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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Who are the men’s practice players?

    It’s not all fun and games for the men’s practice players. They’re more a part of college athletics than is easily realized.

    Just like any other Division I athlete, these men have to become NCAA-eligible through the NCAA Clearinghouse and qualify academically to the standards of all Arizona athletes. They must achieve qualifying scores and be a full-time student, which means they must be passing and on pace for graduation, just like the NCAA requires of Bonvicini’s actual players.

    “”They really go out of their way to help us,”” Bonvicini said. “”It’s pretty tough.””

    So why do these men go through Bonvicini’s grueling two-and-a-half hour practices – with Arizona gear being their only tangible benefit – instead of being content that their days of organized basketball are over and concentrate on intramural or Student Recreation Center basketball?

    “”I just really love these girls,”” said manager Brian Halbach. “”Personally, I just love to play, and I wanted to keep on playing after (high school).””

    Shane Jones originally wanted to walk-on to the Arizona men’s basketball team when he arrived on campus this summer as a freshman.

    But after playing with many of the women at the Rec Center over the summer, including 6-foot-7 Beatrice and 6-foot-6 Suzy Bofia, Jones had a different idea.

    “”I really liked playing with them, and they all liked me, so they talked to their coach,”” said Jones, who stands a hair over 6-foot-5.

    “”They wanted me to practice with them. I really like the girls, and I’m getting better, and it’s fun.””

    Bonvicini said the Wildcats often recruit players, either through picking up men her squad plays with at the Rec Center or through word of mouth. If they really need a player who fits a certain position, the UA coach has advertised in the Arizona Daily Wildcat before.

    In all, Bonvicini said the practice players are great for her squad because they know their role in the women’s basketball program.

    “”They have to understand – to be a good practice player, it’s not just being a good basketball player,”” she said. “”You have to understand you’re there to help the players.

    “”It’s not you trying to show off, and our guys do a great job.””

    -Michael Schwartz

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