Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. It can come in the seasoned senior who has slowly but surely grown into the role. It can come from a quiet, calming presence who lets their play do the talking.
For Arizona Christian men’s basketball, Andy Sessions stepped on campus, and leadership followed.
Sessions averages nine minutes and three points per game, but what has set this Arizona product apart is his basketball IQ, studious approach to the game, and not being afraid to get a little loud.
The son of long-time Red Mountain head basketball coach and current Mesa Mountain View assistant Gregg Sessions conducts himself like he has a clipboard in hand at all times. Whether it be yelling out direction to his teammates or organizing defensive drills during warm-ups, the freshman looks at home in the gym.
“I see the game as a coach, so I can call out things…It helps to be like a coach on the floor and off the floor, where I’m personal with the players because they’re my age. I can talk to them one-on-one,” Sessions said.
That’s why Arizona Christian head basketball coach Jeff Rutter named him a captain, the first time in the coach’s career he has given that honor to a freshman.
“I was extremely honored,” Sessions said. “I just want to spread the love to everybody on the team and just encourage everybody.”
The ACU coaches were impressed immediately with Sessions for his ability to identify and exploit his opponent’s (and sometimes teammate’s) tendencies. Often times when integrating new plays in practice, Sessions identified what the opposition was doing, directed his players like a chess master maneuvering his pieces, and stopped the play before it could get off the ground. Whether it be an upperclassman who rarely found the bench or a young player looking to develop at the next level, playing against a “coach” on the floor made the Firestorm get the most out of practices.
“He’s a freshman, but he talks more than anyone on the team,” Rutter said. “(Our bench) is a huge part of our team, whether they play one minute or thirty. They really hold these guys accountable and lift them up when they need a lift, and are a huge part of it.”
Accountability and encouragement is what Sessions is all about during games.
The Firestorm captain is about as vocal as his coaches, frequently relaying what he sees from his point of view and orchestrating the Firestorm accordingly. When play stops, Sessions springs up as if he is sitting on an ejector seat to greet his teammates coming to the bench.
“He’s the most talkative person I’ve ever seen, so no matter what, he’s going to help you out. If you’re wrong, he’s going to tell you where to be,” ACU junior guard Brandon Newman said. “He knows the playbook back and forth, the scouting report back and forth. He’s just a great person.”
After an already accomplished freshman year for this coach’s son, Sessions is using the mindset of a coach and competitive drive of a player to expand his game as he continues his journey at ACU.
“Playing for your dad is very special, very tough at times because he is going to push you the hardest no matter what…but that’s because he knows you can take it, and it makes you better,” Sessions said.
“Coming to play under a different coach is a good change of pace…but it’s also hard because I have to push myself. Coach Rutter is a great coach, so I have no complaints.”
You won’t hear any complaints from the ACU coaching staff, either.
The Firestorm face #14 Georgetown College, KY on Wednesday, March 18th in the NAIA Division-I Tournament.