BOISE, Idaho – Separated by more than 2,000 miles, Jack Beach and Joey Lane have met in person just once. But when both players take the court Saturday evening in Boise, Idaho, both will be joined by a common bond.
As Ohio State and Gonzaga meet at Taco Bell Arena with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line, the opposing walk-ons are planning to trade school shirts afterward as a nod to their shared group: “WalkOnFrat,” a combination group message/Twitter account/Snapchat group uniting walk-ons from around the college basketball nation.
“It’s just fun,” said Beach, a redshirt sophomore for the Bulldogs. “You get to see how other teams treat their walk-ons. Everyone has similar experiences, so you kind of get to share different stories about coaches and what you learn.”
During two active seasons for Gonzaga, Beach has played in 28 games and averaged 2.1 minutes per appearance. He’s scored four points and grabbed six rebounds but has missed all nine shot attempts this season. Lane, in his three seasons for Ohio State, has made 21 appearances, averaging 2.4 minutes while scoring 22 career points.
Two of those minutes came in late November, as Gonzaga closed out a 27-point win against the Buckeyes in the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Oregon. In spite of what’s at stake, the two share a bond.
“I saw him coming off the court (Thursday) after they won (against UNC-Greensboro), and in Portland we saw each other,” Lane said.
Although both teams are staying at the same level, obligations and the pressures of the NCAA Tournament have obviously prevented the pair from meeting up while in Boise. Their communications have almost exclusively been through their shared group, which includes players from Wichita State, Kentucky, San Diego State, Ohio University and Texas, among other schools.
While discussing the shared group text inside the Gonzaga locker room Friday afternoon, Beach said it had been only three minutes since his last received message.
“We’ve maybe met once, but we all feel like we’re close because we kind of talk every day in there,” he said of the group chat. “We feel close even though we’ve met once or twice or never.”
Lane helps run the official Twitter account, @WalkOnFrat. Though the group, he’s made multiple friends and traded stories.
“We all know what each other is going through and that makes the bond even closer,” he said. “We all have similar stories, which is fun to share those stories. I think because there are less walk-ons in the country than scholarship players, it’s a select few group and we bonded over that.”
But when the Buckeyes and Bulldogs get underway Saturday, the personal allegiances will end – for a while, at least.
“I probably won’t actually give him a high-five during layup lines, but I’ll probably give him a wink or something,” Beach said. “Bragging rights afterwards.”