What if I told you there was a team ranked first in the country on our campus? They can be found on the sidelines of every 49er basketball game. It’s the Charlotte 49ers manager basketball team.
After weeks of games, the team is sitting atop the rankings for Manager Games, an unofficial twitter ranking. We sat down with head manager, Matt Sholtis to learn more about the team’s success.
The journey to the top started two years ago during Sholtis’ freshman year. With a large group of managers, coupled with a coaches encouraging, they began playing one-on-one games. Last season, the group played their first game against another team when the Niners hosted James Madison. JMU came away with the win that night, but the loss didn’t dampen the spirits of the team.
“It was a blast. We had almost every single manager out there. We tried to get everyone playing. That might have hurt us honestly because we didn’t have our best guys out there. We enjoyed it, even though we lost we had a blast,” Sholtis said.
Though they are called “Manager Games,” the roster is not limited to managers.
“It’s really like the whole support staff within basketball. Not just managers play because most teams don’t bring enough on the road to be able to play, so you get GA’s, operations guys, video coordiators, assistant coaches even sometimes playing,” Sholtis said.
The team’s “designated coach” is assistant coach Andre Gray.
“He comes when we’re on the road and supports us, cracks jokes from the sideline while we’re playing,” Sholtis said.
Though the roster fluctuates depending on availability and who traveled with the trip, there is a group of five core players that keep the team together: Tanner Smith, Pat Corrigan, Colby Lewis, Jack Quinn and Sholtis.
Smith is currently an interim assistant coach and played four years at Clemson. Three of his four years spent in Tiger Town he lead his team to NCAA tournament appearances. He also spent two years playing professionally overseas.
“He’s by far our best player. He’s a little bit out of his prime, but he’s still miles ahead of everyone else,” Sholtis said.
Corrigan serves as the Associate Director of Basketball Operations played four years at Hampden-Sydney. He’s been with the Charlotte program for five years as a Graduate Assistant, Program Assistant and now in his current role.
Corrigan’s playing style is “more of a get-to-the-basket kind of going to overpower you type player,” Sholtis said.
Lewis returns to his home court after playing for Charlotte from 2009-13. He was a two-time winner of the Charles Hayward Award. Sholtis described Lewis as a “real sharp shooter.”
Rounding out the group of five are managers Quinn and Sholtis who are both students at Charlotte.
The first major victory this season was a revenge win against James Madison.
“Colby this year put up an incredible performance against James Madison. We didn’t keep track, but we all came to an agreement that he had 60 points because he hit like 20 threes. He was pulling it from the logo, it was incredible he probably missed like three shots that game,” Sholtis said.
A little later in the season, when the manager team finally broke into the top ten rankings, they had a big matchup ahead of them: a number four-ranked ECU team.
“It was a pretty big game, we were on the road,” Sholtis said. “We started the game down by 15 points, the pressure was getting to us. But then we battled back, we were up three at halftime and we ended up winning a close one.”
With traveling to road games, there is a lot of down time. The game gives the guys something to do.
“We have shoot around that night, then other than that we’re just kind of sitting around. It’s cool to get a sweat in and it gives you something to do other than sit in your hotel room,” Shotlis said.
Currently the main audience for the games are passing by players, but Sholtis wants that to change.
“Last year we had a couple of players come by and watch. They get a kick of it because we’re always on the sideline watching them play. It’s like roles reversed. They’re ripping us apart, talking trash. Any night before a game here at Halton, odds are we’re going to have a manager game. Get the word out, we’d love to have people come watch our games,” Sholtis said.
The team has been sitting at number one for two weeks now.
“It probably means more to me than anyone else. I take a lot of pride in my job and I love being a manager,” Sholtis said. “It’s cool to be recognized. I would rather our actual team be number one in the nation, that would be way cooler.”