Walk-on athletes: how they make it and breaking stereotypes


With the men’s basketball team having a total of 15 student-athletes and only 13 full-paid scholarships to hand out, it leaves the team with two walk-ons.

These walk-ons are not guaranteed playing time, have to pay for their education out of pocket and sometimes are not able to travel with the team for away games.

McKay Howell, freshman forward, shared what the hardest part of being a walk-on is for him.

“Knowing that you have to help your team in multiple different ways,” said Howell. “Knowing that you have to come every day like everyone else and also knowing that you probably won’t be there during the game. Another tough part about it is knowing that you have to sit on the bench supporting your team without getting in. It’s tough doing what they’re doing, but it’s still fun.”

The Louisville, KY native shared his recruitment process and how he was offered a spot on the men’s basketball team’s roster.

“I came to Southeastern because Coach Leberman was one of my mentors back home,” stated Howell. “Once he got the job, he told me I can walk-on.”

Howell clarified the common misconception that walk-ons do not have the same talent as other players.

“We are D-I guys just like everyone else,” said Howell. “We can give anybody buckets any day. Some of the best athletes started out their career as walk-ons, so saying that we can’t play is just completely false.”

Bryce Johnson, freshman guard, explained how his journey to become a walk-on student-athlete is different than Howell’s. 

“My high school coaches reached out to Coach Kiefer and talked to them about the possibility of me playing for Southeastern,” said Johnson. “Then a couple of the coaches here watched some film on me and asked me to come out to a couple of practices. After I came, watched a couple of practices, they offered me a walk-on spot on the team.”

Johnson shared what his biggest challenge is being a walk-on.

“Every opportunity we get, we have to give it our 100% effort and we can’t mess up,” said Johnson. “We don’t get all the same opportunities as everyone else does, so when we get our name called we have to step up to the plate and give it our all.”

The 6’6” guard shared that he feels he is treated the same as student-athletes who are on scholarship and loves the camaraderie with his teammates.

“Everyone is treated equally on the team, and no one is left out,” shared Johnson. “We all watch films together, practice together, eat together and we are always around each other, so no one feels different or left behind.”