Recently, walking into the James J. McCann gymnasium, anyone can expect to find the men’s or women’s basketball practicing and working out their kinks for the upcoming season, which is to begin this week. However, what one would not expect to see is men facing off against the women’s basketball team. In fact, this the norm at Marist. The college incorporates male practice players in the women’s basketball team season preparation.
Marist is one of the few colleges with men playing basketball with the women’s team. Marist currently has seven male practice players on the team, developing the program more from the five men last season. The men devote time to meet four to five days a week for two hours.
Senior practice player Eddie Whitman explains why he stepped up, despite the lack of payment and school credit. “It is all volunteer and we do it to be able to keep playing basketball and for the love of the game.”
Unknown to most, this gives the Red Foxes a competitive edge over their competition. These practice players assist the women in preparing physically and mentally before each game, specifically adjusting to the competition at hand.
During practice the men try to equip the women as best they can as to put them in the best position as they hit the court. The men pose as certain athletes from the opposing teams; dodging, cutting, and following through with the competition’s specific plays.
“I am just trying to get them as best prepared for the game as I possibly can and give them the best chance I can to win the game,” Whitman explained. “I take pride in making sure they are prepared and I get them ready for the game.”
Through studying films and listening to the scout coaches on the opposing player biographies, the practice players become aware of how to impersonate players. The long and tedious process, as Maggie Gallagher explains, requires precise film study. “Once we get into the schedule as a staff, they dig up scouting reports for the opposing team,” Gallagher elaborated. “Depending on who the scout coach is for that next game, they have full control of the aspects of leading practice.”
Prior to entering practice, each of the men is assigned to a specific starter from the opposing team. They point out their strengths and weaknesses, and specifically how they play offensively. Specific defensive styles are routinely run throughout the week, doing their best to try to emulate the particular team’s playing style.
The team, coaches, and practice players have found this strategy works extremely well and effectively enables the women to become familiar with their future adversaries.
Whitman loves being on the team and has developed a relationship with the women. “Ever since I joined, I loved it and the girls are awesome,” he stated. “They appreciate our hard work and it is a lot of fun. Each time the girls win, and go out there and compete it makes me proud that I am a part of it.”
Team chemistry is essential to any team’s success. “The guys work hard and time commitment gives the girls an incentive to work harder and match their intensity and energy,” Whitman adds.
The Marist women and practice players have been devising a plan for the first game and for the season as a whole. The women will take the court this Friday, November 8, facing off against Boston University.
Edited by Bridget Reilly & Amelia Nick