Basketball manager embraces the grind


Manny De Los Santos

Manager Matt Poland prepares basketballs during Shocker Madness.

As a manager of the Wichita State men’s basketball team, Matthew Poland is accustomed to working behind the scenes.  Managers might not receive the same level of attention or celebrity status as players, but for the junior from Decatur, Illinois, the job is far from thankless.

“I love basketball — everything basketball,” Poland said. “One day I want to be coach Marshall out there coaching D-I.”

Getting to manage alongside a top college coach is great on-the-job training, and Poland tries to absorb as much as he possibly can from Marshall.

“I learn from him every day I come in,” Poland said. “I just want to work, want to get better and learn to manage the game the best way I can.”

The dedication exhibited by student assistants such as Poland does not go unnoticed by players.  Junior forward Rashard Kelly appreciates the commitment it takes for managers to keep the team operating in top condition. “The managers are probably top five one of the most important aspects of this program,” Kelly said.

At practices, Poland can often be found rebounding and helping with passing drills.  Other times he distributes and collects soaking sweat towels from players pushing their bodies to the limit.

“Sometimes you have to do the dirty work,” Poland said.

One of Poland’s most important jobs at any given practice is to keep statistics on player performance.  He documents turnovers, assists, shots made, and anything else Marshall asks about.  After practice, Poland combines collected data with his previous records to keep a running tally.

However, Poland’s responsibilities extend past daily practices. Players seeking extra reps or workout partners need look no further than to Poland.

“Even if I call Matthew and ask him if he wants to work out at eight o’clock in the morning before class, he’s willing to,” Kelly said. “Our managers are always ready to drop anything they’re doing and help, no questions asked.”

Poland, who was Ron Baker and Evan Wessel’s personal morning rebounder last year, has no qualms with putting in extra hours on the court and in the weight room.  In fact, he sees it all as part of the job description.

“It’s what I’m supposed to do. These guys are easy to work with,” Poland said. “I start my day and to end my day here. I’ll be here whenever I can, and if they need me, I’ll be there to go and help them.”

Poland’s enthusiasm for the game and its players is genuine, keeping the gears of the WSU basketball team going smoothly.

There is a difference between someone who legitimately loves what they do and someone who simply goes through the motions from day to day. Kelly recognizes this difference and credits Poland for his genuine dedication.

“I think it’s just his love for basketball and his love for assisting others just as much as possible that makes him a great manager,” he said.