NBA, global hoop veteran now helping youth with dreams

Huntington resident Logan Vander Velden, pictured here as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers during the 1995-96 NBA season, recently started offering basketball clinics for area youth, imparting hoops knowledge from a long professional playing career.
Huntington resident Logan Vander Velden, pictured here as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers during the 1995-96 NBA season, recently started offering basketball clinics for area youth, imparting hoops knowledge from a long professional playing career. Photo provided.

Originally published Feb. 2, 2015.

Logan Vander Velden has spent the better part of his life gripping a basketball, first as a kid learning the game in a small Wisconsin town and later as a player in the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Currently, he can be found with a basketball in the gym at Huntington Church of the Nazarene. That’s where Vander Velden, a Huntington resident, runs youth basketball clinics, passing on the knowledge he picked up over his long playing career.

Vander Velden says he’ll never tell someone they can’t play in the NBA, which probably stems from the fact that he heard that so often growing up in the 900-person town of Valders, WI.

“I used to tell people in high school my dream was to play in the NBA,” he recalls. “I got made fun of. I got ridiculed for it.”

“No one from Valders is ever going to make it to professional sports,” he remembers them saying, like a chorus.

Vander Velden chased his dream, though, undeterred.

“Whenever I had free time, I was always out working on my own, shooting,” he says. “I’d play one-on-one games by myself. Whatever I could think of to do, I was doing on my own.”

Vander Velden’s hard work netted him a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he played under well-respected coach Dick Bennett from 1989 to 1994. The 6-9 Vander Velden switched from power forward to small forward during his time with the Phoenix and was a key contributor on two squads that made it to the NCAA Tournament. The school’s 1993-94 team reached the tourney as a No. 12 seed and pulled off a first-round upset of fifth-seeded University of California Berkeley, which contained future NBA stars Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray.

Upon graduation, Vander Velden began playing basketball professionally, splitting his time between Switzerland and Belgium. When he was back stateside during the summer of 1995, a chance encounter while playing in the United States Basketball League in Memphis set his course for the NBA.

“Before the game, I was shooting in jean shorts and a T-shirt,” Vander Velden recalls. “I was just shooting around and our coach was on the side talking to one of the Clippers’ scouts. So, I was kind of just shooting and the Clippers scout was looking over and he kind of put me through a mini-workout, right there in my street clothes.”

Despite the informal nature of the workout, Vander Velden was happy to have gotten the opportunity, as the league hadn’t afforded him many opportunities to showcase his full range of skills. His performance during the workout, coupled with how well he’d shot the ball during the league, earned him an invitation to the Clippers’ summer league.

Unfortunately for Vander Velden, though, that invite came during a period of labor unrest in the NBA and the league locked out its players in July. So close to his dream, Vander Velden remained patient, turning down offers to play overseas. His patience paid off when the lockout ended in September.

“It ended, (the Clippers) invited me out for a three-day minicamp and then a few days later they called me back and invited me to vet camp,” he says.

Vander Velden was excited to be there, but admits the camp was a grueling experience.

“It was everything I could do to make the team,” he says. “I just gave it everything I had. Sleepless nights. I was so tired. It’s kind of funny – I was so tired I couldn’t sleep. I was so sore and so tired that I couldn’t sleep. I’d be getting to sleep by, like, 3:00 to 4:00 in the morning and have to get up at like 6:30 to go eat breakfast before the first practice.

“Those two weeks were probably the most difficult two weeks of my life.”

Just as his hard work had paid off before, though, it paid off again. Vander Velden made the team.

“Just to make it there and to be a part of it, be on the court sometimes with some of the players I was on the court with, just a dream come true,” he reflects.

Though his stay with the Clippers was brief, Vander Velden’s career playing basketball professionally was not. In addition to playing in the Continental Basketball Association for the Fort Wayne Fury, Vander Velden played in 11 different countries, ranging from Uruguay to Japan.

After more than a decade of globetrotting, he called it a career in 2006.

With his playing days behind him, Vander Velden pondered getting into college coaching, but ended up thinking better of it.

“It becomes a juggling act between the traveling, the practice time, the recruiting time and that kind of stuff,” he explains. “It’s not just ‘go to practice for two hours a day and then play your game.’ There’s so much more to it than that. Even coaching youth sports is very time consuming in itself.

“But at least when I’m coaching my kids, I’m with my kids.”

Instructing and coaching his children made for a natural transition to working with youth on developing their basketball skills. Vander Velden and his family moved to Huntington from Fort Wayne a little over a year ago and he began offering basketball clinics last fall.

“It’ll evolve as it goes,” he says of the clinics. “But right now I’m focusing on getting kids in and just kind of working on the overall game, got to get a little bit of everything in.”

Sound ball-handling skills are a point of emphasis for Vander Velden.

“I tell kids all the time: When you get out on your school team, if you can dribble, you can control the game,” he notes. “You’re going to have the ball in your hand, because you can dribble … coaches aren’t going to let somebody bring the ball up the court if they can’t dribble.”

Defense is another area that Vander Velden stresses.

“If you can defend, there’s not a coach out there that’s not going to have a spot for you,” he states.

Vander Velden’s latest clinics will take place Saturday, Feb. 7, and Saturday, Feb. 14, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. each day in the gym at Huntington Church of the Nazarene, located at 1555 Flaxmill Rd., Huntington. There is a small fee to attend each clinic and Vander Velden encourages attendees to bring their own basketballs for drills. Walk-ins are welcome. To register, or for more information, contact Vander Velden at lvforhim@yahoo.com or 705-3566.

In a way, Vander Velden has come full-circle, teaching basketball to kids who are around the same age he was when he first picked up a basketball.

He truly has spent the better part of his life gripping a basketball – but, really, you could argue that it’s been the other way around.