Hawkeyes receive scouting help from the Gray Squad

BY JON FRANK | FEBRUARY 09, 2011 7:10 AM

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Henry Hartman once said that “success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.”

The Iowa women’s basketball team (17-7, 5-6) has had some success this season, and preparation has certainly been a key.

The practice squad — male players known as the Gray Shirts — prepares the Hawkeyes for games and dedicates nearly as much time in practice as the players themselves.

At any given session, members of the scout team work alongside Iowa players, running shooting drills, game situations, and defensive sets.

Ranging in height, skill, and experience, the practice squad plays a key role in preparing the Hawkeyes for upcoming competition. They run offensive and defensive sets that opposing coaches regularly implement.

“Because I’m one of the taller ones, I work on post moves and things that the post can do to help them when they get the ball on the block,” said the 6-3 Christopher Rickert, a sophomore marketing and economics major.

The 19-year-old joined this season after responding to an e-mail he received after playing in UI intramurals.

The Sioux City native has played basketball for most of his life and attends the women’s practices two to four times a week.

“A lot of it has become word of mouth,” said coach Lisa Bluder, who has used the Gray Squad throughout her 11-year tenure. “We have been known to go over to the Field House and try to find people over there. But a lot of it is now the current Gray Squad members will kind of give us ideas on who would be good ones for us to approach. And some of them just come to us.”

Bluder said the current scout-team members are the most dedicated and talented she has worked with.

“They bring their attention, and they really care,” she said. “They want us to win games, and they take pride in preparing us to win.”

The Gray Shirts — who have to go through physicals and become certified collegiate athletes to practice with the Hawkeyes — work with the team’s coaches to learn defensive and offensive sets.

“It makes me feel like I’m part of the team,” Rickert said. “The coaches really do a good job of bringing us together and making us feel like we’re part of the team. We get to go in their huddles and break with them.”

A selfless attitude is a prerequisite for members of the Gray Squad.

“Coaches are just really appreciative that we take time out of our day to go help them just for the betterment of the team,” said freshman Blake Schneden, who has played basketball since he was 7.

For their efforts on the court, the Gray Shirts are awarded with clothing and basketball apparel. Members of the squad recently got pairs of the new LeBron James shoes and Nike dry-fit tops.

“It just kind of gives you a sense of satisfaction,” Schneden, 19, said. “What you’re doing is really helping the team. If I weren’t doing this, I would probably still be playing basketball.”

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