Ottaway, Amanda, The Rebounders: A Division I Basketball Journey, Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 2018. 288 pages, Epilogue, Notes, and Bibliography. $29.95 paperback.
Reviewed by Murry Nelson
Here is a volume that is very familiar, but uniquely that of the author. Amanda Ottaway played DI basketball on a full scholarship for Davidson College and shares her story in The Rebounders: A Division I Basketball Journey. Anyone who has played basketball in high school or college will find her account of the drills, practices, and games familiar, but, of course, it is singular since it is her experience chronicled. From the recruiting process, which is nicely discussed weighing institutions, locations, and coaches, to playing (or sitting on the bench) for her coaches, this is an entertaining, very fast read. One identifies with Ottoway’s frustration as she works to get off the bench and is finally rewarded with significant playing time midway through her senior year.
Another unique aspect of her “Division I journey” is playing at Davidson, one of the smallest colleges in Division I and one that emphasizes academics first. This provides another factor in both the recruitment of athletes and the goals of the players, which will not include professional aspirations. Ottaway, early on nicknamed “Otto” by her first coach, Beth Katz, an acolyte of Pat Summitt, describes her other activities besides basketball, which include poetry slams and other in-depth writing as part of her English major and subsequent career in journalism.
Much of the book is a description of college life, the drinking, secretive and not so much; the partying; class attendance; cramming or exams; dating; counseling friends and teammates as a mentor and just growing up.
The road trips and how tough those can be on the players, physically and emotionally are well described. But she also describes how rewarding it was when the team could overcome all that to win on the road, often before very small crowds, but sometimes a particularly raucous audience at a few Southern Conference schools.
Ottaway’s analyses of player strengths and coaching decisions are insightful, despite her being so self-interested in the latter and her perplexed feelings when she cannot impress her coaches enough to increase her playing time. One begins to cheer for her as the book proceeds and when she does make big contributions to the team’s success, one is glad for her just rewards.
Unfortunately, like four years of college, it all goes by so quickly, as Ottaway is an easy writer to read and enjoy. This is hardly a book that will add much to sport history, but it is an enjoyable account of women working hard at Division I basketball and one ends the book happy to have shared Ottaway’s journey.
Murry Nelson is a Professor Emeritus of Education at the Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on the history of basketball, and he is the author of The National Basketball League: A History, 1935–1949 (2009), Abe Saperstein and the American Basketball League (2013), and Big Ten Basketball, 1943-1972 (2016).