The Life and Times of a Walk-On

A trail of sweat slowly flowed down Taylor Trevisan’s exhausted body. Each drop followed his every step as he walked down the corridor that leads to the office of head coach and face of the Saint Joseph’s University men’s basketball team, Phil Martelli. Each step brought him a foot closer to a life-altering decision. But the call was not his. The decision was out of his hands.
Trevisan had just completed an open tryout with the men’s basketball team. Before fall break, the men’s basketball team holds an open tryout with 20-30 prospective walk-ons. Walk-ons rarely play in games. They are what some refer to as practice bodies. Trevisan knew this. In fact, he knew the entire open tryout routine. This was his second open tryout with the Hawks. He had been through this nerve-racking experience his freshman year and it did not end well. Trevisan was informed he did not make the team, no one had.
                                                                                                                          
“I played on the Hawks’ club JV team, so I was still playing basketball,” he said. “I never told myself I wasn’t going to try again. There was never a doubt in my mind. I just kept working at it”
Trevisan, a six-foot two-inch guard from West Chester, Pa., brought that experience with him to the open tryout his sophomore year. The tryouts consist of mini-games between players. The players compete in two on two, three on three, or four on four games. There are little to no drills during the initial tryouts. Coaches want to see if any of these guys can play, not if they can dribble with their off-hand.
“The coaches saw how you played in different situations,” Trevisan explained. “They were looking for knowledge of the game during live game action. You would think there would be a lot of drills, but that wasn’t the case.”
Mentality is crucial during a basketball tryout. The player’s game-plan walking into the gym will likely determine whether he makes the team or watches from the stands for the upcoming season. Some players take every shot. They believe the more points they score the greater possibility of standing out. Trevisan’s mentality was different. Selfish play will get a player nowhere in Phil Martelli’ system. His plan of attack was simple: play as hard as humanly possible. He never worried about his shot.
“Shots will fall, you’ll get your shots,” he said. “My main thing was bust my butt every minute. I told myself not to leave anything out there.  Hustle, dive for balls, box out, talk on defense. These little things set you apart from the man next to you.”
Trevisan and one other hopeful were the only players that were asked back to practice with the team over fall break. They survived first cuts. Practices at 6:30 am were the norm. More drills. More game situations. The next step was passing the eye test — does he look like he can play with the big boys? 
“My biggest worry was making sure I woke up in time for those early practices,” he joked.
After the practices during fall break, Trevisian was asked into the coach’s office. It was decision time.
“Coach Martelli first asked me about my schedule for classes,” Trevisan recalled. “He was like ‘so what do you have Monday and Tuesday?’ I mean, we got all the way to Friday.”
Inside, Trevisan was a mess. But he calmly listed off his classes to coach Martelli, somehow recalling each class for each day. Finally, coach Martelli informed Taylor that he had made the team and congratulated him.
“I was trying to hold it all in,” he said. “I was trying to hold myself back from hugging him.
I called my family right afterwards and they were so happy for me.”
In high school, Trevisan was captain of the basketball team and probably could have played at smaller division III schools, where he would likely get more playing time. But Trevisan never regretted his decision to walk on. After being told he was on the team, he called his coach at Salesianum High School in Delaware, Mike Gallagher.
“I gave him a call right after I found out,” he said. “I thanked him. My high school coach was a great influence on me. He was extremely excited and proud. I visited coaches from freshman ball all the way up just to thank them.”
Trevisan made the team because the coaches knew he would provide the highest energy to every practice every day. That was his role on the team — play each practice like a Big 5 game at the Palestra. Playing time is relative for a Division I walk-on.
“I try to bring an intensity and competitiveness for everyone else so they all get more out of the practice and get ready for the game,” he said. “Practices are my games.”
His perseverance paid off as he played in four games last season for the Hawks. At the team’s end of the season awards banquet, Trevisan was the recipient of the Daniel J. Cummins, Jr. Memorial Award for spirit. He credited his teammates and coach Martelli for the honor and for his incredible ride that will ultimately continue next season.
“He’s helped me from the little technical aspects of my shot, to my defense,” Trevisan said. “He’ll yell at me just like any other guy for slacking off.”
When asked what he would tell other athletes who had aspirations of walking on, Trevisan’s answer was simple — slackers need not apply.
“Work now,” he said. “Start now. Don’t show up a month before tryouts and try to make it. You have to start in the summer and work your tail off.”

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