Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Weak-side help (Men’s basketball)

His pick-up basketball days are over.

Well, at least for now.

Josh Grier, who played club basketball last season, now spends his afternoons at Welsh-Ryan Arena, practicing with the Northwestern men’s basketball team.

The 6-foot-1 sophomore caught the eye of varsity NU players as they played pickup games last fall at Sports Pavilion and Aquatics Center.

They were impressed. So they told their coaching staff about the Orlando, Fla., native.

“We met last year and played all the time together,” guard T.J. Parker said. “He hustles for everything and just loves the game. He can play, he probably never had a chance to get looked at.

“We need good players to practice against.”

So the coaches gave Grier his shot.

And it paid off when coach Bill Carmody added Grier to this season’s roster, along with fellow walk-ons Michael Jenkins and Joe Kennedy.

With just nine players on scholarship, including two transfers who aren’t eligible until next season, Carmody could barely hold intrasquad scrimmages — he was forced to suit up his assistants to run drills.

“This is the year I need them,” Carmody said. “We had fewer guys scholarship-wise and Pat Towne, right before the season, tore his achilles and he wasn’t going to give us that much during games. But he was a productive practice player and scout team guy, so we had to get a couple guys to help us.”

Last season the team had no walk-ons, and in 2002 Jenkins was the only non-scholarship player.

Although the walk-ons usually don’t see much action in games, Carmody said Grier, Jenkins and Kennedy are full-fledged members of the team.

“Mostly, I try to help the guys at practice, especially after games that we win because the intensity level goes down,” Grier said.

“Since I don’t play that much I try to get up for practice and get them motivated because I think a lot of our wins have come off having a lot better practices.”

The walk-ons play on the second team during practice and, a few days before each game, serve as the scout team, simulating the opponent’s offense.

At times, the left-handed Grier said, being on the scout team can pose problems.

“I’ll have to be a right-handed player, or 6-10,” Grier said.

Grier, a guard, said his teammates dubbed him Rick Fox because they think he resembles the Los Angeles Lakers forward in appearance.

Grier said he doesn’t plan to continue playing basketball after graduation. The biology major said he’ll probably go to medical school and pursue a career in pediatrics.

Kennedy, a 5-foot-10 guard who comes from a basketball family, said he’d like to become a college coach some day. His father, Pat, is the head coach at Montana. The elder Kennedy also led teams at DePaul, Florida State and Iona.

The sophomore transferred to NU from DePaul after his freshman year, but became eligible immediately, since he hadn’t been a member of the Blue Demons’ team.

As a member of the Wildcats’ roster, Kennedy said he and the other walk-ons strive to keep the team at a high level of play, particularly in practice. And although it’s scant, Kennedy said he’s satisfied with his playing time, which has totaled just three minutes this season.

“I just want to see the team do well,” Kennedy said. “Playing is not really an issue … as long as I can help the guys in practice. That’s all I’m hoping to do.”

Center Ivan Tolic said he views Kennedy as a player-coach who sees the court well and has a great basketball mind.

Tolic also has learned from Jenkins, whom he said sets the toughest screens of all the guards.

“You should see how many elbows he gives to guys in practice,” Tolic said.

Jenkins grew up in Pasadena, Calif., where he played with another gym junkie, current Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas.

The 5-foot-9 guard has played more than any other walk-on, appearing in eight games for a total of 15 minutes. His teammates and coach said his aggressive, scrappy style makes up for his height.

“That little 5-6 guy who is real fast gives me a hard time,” Parker said.

Jenkins is also an intelligent player, Carmody said.

“Both (Jenkins and Kennedy) are a little undersized, but besides that they’re good players,” he said. “It’s good when you have someone like that because when you’re running the second team you have to have someone with an idea.”

Jenkins said he has not ruled out continuing his basketball career beyond college. He said he’d like to try making a professional team overseas.

The junior walked on as a freshman, but sat out last season for personal reasons. He said he’s glad to be back on the team and filling his old spot.

“We all have our roles,” Jenkins said. “Right now I’m just helping everybody prepare to play and then when the coach calls on me to get in, I’m always ready. I love playing, practicing and I’m just happy to be here.”

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Weak-side help (Men’s basketball)