By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Austin Wiley’s passport is getting quite a workout this summer. From riding a camel in Egypt to visiting the Vatican in Rome, Auburn’s sophomore center will be ready if called on to write a ‘How I spent my summer vacation’ essay.
“I feel like everybody should travel out of the country at least once if they’re able to, to see different parts of the world,” says Wiley, between international excursions.
Austin’s excellent adventure began in June in Colorado Springs, Colo., where Wiley and Auburn freshman Chuma Okeke were two of 27 players competing for 12 spots on USA Basketball’s U19 World Cup team.
“Every time I go to a minicamp, I use it as a platform to see where my game is compared to all of the top guys,” says Wiley, who won a U17 gold medal with Team USA in Spain in 2016.
“You bust your tail every day at practice. Two-a-day practices, as hard as you can, fighting for a spot on the team,” he says. “When you make the team, you’re relieved but you can’t be relieved that much because you still have a mission. It’s a very humbling process. It made me appreciate the game more. An experience I’ll never forget.”
From the Rockies, Wiley traveled to Egypt, where he averaged a double-double in seven games while captaining the USA to a bronze medal, a jet-setting itinerary Wiley says will prepare him for professional basketball.
“I was blessed to do the long traveling because it just gets me ready for the future, for the next level, because I’m going to be traveling non-stop, constantly,” Wiley says. “It’s just a blessing.”
On an off day, Wiley and his teammates toured Egypt’s ancient treasures, exploring the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids.
“There was a place where you could ride camels and shop, so we did that and took pictures,” he says. “It was just a fun day.”
In a quarterfinal win against Germany on July 7, Wiley scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds, despite injuring his left leg.
The injury, diagnosed as a stress fracture after Wiley returned to Auburn, did not keep him from playing in Team USA’s last two games, but it will render Austin a spectator during the Tigers upcoming four-game tour of Italy August 9-14.
“I’m not really looking forward to the travel part, the long traveling, but once you get there it’s all worth it,” says Wiley, who at 6-foot-11, 260 pounds, struggles to find a comfortable airplane position. “Seeing other parts of the world, I’m just going to enjoy myself on this trip, work on team chemistry, be a better leader over there. Just enjoy the trip and enjoy my teammates. Enjoy these wins we’re about to get.”
Out 4-6 weeks to allow the injury to heal, Wiley remains a constant presence at Auburn’s practices, observing and encouraging teammates.
“I see a lot of energy,” he says. “Everybody’s improving every day. Everybody’s getting stronger in the weight room, getting better as a team and the chemistry is coming together.”
Noticeably more muscular after a spring in the weight room, Wiley plans to lead Auburn to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 15 years.
“Just play as hard as I can,” Wiley says. “Help my team wins games. First make the tournament, and make it as far as we can there, and try to win the SEC. Doing anything my team needs me to do to win. Showing the world how hard I’ve been working and improvements in my game. I can’t wait.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer