The role of a walk-on is often a thankless one: From summer workouts, pre-dawn runs and lifts to sprints, suicides and late-night shooting sessions, they trudge through all of the muck of college athletics without any of the glamor: No scholarship, no accolades, and no time in the limelight. They run the scout team and serve as practice dummies, and spend their game days waving towels from the end of the bench.
Walk-ons can often be the heart and soul of programs; lead-by-example types who never get the recognition they deserve, so we’re giving it to them here:
Ryan Cook, Jr., G, UMBC: A first-year walk-on, Cook is by all accounts a terrific kid who has done everything within his power to pull together a team enduring yet another disastrous season. Like any ideal walk-on, he does everything with a ton of energy and positivity. Unlike most walk-ons, he not only started, but flat out produced, finishing 13th in overall scoring at 12.4 PPG, 16th in conference scoring at 12 PPG, and fourth in free-throw percentage at .854 (70-of-82). He also threw down some high-flying dunks that were beyond uncharacteristic for a 6’2” (maybe) walk-on. Cook dropped a career-high 28 points against Albany.
Mike Horn, Jr., G, Binghamton: Horn is the ultimate walk-on: Having hung up his sneakers after high school, he attended a hastily thrown together open tryout following the 2009 scandal and implosion of the Bearcats and made the team. After a year glued to the end of the bench, he left the team to focus on his academics, before returning this season. Horn didn’t put up much in the way of numbers, but he played, and did a very solid job on the defensive end while bringing constant energy. The 5’8” guard played 30 minutes against UMBC, and in 13 minutes against Vermont played a crucial defensive role in the Bearcats’ upset of the Catamounts.
Quinton Jones, Soph., G, UMBC: According to teammates, Jones is a tireless worker and great all-around guy. For the first half of the season, he started at point guard and did an admirable job, making numerous hustle-plays sacrificing his body for the team. The 5’10” guard posted career-highs of 14 points and eight rebounds earlier this season against CCSU.
Javon Ralling, Jr., F, Binghamton: One of the best stories in the conference – one which has gotten almost no coverage – has been that of Ralling. Like Horn, he made the team out of the 2009 open-tryout, but years of hard work have allowed Ralling to improve from a practice dummy to a useable America East rotation player and part-time starter. The 6’4” forward scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting in 39 minutes against Hartford.
Clancy Rugg, Soph., F, Vermont: The native Vermonter isn’t simply a walk-on, good practice player and energy guy, or “feel good story” about a native son staying in the Green Mountain State (he is all of those things): Rugg has become an integral part of the second-place Catamounts, providing tremendous energy, solid defense, and a nice scoring touch off the bench. Rugg averaged 5.1 points and 13.3 minutes for the Catamounts, scoring a career-high 18 points against Binghamton.