Dan Dickau decided early on that basketball was the sport for him.
The 6-1 Gonzaga point guard tried other sports, but has focused entirely on basketball since his sophomore year in high school.
"Like every kid, I started out with soccer," he said in an interview shortly before leaving for the final trials for the 2001 Basketball Men's World University Games Team in Denver Aug. 10-17. At the end of the training camp the 16 finalists will be trimmed to 12 for the trip to the World University Games in Beijing, China, Aug. 22-31.
"Basketball has always been that one sport I really loved," Dickau said, adding that he gave up baseball after sixth grade. He played varsity golf for a couple of years in high school, before deciding to put all his energies into basketball.
"(Golf) is one of those sports that you've got to spend a lot of time on to get good," he explained. He didn't want to take that much time away from hoops.
"I still play quite a bit (of golf) for fun in the summer," he said.
That includes this summer. He has spent a lot of time in his hometown, Vancouver, WA, with his family and his girlfriend. But basketball has been a big part of it, too. He was invited to serve as a counselor at the Nike All-America Camp in Indianapolis, an elite affair that brings in some of the top high school prospects in the country and both college recruiters and NBA
"That was pretty fun," Dickau said of the experience. "You get in some workouts and get to know high school players and get to hang out with some college players."
Yes, workouts. Dickau has been doing a lot of that this summer, along with his Gonazaga teammates.
"Everyone has been working out and conditioning," he said. "I think for the most part everyone on the team has done a great job. It's been a good summer so far for our guys."
They are all improving. Dickau, who has been lifting, working out and doing extra conditioning, especially wanted to be in good shape for the USA trials in the Mile-High City, where he knew altitude could be a factor.
"It can get you, or it can get you in even better shape," he said of the workouts at altitude. "I think I'm in good enough shape right now it won't be a problem."
Projected by ESPN and others as a definite for the final 12 to make the trip to China, Dickau said he looked forward to the opportunity to do two things he loves: "representing your country and playing basketball."
And there's a bonus: "getting to see the world on somebody else's dollar."
The experience, which started with the first round of tryouts in June, also has introduced him to other top players from around the country. Many from Midwest and East Coast schools.
"I played against a couple of them growing up," he said, referring to AAU tournaments. "It will be interesting to get to know some guys from back East."
Despite the excitement of the USA trials, Dickau hasn't forgotten what lies ahead for Gonzaga, which opens its season at Illinois and includes a trip to the Great Alaska Shootout and back east to St. Joseph's in Philadelphia.
"I am pretty excited, personally," Dickau said about the season. "I think everyone else is, too.
"The schedule is going to be demanding, with a lot of travel, but I think that is something that will help us in the long run. It will help make us tough."
He thinks it will be especially helpful in the NCAA tournament. After three straight trips to the Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen rounds of the Big Dance, the Zags face the pressure of high expectations from their fans, but Dickau shrugs it off. He thinks the team has the maturity to handle the pressure and, at the same time, not be overly confident because of past successes.
Dickau, who is one of 50 pre-season candidates for the Wooden Award that goes to college basketball's best player, transferred to Gonzaga after two years at the University of Washington, and he hasn't regretted it.
"The school was too big," Dickau said. "I was tired of living in Seattle. Gonzaga turned out to be a pretty good fit for me."
And vice versa.
Although he is a senior, Dickau sees basketball remaining an important focus in his life. An honor student, he is a broadcast major and hopes maybe to be a color commentator.
"Something to stay close to basketball when I'm done," he said.
Joining Dan in China will be fellow Gonzaga Bulldog Germayne Forbes, who will play point guard for Great Britain. Both will return to the GU campus one day before classes begin.
To follow Dan and Team USA, and Germayne and Team Great Britain, see the ZagsHoops message board inside for the link.