Book Review: The Rebounders
When Amanda Ottaway arrived on Davison’s idyllic campus in North Carolina as a college freshman, all seemed attainable, including an appearance in March Madness. After all, just the previous season, Davidson’s men’s team, led by Steph Curry, made the Elite Eight, transforming Davidson into a national brand. Meanwhile, Davidson’s women’s basketball team labored in relative obscurity. While the men often flew to their games and played on national television, the Davidson women played to a few hundred fans and took all-night bus rides.
No, Davidson women’s hoops is not UCONN.
However, it is Division I, and their players are talented and on scholarship. Ottaway’s book, The Rebounders: A Division 1 Basketball Journey, is a sobering, very inside account of her experiences at Davidson. In a way, Ottaway pulls down the curtain on March Madness.
Among many lessons that Ottaway learned at Davidson: Her full scholarship, her “free ride,” isn’t exactly free. Strings are attached. Ottaway quickly learns that basketball is her job, and that her coaches rely on her playing well, so they can keep their jobs. Indeed, the Davidson players are not regular college students. As long as she’s on scholarship, Ottaway’s body basically belongs to Davidson women’s basketball. She’s either practicing or lifting or running grueling sprints. (Drinking alcohol during the season is forbidden.)
In the book, the players work out extremely hard, perhaps to their detriment. Players are often injured. At times, it seems somewhat remarkable that Davidson is even able to field a women’s team. After all the basketball activities, the players attend class and try to get their school work done. Sleep, well, that’s a luxury.
Over the course of her four-year college career, Ottaway loses her innocence. But she gains an appreciation for her teammates, words, and a good story. And this is a very compelling story, and Ottaway tells it well. She doesn’t get bogged down with stats or long-forgotten scores. She puts forth copious, fascinating details on what happens between the games, behind-the-scenes. For instance, Ottaway pays food a lot of attention. Often, understandably these women desperately need to refuel, and they’re often eating or “wolfing” down whatever they can get their hands on.
As her playing career is winding down, one coach is very disrespectful to Ottaway. Perhaps this coach senses that Ottaway’s heart is not in it anymore. That she wants her body back, which has aged “dog years” during her college basketball tenure. For Ottaway and her teammates, it was a grueling grind, but it makes required reading for anyone interested in college basketball.
Jon Hart is @ManVersusBall
Did you enjoy this content? Help support our work by becoming a supporter of Stadium Journey on Patreon. Supporter levels begin at just $2/month.