December 30, 2010

Men’s Basketball Walk-Ons: The Gold Team

On December 17th, 2010 the four walk-ons who make up the Santa Clara men's basketball "Gold Team" had a night to remember.

Nate Mensah (senior, Salt Lake City, Utah), Philip Bach (junior, Medina, Wash.), Kyle Perricone (sophomore, Palo Alto) and Beau Gamble (freshman, Boulder, Colo.) checked in with less than four minutes remaining in the second half against Houston Baptist. Although Santa Clara had an 84-63 lead the walk-ons received the loudest ovation of the evening.

Even though their minutes in games are limited throughout the season the majority of their work is done behind the scenes in practice. "Usually a day or two before the game one of the coaches teaches us the other teams' plays," said Perricone. "During practice when we are scrimmaging we will run (our opponent's) plays … so our guys get used to the motions and the actions and trying to defend it.

While the starters and regulars off the bench don white and red jerseys, Mensah, Bach, Perricone and Gamble wear gold practice jerseys to distinguish themselves. As their teammates started cheering for the red or white teams in practice, the four walk-ons began to cheer for themselves. The Gold Team was born.

At first glance Mensah's shooting performance against Houston Baptist was not noteworthy. The senior was 0-5 from the field and 0-3 from the three-point line. However, he hit two free throws with 39 seconds remaining in the game. The two points were the first for Mensah in his Santa Clara career. "There were definitely some nerves, said Mensah. "You step to the line and you get all excited. Your adrenaline is rushing and you say to yourself 'well this could go either way.'"

26 seconds before Mensah knocked down his first career points, sophomore Kyle Perricone also capped off an unforgettable night.

Perricone only took one shot, but he was perfect from the field as he knocked down a jumper with 1:05 remaining in the game. Like Mensah, the points from Perricone were the first of his collegiate career.

For the sophomore, getting in and playing with his fellow Gold Team teammates was just as special as scoring his first career points. "I think the best part was that we all got to go in together," said Perricone. "We practice together on the scout team so getting in together in games is a lot of fun because we get to do what we do in practice. Like launch threes and go for tip dunks on every play," he said with a smile.

Along with Mensah and Perricone, Gamble had a memorable night as he made his collegiate debut. Although the fans at the Leavey Center were clamoring for Gamble to shoot the ball his main goal of the night was to set up his teammates, especially Mensah. "It was nice to get my feet wet … but my biggest thing was to get Nate some shots and I accomplished that," said Gamble. When asked why he didn't attempt a shot Gamble joked, "Coach Keating was calling it off."

Junior Philip Bach, the fourth member of the Gold Team, has seen his playing time diminish this season since the return of redshirt sophomore Kevin Foster. However, he still holds a positive outlook on his influence on the team. "It was really nice to get some minutes and step up and make some plays last year. Not only for myself but for the team," said Bach. "This year transitioning back I am still helping the team and getting the guys ready for the next game and the next play."

Mensah who is the elder statesmen and heart and soul of the Gold Team, echoed the words of his fellow teammate.

"We have just as much fun … during a game when we are at the end of the bench all together cheering for our teammates and celebrating big plays," said Mensah. "That's fun to us and that is all part of winning and if we hit a game winning shot we are going to celebrate just the same as if we come in and Phil hits threes."

In the Bronco's last game against Cal State Northridge "gold teamers" Philip Bach and Nate Mensah registered nine minutes and two minutes, respectively, in Santa Clara's 99-79 win.