Helping Hands: UA Students Assist Tide Women’s Basketball Team

UA women's basketball practice helpers (L to R) Mitchell Byrd, Stuart Harmon and Joe Nissen help with daily practice sessions. UA women's basketball practice helpers (L to R) Mitchell Byrd, Stuart Harmon and Joe Nissen help with daily practice sessions. Stan J. Griffin

With the 2016-2017 season in full gear for Kristy Curry’s University of Alabama women’s basketball team, it is obviously a hectic time for Curry and her staff, as well as Tide players such as juniors Meo Knight, Hannah Cook and Ashley Williams.   

But it is also a busy time for a group of around 30 students who assist the Crimson Tide in their daily practice sessions, helping with very drills and game-like simulations.  

“I started in 2013 in my freshman year, and it was the first year of this coaching staff,” said Joe Nissen. “They had sent out an e-mail to people who played intramurals the year before, and I played high school basketball with a sophomore here, so he signed up and he told me to do it. I’ve been a part of (assisting Curry’s team) for four years.” 

Mitchell Byrd said he enjoys the interaction with the Crimson Tide team.  

“Honestly I like building relationships with the girls on the team and the coaching staff, and that’s why I wanted to come out and play with them, and have a little fun,” he said. “I also like going out there and schooling them a little bit.” 

Nissen said it is rewarding to see their efforts in helping Curry’s team translate into success by the Tide during its games. Fellow helper Stuart Harmon noted that between five and eight students attend practice per day.   

“Just knowing in we’re coming in to work, and playing how (Alabama’s opponent) is going to play, and we’re playing a direct role in preparing them, and when that translates into them winning games, it’s nice to have been a part of that.” 

Curry noted that the practice helpers are an essential part of the preparation process by her Crimson Tide team.  

"They're amazing, and they show up day-in and day-out and all they get is some practice gear and a pair of tennis shoes and some equipment, and (her players and the helpers) have become like brothers and sisters," she said. "These young men prepare us and they allow our players to focus on individual improvement instead of always being on the opponent. They really do a great job in our drill work with passing and defending and the breakdowns.  

Cook said it does not take long for her and her teammates to form a solid bond with the practice players.  

"They really push us hard and they're quicker than us so it pushes us and it pushes me for sure, but I love them,” she said. “It gets a little competitive, and there is some trash talking, but it’s fun."

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Stan J Griffin

I am a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where I currently reside and work. I am doing regular sports and feature writing for the Tuscaloosa-based Druid City Living and also am the Alabama beat writer for Crimson Magazine. I am a 1993 graduate of the University of Alabama, where I wrote for The Crimson White. I have an extensive background in newspaper journalism, having served as a sports editor and reporter for the Delta Democrat Times, St. Clair News-Aegis, Andalusia Star-News and the St. Clair County News.

I also have my own sports blog site, The Sports Connection, which I partner on with a friend of mine, and we began this site in November of 2012. I write blog on a variety of sports subject, and have also had guest contributors write their own blogs for the site. I have interviewed prominent sports figures for the site, including Paul Finebaum of the new SEC Network.

Website: www.linkedin.com/in/stan-griffin-10506923

Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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