Western Washington University sophomore BJ Kolly has started every game in the 2022-23 Western men’s basketball season, averaging 10.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, all after sitting out for the entirety of his first year.
Kolly is a redshirt freshman, meaning that although he is academically a sophomore, he spent his first season redshirting for Western.
Redshirting is a term describing college athletes who do not participate in any varsity competition for their entire first season for extended eligibility purposes. Per NCAA rule, student-athletes have four years of athletic eligibility. A redshirt year allows an athlete to save one of those years while they get acclimated to college and team life.
AJ Albritton is an assistant coach and the head of player development for Western men’s basketball. He focuses on film and on-court player development.
“Usually if you’re redshirting, it’s probably because you’re lacking something,” Albritton said. “Or, in most cases here at our school, we have talent, so we have that spot filled up already, but we want them to be a part of our program.”
Albritton was a redshirt at Pima College in 2011. He works with Western’s active players, but he is also in charge of preparing the redshirts for next season when they will be playing.
“[Kolly] is not your typical redshirt,” Albritton said. “He didn’t need to work on much; he was ready to play last year, but I think the redshirt year helped him be able to analyze the game better.”
Coaches will ask a player to redshirt for a year until they can get an opportunity to play meaningful minutes in their second year.
“We give them a plan: ‘This is our plan for you to sit this year and learn the system and then be ready to go next year,’” Albritton said.
True freshman Jadyn Watts is living the redshirt experience for the 2022-23 season.
Watts originally intended to play with Western’s women’s team this season, but she and the coaches mutually decided that it would be best to wait a year.
Most incoming freshmen are aware of whether they’ll be redshirting before coming to campus. Because of this, the team had an extra travel spot, granting Watts the unique opportunity to go on the road with the active players.
“I feel like next year I’ll be prepared,” Watts said of the opportunity. “I’ll know what all the gyms in our conference look like. It makes me excited to play next year.”
Aside from playing in games, Watts noted that her weightlifting schedule is the primary difference between the active players and redshirts.
She and the other redshirt players have more time to lift and build up their strength, all while getting comfortable with the dynamic of college basketball.
“If I’m working with a redshirt, most of the time it’s getting used to the speed of the game,” Albritton said. “Putting drills out there where they can learn how to go gain speed, whether that’s shooting or dribbling or making reads, 3-on-0 action or 5-on-0 action.”
Kolly mentioned that his redshirt year prepared him for a larger role with the team, and he’s glad he made that decision.
“The offseason after my redshirt season, I could notice my confidence start going up,” Kolly said. “Your teammates and coaches start letting you know that you’re doing good, and you start seeing your game elevate.”
While Watts has yet to play her first college basketball game, she is also confident in her decision to redshirt.
“There’s so much to learn, and it was overwhelming at first,” Watts said. “Redshirting kind of provided the opportunity to sit back, fully take everything in and learn.”
Andrew Foster (he/him) is a sports reporter at The Front. He enjoys listening to music, playing basketball and is working towards a degree in journalism.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.