A look at GVSU basketball student assistants

A.A. Knorr

Whether it be coordinating travel and food arrangements for road trips, scouting opposing teams or simply helping players get up extra shots after practice, the Grand Valley State men’s basketball student assistants play a major role behind the scenes for the Lakers.

The trio, Dylan Liddell, Zak Spryszak and Brent Boerema, put in hour after hour to ensure everything is running smoothly for the 14-4 Lakers.

“I just think their experience will benefit them in anything and everything they do,” said GVSU head coach Ric Wesley, who got his start as a student assistant at Central Michigan. “They’re service-oriented, they’re looking after the group, they help us with stats. They know what it means to put in long hours, hard work, they learn about passion, how to deal with people.”

Both Liddell and Spryszak, former high school basketball players, have future intentions of making a career as a basketball coach. While a vast number of coaches get their starts after wrapping up a playing career, some find their way into the coaching ranks starting as a student assistant.

“(Basketball has) been a big part of my life, so I wanted to continue in it. I knew about the time, sixth, seventh, eight grade, when you start figuring out you aren’t going to play in the NBA, you start thinking about what else you’re going to do,” Liddell said. “I knew basketball was a big part of my life and I wanted it to continue to be a big part of my life.”

Liddell, in his third season as a student assistant, is the de facto ringleader of the group. He travels with the team each game, and is the lone assistant to do so.

“You take that first step and start learning about what makes a collegiate basketball program tick, and as you’re doing those things every day, you’re gaining a lot of experience. The more you do and more you’re around, the more confidence the coaches have with you, so it’s been a great experience so far,” Liddell said.

While some sports junkies might struggle to be constantly around the game without any real opportunities to step on the court and contribute, the Laker student assistants have taken it with grace. They signed up to help out, and learn what it takes to become a coach. And what they get is exactly what they’re looking for.

“It hasn’t really (bothered me) as much as I though it would,” Spryszak said. “Now I just love watching the sport, trying to learn from it, analyzing every little piece. It’s almost like you moved up a level and know you have to do things differently in the sport.”

The Division II level of basketball doesn’t afford programs the opportunity to employ a fleet of coaches to each team, and, apart from Wesley, the Lakers have just two more official coaches. According to Wesley, Liddell has become acclimated enough and trusted enough in the program to fill the role of another assistant coach for the Lakers.

Student assistants play mediary between players and coaches, getting a unique look into both sides of the equation. Liddell rooms with three GVSU players, and gets a good feel for what goes on from both a player and a coach perspective.

Whether it be looking up stats for potential recruits, making sure players get their protein fill after each game or simply shouting words of encouragement, the GVSU student assistants play cog to the grinding, flowing machine that is college basketball. While it helps the team, it also helps the student assistants themselves.

“Over the years, I’ve met so many guys that that’s how they got their start, so all the programs I’ve been with, I’ve always put great value on those guys,” Wesley said. “We try to develop those young guys into not only coaches, but future leaders wherever they’re going to be in life.”