Basketball has made a significant impact on the lives of Michael Rerucha, Brett Greenfield, and Ethan Niewald. The trio of Wayne State College juniors met and became close friends on the basketball courts of the WSC Rec center in their freshman year and have played together since. However, the group began to feel that their basketball careers were missing something that they had in the past, and this year the group was given the opportunity to take their game to a new level.
“Coach Pollari gave us the opportunity to uncover what we were missing: the chance to be part of a team again,” Rerucha said.
This semester the group joined the practice squad for the WSC women’s basketball team, and they have enjoyed having the opportunity to use their years of basketball experience to help a WSC team improve.
The trio has played and found success in intermural basketball each year but being part of the WSC team has challenged them in new and unique ways. Early mornings, staunch competition, and the necessity to constantly learn new gameplans has brought back fond memories of high school teams and has prompted the group to remember the challenges of the game.
“I really love basketball. I’ve been involved with basketball in tons of different ways throughout my life,” Rerucha said. “When the opportunity arose to get an inside look at how a college team operates, I knew that I had to jump at the opportunity.”
Niewald, Rerucha, and Greenfield are not new to the challenges of competitive team sports as each played high school basketball, among other sports and activities. However, the days of high school sports are far behind them and getting reacclimated to those challenges has been a hurdle itself.
“Waking up for practice at 6 in the morning is not as easy as I remember it,” Greenfield said. “But the commitment to this team is something I wanted, and I am really enjoying the chance to make an impact on a team again.”
The practice squad is tasked with learning the different strategies employed by the team’s future opponents. The practice squad then puts those gameplans to the test against the WSC women’s team. The practice squad takes on this role to help the women’s team prepare for opponents, and to help them utilize their time on perfecting their own strategies rather than wasting time trying to emulate their opponents.
“Learning the new gameplan every week is a real challenge,” Niewald said. “We learn a new strategy each Monday; by the end of the week, we finally feel like we have a good understanding of it, and then we throw it away and start over the next week.”
The group has a lot of fun playing basketball, but they take their role on the practice squad seriously. The practice squad has a collective understanding that they need to work diligently in order to help the athletes on the WSC women’s team achieve their goals.
“We know how hard the rest of the team works every day,” Greenfield said. “They’ve given up a lot be part of their team, and we try to do our best to share a part of that load and make their jobs a little easier.”
The practice squad is coached by Dalton Smith, the team’s grad assistant. Smith keeps the practice squad prepared and on track. His responsibilities are not limited to working with the practice squad, but he helps the practice squad to be in the best position possible to help the team succeed.
“Working with Coach Smith and seeing a college basketball team in action has opened my eyes to a whole new world of opportunities,” Rerucha said. “It gave me a look at something that has never really caught my eye before, but now I definitely could see myself looking further into this world of college athletics.”
The practice squad is bigger than just Rerucha, Greenfield, and Niewald, it is composed of students with a plethora of different interests and goals. But the love of basketball has brought them all together and opened new avenues and future opportunities for everyone involved.