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For the Long Beach State women’s basketball team it’s all about the competition

Long Beach State women's basketball gets tough competition in practice.

Zulema Suarez, Staff Writer

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If you stroll into Walter Pyramid during the women’s basketball practice, you’ll hear the screeching of sneakers and the voices of the women calling out plays and shifting into defensive positions.

What may stand out most, though, is who is practicing against the Long Beach State women’s basketball team – five men who have signed up to help the team practice.

While the practice team may provide the group with unique challenges, they were selected in most part, to allow the women to rotate multiple players while also adding speed — and in some cases, height that the team may not face throughout the season.

“They’re faster than us and they have a higher athleticism, but they push us to become above average until it becomes natural and it forms into a habit,” senior forward Madison Montgomery said. “Every time they’re here, they have a good attitude all the time and they do whatever the coaches ask without hesitation.”

Although it may seem like an uneven match between the teams, it’s no walk in the park for the men who show up.

“They definitely get a bit challenged, too, because there’s only five of them and they don’t get to switch out between players the way we do,” Montgomery said. “There’s like 13 of us and we switch off with other players and they can’t do that. They have to stick it out the whole time.”

Junior guard Jessica Gertz also had nothing but positive things to say about the male practice players.

“It’s hard sometimes, but we know they help us a lot with our fast-break layups and transition drills,” Gertz said. “They make us more competitive and more fundamental.”

Jody Wynn, head coach of the women’s basketball team, stated many benefits to practicing with the guys.

“They’re stronger, faster, taller, more athletic, and with that, they challenge us to be better,” Wynn said.  “Practicing with them allows us to not have to bang up against each other day in and day out, keeping the girls in better health.

Along with facing tougher competition, it also gives the team an advantage when LBSU faces other schools with players who may not be as athletic.

“Having the team execute against guys and their shot blocking ability, we can definitely execute better against our opponents,” Wynn said. “The practice players are a tremendous addition to the team.”

Among practice players, Caleb Schultz and Jahmal Forte, said playing with the girls is a fun, exciting environment.  

Schultz said, “I’m big and that forces the girls to be more competitive and aggressive when it comes to me, and when it comes time to be against their opponents.”

The practice players do get benefits, such as priority registration for classes, and just like the girls, they receive a package with jumpsuits and some equipment needed; however, they also have to sign up and fill out paperwork just like any other athlete.  

Forte revealed that the practice players have to get a physical and comply with all NCAA rules the same way the team has to.

Forte also commented how he enjoys being involved in the practices because he is improving with the team

“I played in high school,” Forte said. “And being a part of this team has only helped me better my skills, and I know I’m helping them get better at the same time.”

It’s a group consensus that there are benefits from the practice players being involved.
The next women’s basketball game is inside the Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach on Thursday against Cal State Fullerton at 7 p.m.

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