Boasting five returning players, four NBA affiliate players from the Golden State Warriors, and two more with recent experience in the NBA (Carrick Felix and Elliot Williams), it's safe to say the Santa Cruz Warriors have one of the more talented training camp rosters in all of the D-League. Having to make cuts and narrow this group down in size towards the start of the season will not prove to be an easy decision for the coaching staff.
Someone who figures to not make the staff's task any easier is Anthony Vereen, a forward who the team acquired via trade following the D-League Draft. Listed at 6'6" and 245 pounds, Vereen plays bigger than he is, thanks to his desire to mix it up down low, and a larger than life personality.
"I think I can be a stretch four, but also a banger. I've really been working on my jump shot," he told RidiculousUpside.com during a recent conversation. "I feel like I can be a guy that can rebound, set screens, and be a communicator on the back side of the defense. That's something I'd like to bring to this team."
Despite his "smaller" frame, Vereen likes to muscle his way inside to fight for rebounds and pose as an intimidating presence to affect opposing offensive players. But perhaps even more importantly than that, he's always talking. In the early goings of training camp practices, the first-time Warrior has been making his presence known, acting like somewhat of a quarterback of the defense. He's alert as they come, and makes an effort to rely such awareness on to his teammates as well.
Ironically enough, he's just as outgoing off the court as well. He's a jubilant personality who clearly likes to have fun and enjoy himself. Most of the laughs at training camp can be attributed from something Vereen says or does.
"I'm an upbeat guy. That's who I am. I like to have fun. We're blessed to play basketball. I know plenty of people who have tough jobs and tough things to do in life, I'm blessed enough to play ball," he said. "I'm a vocal guy. I feel like down in the post, I've got kind of a short-man syndrome, so I've got to be more vocal and physical down in the post. That's just me being me."
So far, so good for Vereen. He's been impressing at camp thanks to the effort he puts in and the impact he has, not only on the defensive end, but on his teammates, too. A likely fast fan-favorite because of the energy and spark he can bring to that side of the ball, the forward could very well turn out to be this season's Kiwi Gardner for Santa Cruz.
It'll be difficult to try and exclude someone like Vareen from the opening night roster, but the fact of the matter is the Warriors have talent coming from all different sources and directions. Nevertheless, this is something that Vereen happens to appreciate, rather than worry about.
"These are some talented guys, man. It's definitely good for you as a competitor, because you really can't go slacking for even one day," he added. "I've really been ranting and raving to people back home about how talented these guys are."
Clearly someone who understands his role early on, the former Texas Legend and Tulsa 66er will have no problem finding his niche upon returning to the D-League. Given his size, stature, and abilities, it may be easier to compare him to that of a Chuck Hayes and/or Quincy Acy. Having said that, Vereen isn't looking to sell himself short. He's looking to make an impact on the offensive end when necessary as well, likely by hitting the open mid-ranger jumper or moving the ball and finding the open man.
"I keep getting Zach Randolph. My teammates call be 'V-Bo,' you know, because he's Z-Bo. I'm not the most athletic guy, but I know how to play this game," he asserted. "Maybe a Zach Randolph or a Boris Diaw --- someone who knows how to play this game and can shoot the ball. Someone really athletic."
If one thing's for sure, it's that Vereen has brought his own flavor and brand of basketball to Santa Cruz. He's making an impact during camp, so it'll interesting to see if he gets a shot to do so as the season begins.