When the Boilermakers take the court in Mackey Arena, everything must be perfect. The pregame warmups must be clean, the water and towels must be readily available and the players must get any other help they need to stay in the right frame of mind for a 40-minute basketball game.
But all that doesn’t happen on its own. For the Boilermakers, behind-the-scenes action from team managers keeps everything running smoothly.
A manager has multiple jobs throughout a game day. They include rebounding for players during pregame and postgame shootarounds and providing water and towels during timeouts. Those guys who sprint out onto the court to wipe up sweat? Those are managers as well.
Aside from their in-game responsibilities, team managers do a lot of work for the team both on and off the court.
“We show up early before practice starts to set up,” said AJ Waldron, a senior in the College of Health and Human Sciences. “We’re in charge of game clock, shot clock, making sure the practice is just flowing well off Painter’s practice plan.”
On top of assisting during practice, Waldron said managers do “office work” for the team as well. Some of those tasks include sending mail-outs to recruits, putting together film clips and checking up on coaches if they need assistance.
“Their basketball seasons are really crazy,” Waldron said.
This may seem like an unusual job to some, but to Waldron, it was just the next step in his basketball career.
“I played basketball my entire life, and always just loved the game,” Waldron said. “I wanted to stay involved with basketball somehow.”
Waldron was denied the manager position his freshman year, but was accepted the year after. Since then, he said it has been one of the best experiences of his life.
“I would describe it as the best job that you can have as a student,” Waldron said. “By growing the relationships with the players and the coaching staff, getting to hang around a fantastic team.”
Sebastian Nalls, another team manager and a sophomore in the Krannert School of Management, has been managing since before his college days.
“I was a manager in high school,” Nalls said. “It’s obviously something that I wanted to do in college, so that was just the next step.”
Nalls, who is managing Purdue’s basketball team for his second year, has worked everywhere from the high school level to the NBA.
“I’ve worked out with NBA players before,” Nalls said. “Tony Snell, Mason Plumlee before. They’ve come in to where my high school is back home.”
As managers, Waldron and Nalls spend quite a bit of time around the players, who are seen as celebrities by many people on campus. To them, the players are just regular people.
“I would say a couple of my really close friends are some of the guys,” Waldron said. “You notice that celebrity status when you’re out in public with them, but they’re just normal people, and I think that the hardest thing that people don’t understand is that they’re just regular college students.”
Over Christmas break, when the team was still on campus, Waldron said that he and Nalls would spend “almost every night” with the team.
“I’m cool with all of them,” Nalls said. “We talk all the time, and I help them. And that’s my job, to make sure that they’re 100% for every single game.”
Nalls acknowledges the pressure that comes along with a job like this, but that doesn’t stop him from doing what he loves.
“Part of it is a little bit worrying,” he said. “You go around and you’re in front of 15,000 people and you don’t want to slip while you’re out in the middle of the floor or anything like that. But in the end of the day, you just make sure you’re doing your job, and you’re gonna do the best that you probably can.”