Plymouth grad savors a-maize-ing role with U of M hoops team
While waves of University of Michigan students flocked to Cabo and Cancun last week to work on their Spring Break tans (among other things), U of M senior Devon Wisniewski trekked to snowy Midwest towns Champaign and Urbana, Illinois, and Bloomington, Indiana to, well, work.
And the personable 2019 Plymouth High School graduate couldn’t have been happier.
The son of two U of M alums — David and Christina — Wisniewski is a head student manager for the University of Michigan’s basketball team — a role that comes with a vast range of responsibilities, all of which he embraces with a tireless gusto — and last week’s Wolverines’ schedule included road games against the Illini (March 2) and Hoosiers (March 5).
According to a recent article on ESPN.com, the odds of becoming a student manager for an elite NCAA basketball program like Michigan’s “are about as stacked as playing for an elite program” — a reality Wisniewski understands and appreciates to the fullest.
Hundreds of students apply for just a handful of student manager jobs each season, ESPN.com noted.
Like a second family
“It’s obviously really cool (being around world-class athletes and high-profile coaches) on a daily basis,” Wisniewski said, “especially at a university where my parents attended and we had basketball season tickets since I was a little kid. From the first day I started this job, I felt like I was accepted into this family atmosphere; not once have I been treated like, you know, a servant or anything like that. Everyone — from the coaches and players to the support staff — knows it’s all about working as one toward building a culture of success.
“It’s been a great time. Everybody has shown me nothing but love, support and appreciation, and I’m so thankful for that.”
Majoring in Sport Management (he is on track to earn a bachelor’s degree in the spring), Wisniewski first applied for a student manager job in the spring of 2021 (the tail-end of his sophomore year at Michigan).
“That August or September, they asked me if I wanted to come in for an interview,” Wisniewski recounted. “I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough.”
He advanced to the next round of “tryouts”, which consisted of observing a basketball practice one day and working a practice the next.
“They wanted to see how the candidates did in that environment,” he said. “We were put in one-on-one workouts with players — rebounding for them, stuff like that — and we’d even help guard players in drills if needed.”
Assists are his specialty
A short time later, Wisniewski was offered one of three open positions.
The former basketball player at Plymouth High School — he still holds the Wildcats’ single-season assists record (137) — said his hoops-playing background helped him secure the position.
“It’s not like playing high school basketball was a requirement, but it’s definitely helpful if you’re able to help out with workouts,” he explained. “It’s valuable because a lot of players like to go off by themselves before, during or after practice and get live reps, so if the student managers can help guard, rebound, or whatever, it helps the process.”
Wisniewski’s responsibilities range from using a towel to remove sweat from playing surfaces to editing highlight reels of recruits (and potential transfers) for members of the coaching staff. During the season, he’ll also edit two-minute-ish highlights of players on opposing teams that the Wolverine players and coaches can study.
Never travel weary
As a second-year head student manager, Wisniewski is one of three managers who travels to away games with the team.
“I look at the travel aspect as an exciting part of this job,” he said. “While it’s not always ideal getting back from a 9 p.m. away game at 3 a.m. and you have to get to an 8:30 a.m. class the next morning; there are a lot of late nights, obviously, but I love the travel and getting to see all the different arenas.”
Wisniewski said he has solid friendships with every member of the team and coaching staff.
“We’re in the building together so often, the relationships just tend to grow naturally,” he said. “If a student manager goes into this job and tries to force friendships with the players, it’s not going to happen. The players would be like, ‘Who is this kid?’ If you let it happen naturally like we do, the friendships build.
“For instance, myself and the other managers hang out with (Michigan star) Hunter Dickinson and the other players occasionally away from practice. They’re great guys and they really appreciate what we do for them.”
Possibly the best perk that has emerged from Wisniewski’s experience with the U of M program was a 10-day trip to France and Greece last summer.
“That was easily one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “One night we took this ferry ride down a river in Paris. The Eiffel Tower was all lit up when we floated past it. What a surreal moment. And trekking up the hill toward the Parthenon in Athens, Greece — what a memory.”
He’s still ballin’
When the opportunities arise, members of each NCAA Division 1 hoops program’s student-manager contingent meet the night before the real teams play in two 20-minute-half games. Team records are kept and rankings are created based on won-loss records and fan voting via Twitter.
Wisniewski and his band of maize-and-blue manager brothers are currently 5-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country, he shared.
“Once the regular season is over, a 64-team bracket is developed and games are played, with the winners determined by how many votes each team receives from their fans on Twitter,” Wisniewski said. “The teams that advance to the Elite 8 are invited to the real Final Four (in Houston this year) to play an actual tournament, so I’m hoping we make it.”
It’s no surprise to those who have seen Wisniewski perform on a basketball court (the author included), his primary role is that of a distributor.
“Like always, I’m a pass-first guy — you won’t see many isolations run for me,” he said, laughing.
Often, though, it’s the assists that are appreciated as much as the accolades — something Wisniewski has learned both on and off the court at the University of Michigan the past two seasons.
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