The Life of Walk-On Student-Athletes Plays Out on BU’s Men’s Basketball Team
A trio of Patriot League Academic Honor Roll seniors supports team, one another
Michael Quinn, Jordan Tab, and Tim Uzoegbu had all been high school basketball stars when they arrived at Boston University in 2019. But they didn’t enter BU as recruited athletes. They chose the University for its academic reputation and were prepared to leave their playing days behind.
Quinn (CAS’23) is a premed biology major, Tab (Questrom’23, CAS’23) a double major in business and computer science, and Uzoegbu (CAS’23) a computer science major. But within weeks of arriving on campus, all three, still nursing their individual passion for basketball, found themselves in Case Gym, competing for a coveted spot as a men’s varsity team walk-on. Their journey, much to their surprise, has come to define their BU experience.
Three years, a Patriot League title, and a pandemic later, the three have become adept at balancing the demands of a student-athlete. They are not only teammates, but roommates, their friendship forged by the unique experience of being walk-ons to an NCAA Division I basketball team.
Head coach Joe Jones says he remembers that 2019 tryout “like it was yesterday.” He says he saw integrity, hard work, and toughness in each of the three freshmen.
Passion drove each of them to tryouts back in 2019. Although they had hoped to play in college, Quinn and Tab both chose to pursue academics at BU. It was their love of basketball that brought them to the court looking for a place on the roster as a walk-on.
Quinn would tell you modestly that it was probably one of the better tryouts he’s ever had.
Unlike Quinn and Tab, Uzoegbu didn’t come to BU looking to play for the Terriers. Instead, the Terriers found him. Uzoegbu frequented the open courts at FitRec, and after playing pickup with fellow undergrads Ethan Brittain-Watts (CAS’23) and Daman Tate (SHA’24) and now graduates Sukhmail Mathon (CAS’21, Wheelock’22) and Javante McCoy (Questrom’21, SHA’22), Uzoegbu was convinced to try out.
“Tim and Jordan are my best friends,” Quinn says. “They push me every day to be the best person I can be. We’re all in the same boat through all four years and they are incredibly hardworking and extremely intelligent people. Being able to be with them on and off the court has been instrumental to my success at the University.”
Making the team ahead of the 2019-2020 season, Quinn, Tab, and Uzoegbu joined a championship caliber roster. BU won the 2019-2020 Patriot League Championship before COVID-19 canceled their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m just really proud of them,” Jones says. “They are what you would want to happen if you came to BU. I think those guys have done a great number for our basketball program in our community.”
“Great examples of what a student athlete is supposed to be”
Three years later, the walk-ons do not play as much as some of their teammates. Instead, they have taken it upon themselves to grow with the squad and have transitioned to a leadership role this season.
“I see myself as like a vocal leader, helping make sure that the more experienced players are staying on top of what they have to get done on the court as well as off the court in the classroom,” Uzoegbu says.
With Uzoegbu on the more experienced players, Tab directs his position as a leader toward the freshmen, including Otto Landrum (CAS’26), who graduated from the same high school as Tab: Torrey Pines High School in San Diego.
“I remember when I first got here, how challenging it was to adjust to the weather and being away from your family,” Tab says. “It’s tough to be a freshman just because you’re worried about your mistakes, and you don’t know your role. I am making sure they understand what’s expected of them, and helping guide them into [being] a BU player.”
For all they do to support the team, Jones, citing their proximity to the team and work in the classroom, calls his senior walk-ons “great examples of what a student athlete is supposed to be.”
The in-season life of any BU student-athlete is a cyclical regimen. From morning skating at Agganis Arena or evening shooting at Case Gym—and classes in between—BU student-athletes personify the “work hard, play hard” mantra. The pressures of embedding themselves on the court and performing in the classroom are amplified for the walk-ons.
For Quinn, the hectic schedule of being a student-athlete gives him structure.
“There’s only 24 hours in a day—I gotta get out of practice, I gotta eat something, and I gotta really focus on my work,” he says. “So without basketball, I feel less productive because it really puts you in a mindset like: I have to be disciplined and I have to work hard to get this done.”
In completing problem sets and bio labs by day and shooting hoops at night, the three three-time Patriot League Academic Honor Roll athletes have found camaraderie with each other. Within his hectic schedule, Uzoebgu relies on Quinn, and specifically Tab—who studies computer science with him—as support systems.
“I’m not going to say it’s easy—it’s definitely difficult,” Uzoegbu says. “We all go through the same struggles at the same time. What’s cool is [when it’s] getting tough midterm season, finals season, we’re all doing the basketball thing as well as getting our hours in to study. So it’s been good having those guys as a support system.”
In addition to relying on one another, the walk-ons also point to the coaching staff as a major support to their college careers.
“We have a great coaching staff,” Tab says. “We’re all assigned academic coaches for if you’re struggling in a class or if you’re missing class. They just help you organize your whole academic life. When I’m struggling, they’re always there.”
Quinn, Tab, and Uzoegbu are nine games into their senior season. According to Tab, the future-minded Terriers often spend hours in their common room discussing future plans as graduation looms.
Quinn has been accepted into the BU MMEDIC program, an early assurance program to BU’s Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. Tab is applying to graduate schools and is open to playing more collegiate basketball in the future. Uzoegbu hopes to work as a software engineer for a major tech company.
“When people hear the word walk-on, they kind of have an idea in their head, someone who’s in the shadows of the team or the environment.” Uzoegbu says. “That athletic experience has been so rewarding. Getting to go to Cancun Classic my freshman year to winning the Patriot League championship, but also meeting so many interesting people in the classroom, and the surrounding community as well—I’ve been blessed having this experience and really making the most of it.”
The Terrier men’s basketball team next plays Notre Dame University, in South Bend, Ind., on Wednesday, December 7, at 7 pm. All home games and conference contests can be streamed on ESPN+, and fans can keep up with BU on GoTerriers.com and @TerrierMBB on Twitter.