Justin Renck: My experience with Women’s Basketball

I haven’t blogged in a while, so I figured I would talk about my time at UofL in regards to the women’s basketball team. My first year at UofL was 2004-2005. I got a call from my high school basketball coach saying that the men’s team were needing practice players. Of course I loved the sound of that. So I went to talk to a coach, Greg Collins, and I was still under the impression that this was for the men’s team. As he was giving me a tour, he showed me Cardinal Arena, and said “This is where we play some home games.” Hmm, this is where I got confused. Of all the years I went to UofL games, I had never seen a game in this tiny arena. We finished the tour and I said “Oh so this is for the women’s team right?” While I was disappointed at first, it ended up being one of the coolest and most fun things about my time at UofL.
 
There was a group of about 5 or 6 of us guys that would practice with the women’s team. Most of these guys I still talk to to this day, and I never knew them before this time. We did certain drills, whether it was just passing the ball or setting a screen. But we also got to actually play ball a lot, and that was always the best part. When there was a game coming up, we would have to look over the scouting report and learn the other team’s plays. We would often have to learn about 5 plays in 10 or 15 minutes. Not easy at all, but we usually did pretty well. It was good to feel like we were on a team again, as most of us played on high school teams. It was really rewarding to watch a women’s game and to see them know what play was coming and defend it well because we had run those exact plays in practice. It definitely showed that what we were doing had a purpose.
 
I got to practice against a lot of good players, including two of the best to ever play for UofL: Jazz Covington and Angel McCoughtry. So yes, I do often take credit for the player that Angel is today haha. I was often that guy that would defend the point guard on one possession, and then the center on the next. Coach Collins always loved the versatility because I could be put anywhere.
 
Jazz Covington                     Angel McCoughtry
   
 
The women’s game may be different from the men’s, and not nearly as popular. But I did learn that these girls can play, and are probably easier to coach! Tom Collen was the coach when I was there. I may have heard him yell one time, but he got the job done. I enjoyed being around him. He laid a great foundation for Coach Walz, who I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet.
 
The whole coaching staff moved on to Arkansas, and I have seen them all when they have come to play here at Auburn (where I live right now). It is good to see them, and I still appreciate what they did for us practice players. We got to keep playing the game we loved, had fun, and did not get yelled at a whole lot (just sometimes from Coach Eatman).
 
Without a doubt, the best part of the whole experience was getting to practice in Freedom Hall on occasion. It may not have meant much to the players from around the country (or world), but it meant everything to me. I told the guys that while the arena may be empty, there were 20,000 there in my head. The first time I got to practice there, I was the first one on the court. I thought “Do I take an easy layup to say I made my first shot here?” Nope, I decided to shoot a 3, and I made it! Those practices in Freedom Hall were so much fun for me. You will hear more about my Freedom Hall thoughts in a later blog.
 
So while the women’s basketball team has started gain popularity recently, I became a fan in 2004-2005 and haven’t stopped. I will always feel a connection to that program. Go Cards!
 
Justin
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