For those loyal readers of the blog (if there are any), sorry for the lack of posts, but been busy trying to find a job and am still looking (if anybody reading this has any connections in the NBA or NBA D-League feel free to reach out), but wanted to do some more blogging cause I really enjoyed doing it.
Today's post is on the other men's basketball team at Vanderbilt. This team doesn't play on ESPN, have uniforms with their names on them, or get a scholarship to attend school. This team doesn't play in games, they just practice. THEY DON'T EVEN EAT AT MCGUGIN! This team is the women's basketball practice squad.
The practice squad as they are known around Memorial Gym is made up of guys on campus who absolutely love to play the game of basketball. Some of them have tried out for the men's team in the past, others have just always been a part of the practice squad, but however they got there, one thing unites them all: their undying loyalty to the women's program. Another thing that unites them is their lack of ego. Many guys would not want to be part of the practice squad because they don't want to get schooled by a girl as prehistoric as that philosophy sounds, it's true. To be on the practice squad you have to be willing to get crossed up by Jasmine Lister or beasted in the post by Tiffany Clarke, and not everybody can handle that.
Their job entails showing up each day after class, and on weekends to practice against the women. They help out in drills, play pickup with the team, but most importantly run the scout team offense before each game. As opposed to a practice uniform, the guys practice in raggedy old T-shirts that change based on the color of the upcoming opponent (i.e. orange for Tennessee, blue for Kentucky, etc). They help to prepare the women for games and work closely with the coaching staff as they run an offense they will never actually get to execute in a real game.
At least for members of our pseudo-scout team, the "Gold Bombers" like Nate Watkins and Carter Josephs, there is the slight chance they might be able to record a trillion in each game or perhaps a minor statistic like a field goal attempt. However, while the practice squad doesn't play in any games, they do show up to every single women's basketball game... even the exhibitions.
Despite making the Tournament for I believe 14 straight years, the women's team does not draw huge crowds for the most part, outside of games versus Kentucky and Tennessee. While the rest of the student body is unfortunately pretty apathetic towards women's basketball, these guys are rabid fans. They sit in the front row, slap the gymnasium floor, and taunt the opposing players, and for the most part people throughout the gym can hear what they say. They even paint up for the big games and occasionally make signs. They are die-hards.
For their efforts in practice and on game-day, they are rewarded with staying in shape, some free gear, but mainly in their relationships with the players on the team. The players all appreciate the efforts these guys bring to practice each day and their devotion to the program, and many of the players and practice squadders are good friends. For a job with no pay and a lot of time to commit, these guys make the most out of it, and for what it's worth I think they should be honored on senior night along with the team managers.
So this blog post is dedicated to Harold Hichez-Nunez, Morgan Stevens, Austin Wilson, Jacob Teichner, James Quick, Matt Bojanowski, Bradley Roberts, Lester Primus, and whoever else has dedicated their time to the women's program (and also organized highly competitive Friday afternoon pickup games).