Each offseason, college basketball undergoes conference changes. Basketball fans eagerly click headlines to learn whether UCLA and USC moved into the Big 10, or to get updates about which Division II teams plan to join the Ohio Valley.
Although not headlined on ESPN, club basketball has its share of notable changes each year. For the upcoming season, the women's side of the National Club Basketball Association (NCBBA) has added Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) and University of Maine into the organization. WUSTL’s Casey Taitel and Maine’s Olivia Bourque detail the reasons they joined the NCBBA.
As the fastest growing intercollegiate club basketball league, the NCBBA draws teams from across the country to compete. Formerly intramural teams, both WUSTL and Maine held tryouts and applied to become club teams in the Spring of 2022.
As Taitel recognized, “We have a hunger to compete against other teams.” Taitel and her WUSTL team knew they possessed passion, commitment and talent, characteristics that would make them successful as a club team. Two former Division III players added high-level experience to augment WUSL’s style of selflessness on offense and aggressiveness on defense.
As an intramural team, the WUSTL players scrimmaged against each other once a week. But Taitel, the sophomore president of the club in 2022-2023, wanted to create a culture of commitment to the sport. She envisioned a team that would practice three times a week, create offensive and defensive sets, and compete against neighboring schools. By joining the NCBBA, the Bears will compete in the Mid America Conference against teams like Nebraska, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and Iowa.
Maine’s defensive toughness and strong guard play will make them a tough contender in the New England North conference, where their opponents will include Boston College, Harvard, and Northeastern. According to Bourque, the team spent the entire spring semester practicing, scrimmaging, and preparing to join the NCBBA.
In these practices, Bourque cited the intensity and grit of her team. She said her teammates laughed and joked during water breaks, but would become serious when they stepped onto the court. Every practice, they physically defended one another, dove on the floor for loose balls, and drove to the basket hard.
“I’m confident in our team’s ability. Now we’re just putting it to the test against other competition,” the senior president said. “We have fun, but we also push each other to get better. That’s what we’re here for.”
Club basketball allows students to find friendship in a community of people who share a love and commitment to the sport.
Taitel and Bourque both cited the friendships they have found as the most enjoyable part of club basketball. Their teams spend a lot of time off the court with one another. The WUSTL players study in the library together and hang out most Friday nights. The team’s Instagram shows them doing an Easter egg hunt, cheering for a teammate who ran a marathon, and playing board games together.
“It is impactful when you have a group that gives you a sense of belonging,” Taitel said. “I wanted to create that for other people.”
Maine values quality time together too: The team had a pizza party, volunteered to teach elementary students basketball, and fundraised through Chipotle. “I’m glad I have this group of girls who are very supportive both on and off the court,” Bourque said.
Bourque and Taitel each cited the team’s off-the-court bond as positively impacting their play. Maine and WUSTL players see their teammates as friends and club basketball as a community.
Many students appreciate the balance club basketball provides. They love playing the game, but it doesn’t consume all of their time, obligations, and energy.
With a 16 percent acceptance rate, Washington University challenges its students academically. Taitel said club basketball serves as a stress relief in the players’ busy lives.
“Our goal is to have practice be everyone’s favorite part of the day,” said the organization and strategic management major. “It’s a place where you can have a good time with people you love and care about.”
Bourque, a child development and family relations major, works two jobs during the school year. Yet she committed to being Maine’s president – which means coaching, playing, and organizing her team – because she loves her teammates. When the Black Bears started training last spring, Bourque made practices optional because they were not yet playing games. She thought only a few team members would come to practice. Instead, almost all of the 25 players showed up every time.
“It was awesome to have that commitment from the girls,” Bourque said. “They just want to be a part of this community.”
College Basketball Times cannot wait to see the impact these teams make on the NCBBA!
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