Michigan State's Wollenman aiming to attend medical school
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Colby Wollenman left his tiny, no-stop light town in Wyoming to enroll at Michigan State in 2011, fully expecting to go from being a three-sport prep star to a pre-med student on academic scholarships.
He started playing pick-up basketball at intramural buildings that fall and after flashing some athletic ability, one of his friends suggested he try out to play for the Spartans.
''I thought there was no way I'd make the team because I didn't think I was good enough,'' Wollenman recalled Tuesday. ''I just came out and had fun without any pressure and I outperformed who I was that day. The coaches asked me to come watch practice the next day and threw me in practice the following day.
''It's been quite a journey from there.''
Wollenman's tangible production for the fourth-ranked Spartans isn't impressive.
His story is incredible.
After finishing with two assists and one rebound in 8 minutes in a 92-65 victory at Penn State on Sunday, he left the team for an interview at Vanderbilt, one of eight highly touted medical schools he's interested in attending. Michigan has already accepted him to its prestigious medical school after interviewing him, sporting a green tie, the day before the Spartans beat the Wolverines in football because of a botched punt.
''Someday if I'm looking up and he's operating on me, I'm going to be smiling,'' Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. ''No matter what the surgery is for, I'm going to be smiling because I know I got one of the best taking care of me.''
The fifth-year senior forward was back on the court with his teammates Tuesday, helping the Spartans (16-1, 3-1 Big Ten) prepare to play No. 16 Iowa (12-3, 3-0) on Thursday night at home in a matchup against the only team to beat them this season.
Wollenman is averaging 1.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and an assist as a sparingly used reserve that regularly gets into games for several minutes.
''If he never scores another point, he's going to be very valuable to not only me, but very, very valuable to Deyonta Davis,'' Izzo said.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Wollenman is like a ''personal tutor,'' for Davis, according to Izzo, who raved about his ability to help the freshman forward learn his assignments.
The physiology major with a 3.98 grade-point average learned a lesson as a freshman when an excused lateness in Spanish class led to him turning in a paper later in the day and getting a 0 on the assignment. He ended up getting a 3.5 in that class, the only one in which he hasn't earned a 4.0 grade in college or high school.
''I was furious over it for days,'' Wollenman said. ''Looking back, it's kind of funny.''
Wollenman won the NCAA's Elite 89 award last year for having the highest grade-point-average among the players on Final Four teams.
He was on an athletic scholarship last season because his academic-related scholarships covered four years, and Izzo redshirted him during his second year in school to make him eligible to play this season.
Wollenman was able to cover much of the costs of his education during his first two years from the money he saved from summer jobs. He worked on a ranch, landscaping polo fields, and for a beer distributor, loading and unloading a truck.
He is from Big Horn, Wyoming, which has a population of 250 people.
Wollenman was a star quarterback, center and soccer player at Big Horn High School, where he had a 4.0 and scored a 33 on the ACT and turned down chances to keep playing competitively.
''He didn't want to go to a small school,'' recalled his mother, Renee, a community college administrative assistant. ''He wanted to go to a big school with big opportunities.''
Paul Wollenman, a horse veterinarian, said his son landed at Michigan State after researching the nation's best pre-med schools and deciding the time for fun and games was over.
''Colby's always been pretty mature,'' he said. ''He's had quite a journey there and it's turned out to be kind of a dream.''
AP college basketball website: http://collegebasketball.ap.org/
Follow Larry Lage at http://www.twitter.com/larrylage