Photo courtesy of Zak Swetye | Zak Swetye is a freshman walk-on player on the basketball team. His path to becoming a student-athlete began with a tryout in the fall.
We all know the tradition of tossing the newspaper shreds in the air when Xavier hits its first shot of the game or how the Musketeers beat Butler by a point last week after mounting a comeback. This is probably because, as fans, these are things we experience and see with our own eyes.
Some aspects of the men’s basketball program that greatly contribute to its success can be often overlooked — not because they are unimportant, but because their efforts are often confined to the practice court.
Some of the unsung contributors who play an integral role for the Musketeers are walk-on players.
Freshman Zak Swetye is one such walk-on player on the Xavier men’s basketball roster this year. Swetye is a first year Xavier student-athlete double majoring in marketing and business analytics. He came to Cincinnati from his hometown of Darien, Conn., and has maintained a love for basketball all his life.
Before coming to Xavier, he attended a college preparatory school in North Carolina to focus on basketball, hoping to play the sport at a college. Swetye received basketball offers from several schools but declined them all to come to Xavier.
“Ultimately, I made the choice because I knew I’d be happy at Xavier even without basketball,” he said.
The community and values of the school are what brought Swetye to Xavier. He also had a desire to walk onto the basketball program.
Unlike preferred walk-ons who are in contact with a coach prior to tryouts, Sweyte found out the dates and times of tryouts through a poster circulated around campus. Of the 26 players who tried out, hewas one of three who made the team.
“The process was kind of nerve wracking because we never knew how many spots were open on the team, and we had to wait two weeks after tryouts to find out who had made it,” Swetye recalled.
His main role on the team is to make other players better. If his teammates are pushed and the competition is fierce during practice, it helps in the process of game preparation.
Although walk-on players have a slightly different role on the team than those who see the floor often, they are all working towards the same goal: to win.
Walk-ons do not receive a scholarship prior to joining the team, but there is potential to earn one later on in their Xavier basketball journey. Leighton Schrand, for example, is a current player who was a walk-on for two seasons and earned a basketball scholarship as a junior this season.
The biggest change for Swetye after making the team was a shift in time management. “I have much less free time,” he said. “I didn’t lose any of the friends I’ve made, but I now can’t spend as much time with them as I did before making the team.”
Maintaining grades poses a challenge as well. As a walk-on, Swetye is required to keep a 3.0 grade point average in order to travel with the team. He said it’s difficult to stay on top of classes, let alone be ahead of them because of traveling.
Despite the challenges with time management and keeping up with grades, Swetye shared how his experience on the team has been a positive one overall.
“Everything in my life has always circled around basketball, and I’m so happy that it still can. Being on the team, I am forced to be my best each day, and I love that,” he said.
By: Emilie Kracik | Staff Writer