Just keep walking on

MARKO TOMICH | Contributing sports reporter

Walking on to a college sports team may inspire images of a plucky athlete working his or her way onto a squad and trying to make an impact.

Alex Barlow, a junior guard on the Butler men’s basketball team, showed the value a walk-on can bring to a team in December 2012.

During the annual Crossroads Classic, Barlow put home the winning basket in an overtime victory against the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers.

Barlow now boasts a scholarship and regular spot in the team’s starting lineup.

Barlow’s Cinderella story is not how those of all walk-ons turn out, but his success shows what can happen when a walk-on athlete takes advantage of an opportunity.

Walk-on athletes, even if they are not participating in the team’s events, do many things to make their team better, men’s basketball coach Brandon Miller said.

This year, the team has three walk-ons–Steve Bennett, Mi who have been invaluable to the squad, even if their work is not seen on game day, Miller said.

“They play a huge role in what we do (because) they come to practice every single day and work their tails off,” Miller said. “They have a huge part of what we do everyday, no matter what the statistics show.”

When the team considers accepting a walk-on, Miller said he and other coaches look for everything they would in a scholarship-holding athlete.

“We are looking for a great teammate, (and) we want that player to have a very good work ethic,” Miller said. “We want that player to represent all the things that a scholarship athlete would represent.”

The team is not currently on the search of walk-ons, which may come as a disappointment to students like Dillon Daniel.

Daniel is a member of the Butler men’s club basketball team. He participated in Division III basketball at Manchester College but has since transferred to Butler.

Daniel helped lead Butler’s club team to a runner-up finish at the 2013 National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association national tournament.

“I had hoped the club team could be my stepping stool to getting my name out there a little bit,” Daniel said. “It was also a great experience for me regardless, and the team really helps me fine tune my skills.”

Miller said he is no stranger to seeing students walk on to Butler’s team, including a teammate Miller had while playing for the Bulldogs.

Other Butler sports have accepted walk-ons into their ranks as well.

Sophomore Kayla Pope figured she had wrapped up her softball career in high school, saying she thought she was burnt out after 14 years of playing.

Pope found her passion once again after helping coach softball at a local middle school, leading her to reach out to Butler’s team.

“During the summer going into sophomore year, I emailed the coach (Scott Hall) asking questions about the team and their process of trying out for the team,” Pope said.

On a mission, Pope started a workout program to get back into playing shape before arriving on campus.

“I went to the coach’s office and introduced myself, and we sat down and talked for a little bit about softball,” Pope said. “He also asked questions to get to know me more as an individual.”

Pope is currently one of three listed catchers on the team. She said she never expected to be playing for the squad when she first arrived on campus, but she is glad she made the decision to walk on.

“While playing in high school, I would always dream about playing in college, but I never thought I would be playing on a Division I team,” Pope said.