The life of a basketball redshirt

Players and coaches share their experiences as redshirt athletes


Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

EWU redshirt sophomore Tanner Groves embraces junior guard Jack Perry on Jan. 10. Groves redshirted the 2017-18 season.

By Drew Lawson, Sports Editor

This is part two of a two-part series on athletic redshirts. Part one, which is about football redshirts, was published in The Easterner on Nov. 13.

They may not be throwing down dunks like Jacob Davison or throwing the ball off an opponent’s back to win a tournament game like Jessica McDowell-White, but the EWU men’s and women’s basketball redshirts have important roles of their own. 

“I have a role on the team, which is a scout team player,” freshman guard/forward Jacob Groves of the men’s basketball team said. Jacob Groves is likely going to redshirt the 2019-20 season.

Players on the scout team, which has not yet been set in stone for the 2019-20 season, is assigned a player from the upcoming opponent to study. The EWU scouts then try and emulate the opposing team player in practice so the rotation players can form an expectation of what they might see from them during the actual game.

Redshirt sophomore forward Tanner Groves, who redshirted in 2017, said he remembers always being assigned to the opponent’s big man when he was on scout team.

“I (would) stay in the paint and help make our big guys better,” Tanner Groves said. “I was … just trying to get stronger and get better on the court every day, along with making the guys better (by) preparing them for games.”

EWU men’s basketball head coach Shantay Legans said if players have the right attitude, they can have a lot of fun on the scout team.

“I redshirted one of my years in college, and it was one of my best years. I want it to be fun for the (players). … That year, if you really work, you can become a really, really good player.”-Shantay Legans

Legans said an advantage of redshirting is the opportunity to make the transition from high school to college easier for the players. Legans said players have so many components of their schedules to get used to, such as practices, film, classes, games and travel.

“Coming from high school, you think you’re working hard,” Legans said. “But it doesn’t really all add up to what’s really going to go down in college.”

Jacob Groves said redshirting this year has helped him acclimate to the pace of the college game.

“This year is going to give me more time to adapt to the speed of the game and kind of be able to get in shape,” Jacob Groves said.

One reason a player might redshirt is because there’s a more experienced player ahead of them on the depth chart. Former EWU women’s basketball guard Hayley Hodgins had to redshirt her true freshman year because she was behind eventual Big Sky Conference MVP Brianne Ryan. After her redshirt year, Hodgins played four years and graduated as EWU’s all-time leading scorer. 

EWU head coach Wendy Schuller said she and Hodgins talked before her redshirt year and made the decision for Hodgins to sit out her true freshman year.

“I brought Hayley in, and said, ‘you’re gonna play a little bit, but Brianne is a great athlete, she’s going to play a lot of minutes this year,’” Schuller said. “‘If we redshirt you, instead of playing ten minutes a game this year, on the tail end your fifth year you could play thirty minutes a game.’ Well I was wrong, she ended up playing about thirty seven minutes a game that fifth year and becoming the all-time leading scorer in school history.”

Players might also redshirt for medical purposes. Redshirt freshman guard Tatiana Reese of the women’s basketball team found out before 2018-19’s season opener that she’d have to redshirt her true freshman year to heal further from ankle surgery she had received the prior April.

Drew Lawson
EWU redshirt freshman guard Tatiana Reese prior to EWU’s Oct. 30 game.

“I wasn’t originally planning to redshirt, but right before the Gonzaga game I had to talk to my coach and say, ‘this is what’s best for me (and) best for the team,’” Reese said. “I had to basically understand my role of sitting out of practice but being a good teammate and encouraging my teammates.”

That year wasn’t easy for Reese. She said she sometimes felt left out when her teammates got to travel without her. She said she would try and be the best teammate she could during the times she did get to be with the team.

“I made sure I was clapping, cheering them up (and) giving as many high fives as I could,” Reese said. “(I) understand that I can make a difference in such a small way.”

Reese is now healthy and a member of EWU’s rotation. 

Schuller said loneliness is one of the biggest challenges that redshirts face.

“When the team is on the road, they’re not hanging out with their buddies,” Schuller said. “It takes a special kid to do it, because you have to be motivated internally in order to show up every day and work hard and work to get better.”

Schuller said players that are redshirting have to believe in the process.

“Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated when you think to yourself, ‘well I don’t get to play anyway, so why work hard today?’” Schuller said.

Tanner Groves looks back on his redshirt year and recognizes how it made him a better player.

“Looking back on it, I’ve shot the ball better,” Tanner Groves said. “I was able to grow in my post game.”

Reese also sees some positives from her redshirt year.

“I would say the redshirt helped me gain a lot of patience and understand my role on the team,” Reese said.