What started with a group of self-proclaimed gym rats plucked from the intramural office on Baylor’s campus has evolved into an NCAA-regulated organization.
If you’ve never heard of Baylor’s Dream Team, you’re probably not in the minority, but this organization has been around since Coach Kim Mulkey’s very first season on campus.
At its inception, Mulkey recognized a need for a squad of guys who could practice and scrimmage with her teams, with the intent that this group would afford her the opportunity to focus entirely on one aspect of her squad’s game.
As Kaylin Rice, the Associate Director of Operations for the Lady Bears, explained, “She wants somebody else to get in there and focus on defense so that she can focus on the offensive side.”
“Coach Johnny Derrick was one of the assistant basketball coaches, and he contacted me in the staff’s first year at Baylor,” explained Matt Stott, an inaugural member of the Dream Team and 2000 Baylor graduate. “He asked if we could get a group of guys who would be willing to help out the women’s team. We had seven or eight guys, mostly because we were excited to play in the Ferrell Center. We quickly found out that the girls were excellent players and that Coach Mulkey was an outstanding teacher.”
In its nineteen years of existence, the Dream Team has evolved. Gone are the days of finding random players on the intramural courts. Now, to join the organization, players participate in a campus-wide tryout during the second week of classes for the new school year. While there have been tryouts at various points in the past, the official process has been implemented under Rice, who began her tenure at Baylor as an undergraduate women’s basketball manager and took over the Dream Team program from Edsel Hamilton in 2015.
For Rice, the biggest challenge has been making sure that Baylor students are aware of the organization’s existence. For this, social media and in-person presentations have been huge assets.
“Something I’ve done consistently over the past three years is have a booth at Late Night at the SLC,” Rice said. “So, I set up a booth, have gear, have a TV showing footage from practice and pictures, and I just explain it to guys, because most of them have never heard of the Dream Team before. We also put out graphics on social media and have flyers around campus and in dorms with male residents.”
While it is common for women’s teams across the country to scrimmage and practice against male counterparts, Baylor’s has the unique distinction of being called the Dream Team. The name harkens back to the 1992 Olympic men’s basketball squad full of the sport’s current and future superstars, but Baylor’s iteration is comprised of young men with varying degrees of skill.
“We get a wide range of people at tryouts,” Rice said in an interview with the Baylor Line. “Some guys who just played high school basketball and didn’t really play a lot but just enjoyed the game, and then we have some really good athletes who could have played at a lower level but came to Baylor to get that education.”
Interestingly, when Dream Team selections are being made, Baylor coaches are focusing more on the current make-up of Baylor’s team and not the landscape of women’s basketball overall.
“When we conduct tryouts, coaches are thinking of our players. Who can guard Kalani? She’s six-foot-seven, and if you’re just six-foot, you’re going to have a rough time guarding her and competing with her at practice, so we got tall guys.”
One major change in the organization is that the NCAA now regulates the male practice squads for women’s basketball. This explains the decision to hold tryouts in the second week of school, when most students are still acclimating to the new semester.
“We do tryouts as early as possible so we can get them eligible to practice,” explained Rice. Just like scholarship athletes, member of the Dream Team are required to submit themselves to the NCAA clearinghouse if they join the organization in their first year of college.
“Eligibility issues are more intense each year. If you’re a freshman, you have to enroll in the NCAA eligibility center. That entails sending in test scores, high school transcripts, and paying an eighty-dollar filing fee, all of which takes quite a bit of time to get processed.”
Once guys have been cleared through the NCAA, the real work begins.
Reed Glass, a Senior Finance and Accounting major, has been on the team since his Sophomore year at Baylor. He played basketball in high school in his hometown of Lufkin, and the Dream Team affords him the opportunity to continue playing a sport he loves. By joining to squad, he has committed to three practices per week, each practice lasting between two and three hours, depending on where the Lady Bears are in the season.
It’s a time commitment that comes without the glory of the bright lights in the Ferrell Center, and most Baylor fans will never even know the role he has played in helping to prepare the beloved Lady Bears for and throughout the college basketball season. But, Reed says, he does it because the Dream Team allows him to be part of something bigger than himself.
“I love the game, and I love the girls, and I also really enjoy the guys that I practice with. So that makes it all worth it.”
And that, succinctly, is the motivation for pretty much every guy who has been a part of the Dream Team since its inception. While there are a few extra perks (workout gear and a pair of basketball shoes), it is genuinely a labor of love. And the work of these young men pays off tenfold for the Lady Bears each season as they win one Big 12 Championship after another and contend for National Championships.