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"I knew my time was going to decrease, and I accepted it," Brush said recently. "I'm a realist. I'd sulk, but there are enough people around here who are going to sulk anyway."
Walk-ons get minute(s), II: The Panthers were down 106-83 with 1:33 to play when Evans thoughtfully inserted Brush. "Now entering the game for Pitt," intoned Don Sawyer over the Pauley public-address system, "Brian Bush."
Bush/Brush made his presence felt right away. He tugged down an offensive rebound, pump-faked and went right back up with the ball—to the delight of UCLA's 6'9" Rodney Zimmerman, who tomahawked the ball into Brush's larynx. On the Panthers' next possession Brush scrapped for yet another offensive board and went right back up with it. Zimmerman flicked this offering into the Bruin pep band. Later, Brush ended up with a loose ball in the paint near the Pitt basket and passed it back outside. Walk-ons are quick studies.
Walk-ons range from a very few starters to some first or second guys off the bench to a whole lot of catastrophe players or WBPs (Warm Bodies for Practice), a category in which Georgia Tech's Gaddy unashamedly includes himself. So do others. "Lends depth to Tech's backcourt" was the five-word assessment of Gaddy's hoops talent in the 1990-91 Tech media guide. Has a player's presence on the roster ever subtracted depth? "Well, what do you want me to write?" whined Mike Stamus, who composes Tech's media-guide bios. "That he's got limited talent? That he's not an ACC-caliber player?" That he was a team manager in the right place at the right time?
At a preseason practice in 1989, as Gaddy was going about his appointed managerial rounds, picking up paper cups and collecting sweat-soaked towels, he overheard coach Bobby Cremins ask, "How about that kid from Macon?" Gaddy pricked up his ears—walk-ons quickly learn to respond to references to them that don't include their names. Cremins wanted to run a certain half-court defensive drill, but injuries had left the Yellow Jackets short of bodies. Gaddy suited up and practiced.
He suited up again the next day and then every day for six weeks. The day before the season started Gaddy was getting his ankle taped when trainer Crandall Woodson asked him what number he wanted.
"Give me 10 if you got it," said Gaddy with atrociously feigned nonchalance.
"I wanted to whoop and holler," he recalls, "but Kenny [Anderson] was in the room, and I didn't want him to think I thought it was a big deal."
Why would Anderson have thought that? Why would making the roster of a perennial top 20 team have been a big deal to a guy who'd gotten no scholarship offer when he graduated from tiny Stratford Academy in Macon? True, coaches at Yale had thought about recruiting Gaddy and had corresponded with him briefly, but the university admissions office had turned him down. Concluding that he hadn't been much interested in Yale anyway, Gaddy enrolled at Tech. He would try out for the Yellow Jackets. When tryout day arrived, however, he was bedridden with the flu. So he had joined the team the only way he could, as a student manager.
A year later he was actually one of the Yellow Jackets—with conditions. Gaddy could not eat at the training table or travel to away games (team policy for nonscholarship players), and he would not, as it turned out, play in a game all season. He might as well have agreed to hand over his first-born male. Yet to him this was a dream come true. "All I could picture was a uniform with my name on the back of it," he says.