Freshman Jeremiah Jefferson (left) Freshman Zach Braxton (right).  (Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)
Freshman Jeremiah Jefferson (left) Freshman Zach Braxton (right). (Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)

After spending all of last season practicing and getting in shape, redshirt freshmen Zach Braxton and Jeremiah Jefferson are ready to begin their playing careers with the Weber State University men’s basketball team this fall.

“Redshirt year offers you a lot of time to get stronger,” Braxton said. “For me, I had to lose weight, so I lost weight and just became a bigger contributor to the team.”

A redshirt year allows athletes playing college sports to attend classes and practice with their team, but they are not allowed to participate in any games or meets. It is commonly used in cases where a freshman would not have a significant amount of playing time with the team or if they need to get in better shape to be able to play. By taking a redshirt year, athletes are able to get an extra year of practice without using up one of their four years of athletic eligibility.

As redshirts, Braxton and Jefferson would play on the scout team against the team’s starters during practice and then on game days, they would run through a “redshirt workout.”

“(On the scout team), you’re running all of the opposing team’s (plays) against the bench guys and just trying to help them out,” Braxton said. “And before every game, Jeremiah and I would have a redshirt workout where you go really, really hard. It’s an intense workout, working on skills.”

WSU Head Coach Randy Rahe said he was very happy with how Braxton and Jefferson performed as redshirts last year, adding that he thinks they were able to take advantage of the extra year and improve their abilities.

“We always view redshirting as a great privilege for kids to do that. It’s an advantage in a lot of ways,” Rahe said. “Kids come in, and they get a chance to improve their skills, work on their game, get their bodies right for Division I basketball. That extra year is huge for that.”

When it came time to make decisions on who to redshirt last year, Rahe said he sat down and spoke with Braxton and Jefferson and their parents to come to a final decision.

“I don’t make that decision (to redshirt an athlete). We make it as a whole with the player, the parents and myself. I let them make the final decision. I just show them where they’re at, what they could become, give them the situation and then they figure out what they want to do,” Rahe said. “I want them to make the decision, and once they do, they embrace the redshirt year more.”

Jefferson said that going into last year, the coaching staff wanted him to put on some weight to help improve his gameplay. After spending the year putting on weight and practicing, Jefferson said he was glad to have spent the year as a redshirt.

“I put on a lot of weight, so going into the lane, I feel I can take that contact more,” he said. “I’m just a more confident player, just learning the system all last year and sitting back and soaking everything in.”

The Wildcats begin their season with the annual Purple and White game on Oct. 21 followed by an exhibition match against Southern Virginia University on Nov. 7. Weber State begins its regular season on Nov. 13 when they host Utah State University.

As the season quickly approaches, Braxton said he feels the team is going to have a big year in the Big Sky Conference.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “We’ve been working really hard, and if we defend and rebound and play together and play hard, we have a really good chance to do some special things.”

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