Photos by Sarah Sanchez
According to NCAA transfer regulations, a student-athlete transferring from a four-year college to a different school must complete a full academic year before being eligible to compete in certain sports, basketball being one of those sports. This qualifies as a redshirt season. Redshirting refers to students who are enrolled full-time and are able to practice with a team without competing in games for a full season. A redshirt season saves the athlete a season of NCAA eligibility, of which each athlete is normally allowed four.
Redshirt seasons for collegiate athletes present a variety of challenges. For competitive young men and women, sitting out for a year and having to watch from the sideline can be a tall order. However, last year’s lineup of redshirt players for UVU men’s basketball also saw some benefits to their redshirt seasons.
“It’s definitely hard [to sit out], but it’s something you’ve got to do to follow the rules. It’s interesting, you just get a year to see, to watch and to learn,” Jordan Poydras said of his redshirt season after transferring from St. Cloud State University. “I definitely think redshirting is a process that, if you could do it, I would take advantage. A lot of people don’t, but if you think it’s something that you could master mentally, I think it’s the best thing a lot of times for people.”
For players like Isaac Neilson, who had a redshirt season after transferring from BYU, redshirting is an opportunity to do some much-needed work on their bodies before continuing their NCAA careers. When Neilson arrived at UVU, he knew he needed to take the year to bulk up and get stronger in order to hold his own on the court, something he was confident the Wolverine coaching staff could help him accomplish.
“Using that year was really about changing me and making me into a better athlete,” said Neilson. “It was a year that I needed and it was definitely a year that I appreciated.”
Head coach Mark Pope said a redshirt season can be helpful in developing a player’s game from a strategic standpoint. Redshirt players are able to focus more intensely on film study than is normally possible for players participating in and preparing for upcoming games. This was something that Brandon Randolph, a transfer from Xavier University, took advantage of during his redshirt year.
“For the little things that matter, like watching film, sitting out is actually really a good thing. It really makes you better,” said Randolph. “Working out is really good, but also film is a really big part of it, too, in expanding your game.”
Another example of the effect film study can have during a redshirt season is the defensive transformation of Poydras. During his last season at St. Cloud, he led the team in scoring with 20 points per game, but Pope saw that his game needed improvement on the defensive end.
“He came here as an offensive player who was really lacking on the defensive end and he’s turned himself into a player who now, even if he’s struggling offensively, I have to keep him in the lineup because his defense is so good,” said Pope. “That’s a huge deal. He’s another guy who really took advantage of his redshirt year and he did that through consistent film study and sitting down with coaches and trying to figure out the concepts we have defensively.”
One thing working in UVU’s favor is the fact that the recent redshirt players have been able to move through the process as a group. Pope said when a team has only one redshirt player he can feel isolated from the team, which can be a detriment to his development. For Poydras, Neilson and Randolph, it made a big difference.
“You can kind of feel your pain and what they’re going through. Yeah, you come from different places and different backgrounds, but every day you guys have to sit out for the same year,” said Randolph. “Going through workouts together, hanging out with each other when the team is traveling is always good.”
The final hurdle to clear after a redshirt season is getting accustomed to the speed of the game again. It’s something that Randolph said took him at least a few games, but the effects are rarely lingering.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get the rust off a little bit,” said Pope. “Sometimes it’s hard to get a feel for the game again, but usually you can do that within the first couple months.”