston. He was a two-time team captain and was part of a pair of regional championship squads coached by David Eaton, who played under Mike Young at Wofford from 2001-04.
He credits these two — Eaton, his high school coach, and Young, who recruited him to play in Spartanburg — as lighting the flame for his desire to coach basketball.
“Those two guys, the way they’ve impacted me,” he said, “My parents, Coach Young and Coach Eaton raised me.”
Apart from all the titles and accolades he was a part of at Wando, Wagenlander experienced a rough time at one point in his high school career. He suffered two nasty injuries and was sidelined for 14 months.
“A 16-year-old, on top of the world, to have everything taken from me, that’s tough.”
That’s when Eaton came to the rescue, keeping Wagenlander actively involved with the team. Under the coach’s watch, Wagenlander, despite his injuries which kept him off the court, was present and engaged in practice everyday.
“He treated me like an assistant coach,” Wagenlander said. “I’m forever grateful for that.”
At Wofford, much of the work Wagenlander puts in on a daily basis goes on behind closed doors, never seen by the public.
Like when he and his teammates commit opposing teams’ playbooks to memory, or when they sweat through countless hours of work on the floor as the scout team, preparing the starting five for gameday.
Or, like when his constant encouragement keeps flowing to other teammates, even when he would rather be the one on the court.
“It takes a special kind of person,” Wagenlander said. “It’s not a glamorous job. Your names aren’t in the paper, in the headlines.
“But the guys in the locker room, they respect you, and the coaches respect you.”
For Wagenlander, it would mean so much for him to follow in the coaching footsteps and character exemplified by skippers like Young and Eaton.
“It would mean the world,” he said. “The way Coach Young does it, that should be the rule. He turns good people into better people. You know, someone I could trust with my own kids.”
Wagenlander hopes to be that coach one day.
No matter how much travelling and sweat and hard work it takes to get there — he does it every day.