Walk-on wonder

“Student managers are a huge part of college basketball and don’t get nearly the recognition they deserve,” said Charleston men’s basketball senior walk-on Erik Goldbach.

Goldbach spent his first three seasons on campus as a student manager, working on the court and behind the scenes to keep players and coaches happy.

Former student manager Erik Goldbach made his Charleston debut against Allen University. (Photo by Michael Wiser)

“People really don’t realize how much work has to be done,” Goldbach said.

Critical cogs in the Cougar basketball machine, the unheralded student managers’ responsibilities in games and practices range from charting statistics, to helping with drills and rebounding and even running the scout team defense. Outside the gym, student managers help with packing, laundry and finding food accommodations on road trips.

Though this may sound like grunt work, these jobs are not for everyone. Many managers, like Goldbach, have opportunities to play full careers at Division II or III basketball programs.

At Lancaster Catholic High School in Pennsylvania, Goldbach lettered three years in basketball. Earning a spot as a starter in his upperclassmen seasons, Goldbach led the team in points, assists and three pointers.

“I wanted to play Division I,” Goldbach said. “That was the goal. That was the dream. So I didn’t want to just go somewhere else and play, because it just wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to choose a school that I wasn’t comfortable with.”

Goldbach said it was unclear when there would be an opportunity to walk-on when first conversing with former Charleston head coach Doug Wojcik. Yet despite this uncertainty and a coaching change following his freshman season, Goldbach remained confident in the program.

Hard work pays off

In August, with the beginning of the school year approaching, Goldbach got called into head coach Earl Grant’s office for a one-on-one conversation. After discussing a variety of personal topics, Grant concluded, “So you know you’re on the team now.”

“It was definitely an emotional moment for me, one I’ll always remember,” Goldbach said.

In games, Goldbach is readily recognizable as the player with the most expressive reactions on the bench.

“When I’m in the moment I just do random stuff,” Goldbach said. “I get so passionate about it that it just overtakes me and then I’m just ‘in.’ I don’t know what I’m doing in the moment but I look back and I’m like damn, I really just did that.”

In his first official opportunity to play for the maroon and gold, a preseason victory over Allen University (118-67, Nov. 4), Goldbach made his first shot attempt, draining a three-pointer in front of the Charleston faithful.

“I think the best reaction was from my teammates,” Goldbach said. “When I looked back at it I saw the bench reaction and that was kind of the coolest part. To see everyone more excited for me than I was even for myself.”

Despite this momentous occasion, the Philadelphia native’s best moment was suiting up to play Villanova at The Pavilion.

“That was a dream come true. My uncle is actually a graduate of St. Joe’s, so I used to go to the St. Joe’s-Villanova games,” Goldbach said. “Growing up, Villanova was a great team all the time so I always wanted to play there or play against them. To be able to run out of the tunnel at Villanova, when they are the No. 1 team in the country, was pretty cool.”

As Goldbach continues to check off life-long aspirations this season, the team’s end goal remains clear.

“Win,” Goldbach said. “Win the conference, win the CAA Tournament and then make some noise.”

Charleston has done a lot of winning of late, with the only loss on the conference season coming at the hands of the CAA defending champions, UNC Wilmington (65-59, Jan. 19). The Cougars (16-5, 7-1), sitting at second place in the CAA standings behind UNCW, prepare for a three game road trip to Towson (Jan. 26, 7 p.m.), Drexel (Jan. 28, 2 p.m.) and UNCW (Feb. 2, 7 p.m.).

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On a cold January evening in the winter of 2004, Sam Oleksak realized his dream. As a mere fourth grader, he had the chance to announce a high school basketball game for his hometown television station. In the hopes of one day becoming a sports pundit, Sam began at Cisternyard News in Fall 2014. He now serves as the Sports Editor on staff and also makes frequent appearances on Cisternyard Radio.

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