Male practice players aid women’s basketball team

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Kistner | Male practice players have been a part of the women’s basketball program since its inception and aid in the success of the team. Adrian Perez, a male practice player and Xavier student, shared his practice experience.

The Xavier women’s basketball program was established in 1971, and the utilization of male practice players for the team has been around for just as long.

This is a rather unknown part of the program, one that involves non-athlete Xavier students to aid in the success of the women’s basketball team.

“The benefits of using males as practice players is that the guys make practice harder. Most males are bigger, stronger and faster, so practicing against that only helps the girls,” assistant coach Mark Stephens said.

He explained that having the male practice players brings a lot of encouragement and positivity to the program.

Adrian Perez, one of the practice players, agrees, sharing that the bond between the women’s players and male practice players is nice. He said everyone is on a first name basis and has the same goal in mind, which is to help the women’s basketball team continue to improve in the hopes of achieving further success.

Being a practice player has its own set of rewards. As a practice player, Perez gets preferred scheduling, meaning that he and all the other practice players get to register for classes at the same time all other athletes do.

This ensures they are able to come to the scheduled practices each week. In addition to preferred scheduling, the nine practice players have formed a tight-knit community.

“The thing I enjoy most about being a practice player is being a part of something bigger than myself,” Perez said. “I have made some of my best friends from being a part of the program, and the women’s players always make us feel needed and appreciated.”

Practice players are asked to be at as many practices as they can, which typically looks like practicing from 1 to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

At the beginning of practice, Stephens gives each of the males a jersey with a specific number on it. The number corresponds with the number of an opponent from an upcoming team the women are going to face.

The practice players are given the scouting report for that opponent, indicating the opposing player’s strengths and weaknesses. During practice, the practice players are expected to mimic how that opponent would play in a game setting.

“They are huge for the team from a scouting perspective,” Danny Chatterton, a manager, said. “Our coaches do a really good job communicating the style of play of upcoming opponents, and the practice players do an excellent job adjusting their games accordingly.”

Perez’s favorite drill in practices is when the practice players have the opportunity to run offense, and it’s probably his favorite because it rarely happens.

The practice players focus on defense for about three-fourths of the practice. If a practice player isn’t needed for one of the drills, they end up just standing around.

However, Perez shared that it’s all worth it because he loves watching the women’s basketball games and seeing how the defensive drills they completed in practice directly impact the game.

“It really makes me and the others feel like as practice players, we did our job to help the women get out there and win,” he said.

By: Emilie Kracik | Staff Writer