Inspired by his Indiana basketball roots, Summit’s Wyatt Buller achieves college basketball dream
For the past few years, Wyatt and Jordan Buller have lived out a slice of Indiana basketball culture in the ski destination that is Summit County.
How and why, exactly, does one commit passionately to the winter sport of basketball in a top-of-the-Rockies location renowned across the globe for its snowsports? For Wyatt Buller, it all stems from his family’s basketball roots in Indiana, where the hardwood is essentially a sacred ground for many Indianans.
Wyatt, a departing senior at Summit High School, is the cousin of Jordan Buller, the Tigers varsity basketball team’s head coach. Jordan grew up in Goshen, Indiana, a small city of 30,000 people east of South Bend. Back in Goshen, Jordan’s father and Wyatt’s uncle, Jim, coached at Bethany Christian High School for nearly four decades.
“Just hearing Jordan and my uncle talk about kind of the mental part of basketball was the biggest thing that I learned from them about Indiana basketball,” Wyatt said.
To this day, most of the Bullers still live in Indiana, where the Gene Hackman flick, “Hoosiers,” is regarded as must-watch and names like Larry Bird and Calbert Cheaney are revered like folk heroes.
Growing up, Wyatt — who was born and raised in Summit County — said his family often would return to Indiana. When they did, basketball was on the itinerary, including one time when Jordan set up a workout for Wyatt at the elder cousin’s old school, Goshen Community College. It was during a workout there when one of Jordan’s old coaches gave Wyatt one of the best basketball compliments he could receive.
“The coach told me I reminded him of an Indiana basketball player,” Wyatt said. “I’m not blessed with size or a lot of athleticism, but (he meant) I’m a smart player. I understand how to make people move where I want them to move and get the shots that I want.”
Leaning on those savvy skills to score, Wyatt just wrapped up one of the more impressive individual offensive seasons in memory at Summit High School. The senior set the school’s single-season scoring record with 466 points (20.3 points per game) while also setting the school’s free throws record, converting 101 on an 89% clip. Wyatt did so under the coaching of Jordan, who has coached the Tigers varsity the past three seasons.
Jordan has an extensive basketball journey of his own outside of Colorado and his home state of Indiana. After graduating from Goshen, he played professionally in Switzerland. He carries lessons learned in Europe with him now coaching the Tigers.
Jordan’s move to Summit helped to further cultivate Wyatt’s burgeoning passion for basketball. To put it into proper context, Wyatt says he remembers as a sixth grader being one of two kids his age who stuck with basketball religiously once the snow started to fall each year. A year later, he was the only one after his buddy moved away.
But Wyatt found a basketball sanctuary at the Breckenridge Recreation Center, where through his middle and high school years he’d make it a point each day after school to get up shots and settle into his practice routine. With Jordan in the fold, that consisted of form-shooting close to the basket to get warmed up before progressing to catch-and-shoot, shooting-off-the-dribble, finishing-at-the-basket and, of course, free-throw scenarios. Wyatt would chronicle his workouts each day on paper, not moving on to the next portion before he made a certain quota of shots in each scenario or spot. That often equated to hundreds of shots each day.
“He was able to direct my focus,” Wyatt said about his cousin’s coaching. “I’ve always been in love with basketball and in the gym, but he gave me more tools to utilize for my improvement.”
Wyatt began playing on varsity during his junior season. It was the culmination of a childhood of work, including bettering his game with the Summit Titans club team, coached by Scott Jacobs. Wyatt also made the cut last summer for one of the state’s best 17-and-under Amateur Athletic Union clubs, the Colorado Mayhem in Aurora. That was an opportunity that brought him to high-level tournaments in Kansas, Dallas and Las Vegas.
When Wyatt’s Tigers career concluded a couple months back, he was unsure if he was going to play at the next level. Not soon after, though, Tigers assistant coach Chase Nelson connected him with a new coaching staff at his old college, Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. Before he knew it, Wyatt visited the school and received an offer to play for the Division III team, achieving a childhood dream in the process. On Tuesday at Summit High, he signed his letter of intent to play for the Vikings.
“I knew that I really wanted to play and was doing everything I could to find a team,” Wyatt said, “but there were never any guarantees.”
Come Sept. 9, the 6-foot, 160-pound 18-year-old shooting guard will ship out to Appleton to commence the next phase of his basketball journey. Once there, he’ll be bringing with him an Indiana-inspired, Rocky Mountain-realized and Wisconsin-ready brand of Buller family basketball.
As for the future of the sport in Summit, Wyatt said he’s noticed more drop-in, pick-up interest at the rec center as of recent. And he’s hopeful the increased organizational efforts of his cousin and of high school girls coach Kayle Walker Burns — whose Summit Tigers Youth Basketball Academy runs Thursday and Friday at the high school — will help to continue to foster the love for the sport above 9,000 feet.
“The biggest challenge is obviously location,” Wyatt said. “It’s kind of far away from any leagues or Amateur Athletic Union opportunities. But even recently, there’s been people that have moved here and talked to me trying to start some AAU stuff up here, trying to get basketball going up here. It’s developing well, and that’s awesome to hear.”
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