The Razorback Women’s Basketball team is set to have a rebound season after going 12-19 last year with the help of some unexpected players. The team has been using a group of male players to aid in their practices and to help them prepare for the tough Southeastern Conference schedule that they will face this year.
Juniors Joseph Richardson and Peyton White, along with six other men, signed on to train with the women’s basketball team. They bring a brand of physicality and quickness to practice and scrimmages that just isn’t there otherwise.
“They’re awesome,” sophomore guard Keiryn Swenson said. “They definitely prepare us because they’re definitely stronger and quicker than the competition that we face, which makes it so much harder. They have such great attitudes, they really pick us up, (and) they’re a huge benefit to our team.”
Richardson and White both joined the practice squad in their freshman years after previously playing basketball in high school. Richardson started off as a manager in his first year due to a connection made through one of his high school friends. After a year as a manager, he decided to join the practice squad to do more hands on work to help the team, he said.
White joined the practice team through a mutual friend with Richardson.
“When I got (to the university), one of my older friends, who actually set (Joseph) up as a manager, told me about it,” White said. “I got all my tests done for being a practice player, started out my first practice, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s a lot of fun seeing the girls improve over the course of the year and me helping them get better is something I take pride in.”
Whenever they come in to help the team, the guys play a number of roles. They will help with defensive drills, offensive drills and they’ll help the girls get better with whatever they work on in each practice. Their most important role that they play is when they emulate the offensive and defensive schemes of the team’s upcoming rival in a scrimmage, White said.
This allows the Razorbacks to prepare for their opponent’s schemes without wasting precious practice time worrying about playing as the other team.
There is nothing but praise coming from the Razorback coaching staff when talking about the skillset and effort brought to the court by the men.
“Obviously, they love the game of basketball, because they’re not getting anything out of it other than getting to work hard every day out there with us,” head coach Jimmy Dykes said. “They help us keep our bodies fresh, for one, so we’re not having to grind away at each other all the time. And they give us a speed and strength and quickness factor that we don’t always see. I think they develop really good relationships with our players, (and) they’ve become a really big part of our family.”
The comradery that comes from being on the same team and working together to reach a higher goal is clear when players talk about the practice team. The men’s physicality and speed is universally seen by the team as valuable to their success.
“Well, they’re men, so they’re faster and stronger than us, so we have to play up to the competition,” senior center Alecia Cooley said. “Now when we play different opponents, especially in the SEC, we’ll be more prepared.”
The guys have high praise for their female counterparts, as well. The competition that the girls give them is not really that different than playing against a men’s team, Richardson said. What they lack in strength, they make up for in ferociousness and quickness.
“It was different at first, playing against the girls; I’d never done it before,” White said. “But it’s definitely tougher than most people think. They’re quicker than a lot of guys. They’re not as strong, but they’re quick and they’re fast. Girls can definitely play basketball, too.”
The Razorback Women’s team will show the progress that they’ve made in the offseason when they face off against Sam Houston State in Fayetteville for their season opener Nov. 11.