Every year since leaving the Wichita State men’s basketball program, Wichita native Conner Frankamp has successfully been promoted up the international basketball rungs of competition.
After averaging 19.3 points and 4.3 assists per game as a rookie for Beroe in Bulgaria, Frankamp moved up to the Greek Basket League, where he averaged 20.8 points and 4.1 assists per game with the Rethymno Cretan Kings. That led to a move to UCAM Murcia in Spain’s top-tier league, where the former Shocker averaged 15.7 points and 3.5 assists.
Now entering his fourth professional season, Frankamp will play in the world’s best league outside of the NBA. The 25-year-old recently signed a two-year contract with Zenit Saint-Petersburg, which won Russia’s top-tier league last season and also will play in the prestigious EuroLeague.
“It’s really exciting because I’ve worked pretty hard to get to this level,” said Frankamp, who graduated WSU in 2018. “Obviously I won’t stop working and hopefully I can make another step after the EuroLeague and come back here to the NBA if I play well. I’m excited to get over there and see what happens.”
But before Frankamp pursues his dream of reaching the NBA, he will chase a $1 million grand prize alongside a handful of former Shockers playing in The Basketball Tournament.
The AfterShocks, WSU’s alumni team, practiced for the first time on Monday evening at Koch Arena and Frankamp was encouraged by the early showings. The team had seven of its players in attendance, including former WSU players in Frankamp, Markis McDuffie, Samajae Haynes-Jones and Rashard Kelly, while three former Shockers — Tekele Cotton, Darral Willis and Zach Brown — are on their way later this week.
The AfterShocks play their first game at 8 p.m. Friday against the Ex-Pats, an all-star team of former Patriot League players. With both of WSU’s current NBA players — Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet — confirmed to be coming to the game, tickets to the TBT game at Koch Arena on Friday night will be the place to be for Shocker fans. VanVleet is also bringing his pop-up shop, which will be in the Koch Arena concourse (game tickets required to enter).
“It’s definitely going to be awesome to have all of the guys back,” Frankamp said. “Fred and Landry have represented Wichita State great in the NBA and they’ve both had successful careers. We’re all excited to see those guys back here and to be able to chop it up with them again.”
After being a key player for the AfterShocks in 2019, Frankamp once again figures to play a central role for how far the team can advance.
He says playing at a high level in professional leagues prepares him for scoring buckets in TBT play.
“It’s just a lot more physical at this level,” Frankamp said. “You’re playing some guys who are 30, 35 years old and who have played in the NBA for a while. Guys like that know how the game goes and just know the game a lot better than college kids. So it definitely prepares you for what you see in these games.”
While Frankamp’s small stature (he was listed at 6-foot-1 and 171 pounds as a senior at WSU) will raise questions if he can survive in the NBA, he has repeatedly proved himself as a scorer and creator at each stop in his professional career.
If he is able to do the same in the EuroLeague, Frankamp will likely be able to springboard that into another chance to play in front of NBA scouts. He played sparingly in three games for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2019 NBA Summer League.
Frankamp said he isn’t worried so much about his stats at Zenit — he’s hoping he can continue the team’s recent string of success. Zenit finished with a 20-14 record in EuroLeague play and reached the playoffs of international basketball’s top league.
“It’s always good to put up numbers, but if my team is winning then that’s even better,” Frankamp said. “I’ve been on two successful teams the last two years, so hopefully next year I can continue that there.”
With TBT play emphasizing a team’s guard play, Frankamp could be one of the top players in the Wichita region. The AfterShocks are likely to depend on his creation out of the pick and roll and long-range shooting ability to stretch defenses.
But there’s plenty of help around him. Haynes-Jones and McDuffie are both coming off explosive offensive seasons, while Willis is also known as instant offense. Two non-Shockers also figure to play large offensive roles in Tyrus McGee (Iowa State) as a main creator and David DiLeo (Central Michigan) as a deadly catch-and-shoot sniper.
That’s why Frankamp believes the AfterShocks have an even better chance of winning the regional and advancing to the Elite Eight in Dayton this summer.
“We have a chance to be really, really good,” Frankamp said. “We have guys who can score at every position and we should be able to defend just fine. I’m excited to see what we can do once we mesh together this week.”