When they were attending Germantown Academy, Dean Millard ’21 and Blake Smith ’22 could most likely be found in the gym making plays on the hardwood for the Patriots’ boys basketball team. Although they are not teaming up on the court to dazzle spectators with their athletic abilities any longer, the two friends are showcasing a different set of skills while keeping basketball at the forefront with “Tap In,” a podcast that covers hot topics around the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Dean and Blake found each other at Germantown Academy through basketball. Blake thinks it was at an open gym session in the beginning of his freshman year (Dean's sophomore year) and that the two started out guarding each other before they formally met. After that, they saw each other around the Fort Washington campus more frequently, bonded over some common interests, and began making plays on the court together.
After spending time on Junior Varsity playing on what Blake described as, “by far the best JV team assembled,” and being swing players between the JV and Varsity teams as underclassmen, the two solidified their spots on the Varsity team and did not look back. Once their playing days at GA were over, the two kept the conversations going while away at college – Dean at Villanova and Blake at Northwestern.
“We were always having our debates, you know, he's a Kevin Durant guy and I'm a LeBron guy, and from there it kind of just went into a whole bunch of different things,” Dean said.
“I kind of remember the exact day,” Blake said. “It was funny. I was taking my little brother to practice, and I hit up Dean and I was like, ‘we talk about the NBA too much not to do a podcast, so we might as well try it out.’ It took a couple of months to really figure out how we were going to do the setup. We started, I guess, this past year. Our first episode had something to do with the NBA playoffs or predictions with the playoffs, so it was a couple of months running. But I remember being excited.”
Blake went into the process of making an episode of the podcast, saying that it would take 30 to 45 minutes unless they decide to record multiple episodes to save for later. Dean added that they pride themselves on being authentic.
“We just want it to flow,” Dean said. “We want it to be a conversation and we want it to be informative and formal, but also to just be a conversation, like a debate, like the average banter. You don't necessarily have to be the biggest basketball fan or lover to listen to our podcast because you can really learn a lot from what we're saying, and we try to be as unbiased as possible.”
“Tap In” is the second venture into digital media for Dean and Blake, following a project called GA TV.
Dean said that they were in the startup process and had put a few episodes on YouTube, but that things stalled once COVID hit. However, “Tap In” is already off to a hot start with 17 episodes available on Spotify and Apple Music, and a growing social media presence. The podcast has also gotten some attention and shout-outs from members of the NBA community.
“I went to a Sixers game and Isaiah Hartenstein from the New York Knicks said, ‘TapInDnB, follow them on Instagram,'" Dean said. "And then Montrezl Harrell from the Sixers came to the Villanova [men’s basketball] game and I got to see him after the game, and he gave a little spiel. For them, it's just a cool way to engage with fans, but for us, that can really be a game changer.”
When they are not busy recording podcasts, both Dean and Blake are keeping active on their respective campuses.
A sophomore political science major at Villanova, Dean is involved in student government and aspires to run for office in the future. He is also a tour guide at Villanova, does service work, and works with the administration. Despite the busy schedule, he said he still gets to the gym whenever he gets the chance, either competitively or by himself to put up shots.
Blake is currently in his freshman year at Northwestern studying journalism and is a member of the Wildcat’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball team, which he said takes up most of his time. He is also involved with the Black Student Union and the Student Athlete BSU, which holds events to bring the community together.
As of right now, neither of the two have an end goal in mind with ‘Tap In,’ but both agreed that in addition to entertaining listeners and honing their crafts, it is also a great way to keep in touch with a friend.
“I feel like I haven't had too much time to think about it,” Blake said. “I want to be a sportswriter, right? I think this is sort of like a way for me to keep practicing and sort of do stuff as well as catching up with Dean when I don't talk to him for a while. I think it's a best of both worlds type of thing.”
“That's another big key to it, just continuing to stay in touch,” Dean said. “We know that college gets busy and distance can kind of ruin friendships, time flies, and things like that when you don't communicate. I think this is a good way to keep in touch with one another. We'll just check in, ask how his season's going, how school's going. We haven't really talked much about how far we think this can go or how far we're taking it, but as long as it just keeps working and we keep learning and evolving and things like that, I think it's doable. And who knows? I mean, it could take one person to shout us out or to recognize us, and then that might be a breakthrough.”
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