Lady Griz basketball practices do not entirely consist of the women who compete on game days. Five male students at the University practice with the team to push and challenge the players.
Head coach Shannon Schweyen said the extra competition, mostly on defense, has been valuable this season by keeping the girls healthy and providing additional speed and quickness for the team. She said this has challenged the women and made them a little sharper.
According to Schweyen, this is not the first season the Lady Griz has invited men to practice with the team. She and assistant coach Mike Petrino put out the word that they were looking for extra competition during her first year as head coach in 2016.
They got into contact with some men interested in playing, who came to a practice, tried out and Schweyen decided to use them in practice for the remainder of the season.
“They provide additional speed and quickness,” Schweyen said, “and to have that kind of quickness to work against on a daily basis is a good thing.”
Adam Botkin and Ethan Pyron, both former Frenchtown High School basketball athletes and current University of Montana students, are two of the five men practicing with the Lady Griz this season.
Botkin is a sophomore studying management information systems and is in his second year practicing with the team. When he received a text from Coach Petrino asking him to come to a practice, he thought that it would be fun to compete against the team. “It’s free exercise too,” Botkin said.
He sees his role on the team as being an active body for defense and challenging the team. According to Botkin, it’s better to not let them feel comfortable at practice.
Pyron, a sophomore majoring in health and human performance, is also in his second year practicing with the team. According to him, in addition to practices being a good way to stay in shape and to get to know the team beyond what he sees on game day, practicing with the team is a way to continue playing his favorite sport.
“I’ve always loved the game of basketball,” Pyron said. “It was my favorite sport growing up.”
The men have helped the team by giving players confidence; if they can compete against the formidable volunteers, they can compete against anybody. The team also enjoys playing with the men as well as getting to know them on a personal level, Schweyen said.
“The coaches like to say that we’re there to make the girls better,” Pyron said.
The women’s basketball program introduced this season’s team Sept. 22 at the Maroon-Silver scrimmage. The Lady Griz have won its first two games against Lewis and Clark State and Carroll College and will face MSU Billings on Nov. 5 at the Dahlberg Arena.