Joe Schwartz made his first shot in his first-ever college basketball game, on his first day as a full-fledged member of the University of Texas men’s basketball team.
A walk-on, Schwartz was relegated to the practice squad through most of his first semester, sometimes not even getting to see the court during practice. But when a player left the team to seek a transfer in December of Schwartz’s freshman year, he got his first opportunity to suit up, even if it meant wearing the blood jersey–a spare jersey without a name on the back.
The game was against Lipscomb on December 16. Early in the second half, after Texas had established a healthy lead, Coach Rick Barnes started making subs. He put Schwartz in with two minutes left in the game.
The ball got tipped out of bounds, and Schwartz realized he doesn’t know any of the team’s in-bound plays. But he got open, and Ryan McClurg passed him the ball. With four seconds left on the shot clock Schwartz stepped back, shot, and drained a three-pointer.
The walk-on without a name on his jersey became an instant legend.
Making that shot didn’t mean Schwartz had earned a starting spot. But he did remain a member of the team for all four years, playing in a total of eight games and accomplishing his lifelong dream of playing a collegiate sport.
Schwartz was one of two keynote speakers invited to the 2018 Captain’s Academy, a one-day leadership training for high school sports captains from around Austin hosted by the University of Texas’ Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation. Schwartz told his story of perseverance and grit as he worked to earn a spot on the team, and he gave the student-athletes in attendance these tidbits of wisdom.
1. Respect yourself.
This one, Schwartz said, he learned from his parents.
“If you can respect yourself, then you’ll learn to respect other people, and by respecting other people, that’s going to put you where you want to get in life,” Schwartz said. “If you can’t respect yourself, then you can’t respect other people. So step one is start respecting yourself and realize that you’re here for a reason, and then you’ll start going places.”
2. Don’t let someone tell you you can’t do something.
Plenty of times, Schwartz had to let other people’s doubts and naysaying roll right of his back as he pursued his college basketball career.
After Schwartz’s freshman season, Coach Barnes got fired and a new coach, Shaka Smart, was hired to take over the program. For Schwartz, he knew this meant he had to start all over and establish himself with a whole new coaching staff, or risk being cut from the team.
“I was like, ‘I’m not going to let this coach tell me that I’m not going to be on the team next year,” Schwartz said. “So I made sure I worked my ass off that summer.”
3. Have a growth mindset.
Having a growth mindset means believing that your abilities can be developed and improved through dedication and hardwork.
It also means being adaptable.
For Schwartz, it meant pursuing basketball when he could no longer play baseball. It meant not giving up when he didn’t get a scholarship, when he didn’t get a spot on the team, when he didn’t get to suit up.
4. “Don’t be afraid to set a higher standard for yourself.”
This one came from Coach Smart. “Why would you be happy with something when you can do more?” he asked the team.
Schwartz has applied this particular adage outside of the realm of basketball. After successfully raising $5,000 to buy Christmas gifts for kids at Dell Children’s Hospital as part of a class project, Schwartz doubled his goal and raised $10,000 the next year.
5. “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”
This John Wooden quote has provided a lot of inspiration for Schwartz.
His hard work and preparation inthe weight room and in basketball practice made sure that he was ready to take that shot when Barnes subbed him in during that Lipscomb games.
Preparation for class and tests earned Schwartz a spot on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Honors Court. It also helped him finish his undergraduate degree in three years and get a head start on a masters.