September 29, 2015

Wooten rootin' for Wolf Pack

Kevin McCarthy

6-foot-8 Kenneth Wooten was literally sketching his future but it took a push from his mother to figuratively get the ball rolling and now the Manteca High senior will be heading to Nevada next September.

photo of Kenneth Wooten

Wooten is an artist. “I was actually drawing in the first grade. I like to dream and see where I want to be.” At one point, one of his focuses was “being in the NBA” and that came out in his artwork.

However, reaching that goal obviously required playing basketball. So when Wooten entered his freshman year standing 6-foot-4, “my Mom made me play ball. That's the crazy part in all this.”

This certainly calls into question the decision of television moguls for not having “Mother Knows Best” as a companion television show to the one Robert Young appeared in his pre-“Marcus Welby, M.D.” days.

What will come as a surprise to many is that Wooten, as a hoops neophyte, didn't then possess his current uber athletic ability. “I had slight athletic ability but that took a drastic change with weight training.” Today, he possesses greater running and jumping prowess that a majority of players in the NBA.

What also makes Wooten stand out is how he handled being sidelined last season after transferring from Stagg High to Manteca High. “I was looking forward to playing but was pretty much prepared for it [not being allowed to participate]. But I kept on grinding.”

Manteca Coach Brett Lewis offered, “It broke his heart but he had a great attitude through the whole thing. He never missed practice and was never late which spoke volumes about his character. The move really helped him out. It was a whole new environment and the new scenery was good for him.” Since that change, Wooten has completed seven core courses.

So why the choice of Nevada when a bevy of schools with higher basketball prestige (Kansas State, Georgia Tech) were also seriously courting him?

“It's the exact fit I needed. I love Nevada,” Wooten explained. While on a recent unofficial visit, “the first thing the coaching staff did was talk about grades and what I had to do. They also showed me a paper where they broke down my strengths and weaknesses. It was dead on and I was impressed they invested so much time in me.”

Expounding on his recruiting process, Wooten added, “in the beginning, it was about wanting to go to the biggest school. But then I gave fit a lot of thought and I connected well with the [Nevada] coaches and players and I liked the campus.”

Lewis continued to stress this during the process: “what is going to be your best fit?” Wooten, possessing a maturity greater than most his age, took that element seriously. He is also an interesting young man to talk with -- very well spoken and thoughtful.

So he will be playing “the four and five mostly” for Nevada Coach Eric Musselman.

Minus Wooten and with just two seniors, Manteca finished 22-8 overall in 2014-15, 10-2 in the very competitive Valley Oak League. With two other frontcourters sure to also go D1, the Buffaloes are going to be difficult to match up with let alone contain this season. According to Wooten, “I believe we can go very far if we work hard and stay together.”