BTS Series: On-Court Living

By Matt Dykstra | February 19, 2021

“Hey, it’s Wendy from the Skyforce!”

Over the last few weeks, we’ve highlighted some of the most recognizable voices within the Skyforce organization. Voices you may be used to hearing, but with faces you’ve likely never seen before. This week we’re highlighting another important voice, but this one takes center stage during each and every home game.

Wendy Mamer has been the on-court emcee for the Skyforce for each of the past four seasons. Other than players, coaches, and referees, Wendy spends more time on the court during game nights than anyone else. So much so, that she’s become recognizable to fans even when she’s not at the Sanford Pentagon.

The spotlight, however, is not something she signed up for.

“It’s actually pretty funny how I got this position,” said Mamer. “It’s certainly not one I applied for. I actually applied to be a social media intern and during my interview, I think I mentioned that I enjoyed public speaking…but I didn’t mean the emcee-type of public speaking!”

Confidence. Energy. Enthusiasm. A love for people, and a love for basketball. Those aren’t things the Skyforce could let hide behind the curtain of social media (although she likely would have excelled at that, too).

“Next thing I knew, Kylie [Morris, Skyforce Director of Game Day Marketing] called me and said ‘we think you’d be a good fit for the on-court emcee position based on your interview’… my first thought was ‘umm, no!’”

After a little bit of reflection, a lot of persuasion, and a desire to step out of her comfort zone and push her own boundaries, Wendy finally gave into the idea of being front and center. In her first game, she was thrown straight into the fire.

“I’ll never forget my first time on the court,” said Mamer. “It was a sold-out game—the first home game since the Skyforce won the 2016 NBA G League Championship. I completely blacked out. I don’t remember anything. I was so nervous.”

The nerves didn’t show. In fact, fans were quick to give compliments to the first-year emcee after her debut. If not to her face, to Skyforce brass in general. The Force organization then knew they had found someone special.

Having a great on-court emcee makes a world of a difference on game nights. The good ones easily bridge the gap between when basketball stops and starts back up again. An emcee provides flow, keeps fans engaged when players leave the court, makes people feel like they’re included in the game night experience, rather than just spectating.

Wendy is one of the good ones, but it can be daunting to rise to the occasion on, at least, 24 game nights per season when you have your day job to worry about as well. So, what keeps her coming back year after year?

“For me, the best part of every home game is seeing the season ticket holders,” said Mamer. “As the years have gone on, I’ve been able to form such fun relationships with them, and they really make me excited to go to the Pentagon! I could be having a rough day but seeing them just puts a smile on my face.”

Her love for people is a common thread in almost everything Mamer does. This is true in her “real job” as well, working as an Admission Counselor at Augustana University in Sioux Falls.

“It’s hard to call it a job because I love it so much,” said Mamer. “I serve as a resource for students and their families as they’re going through the college searching process.”

Hyping Augustana during the day, followed by hyping Skyforce basketball at night can take a lot of energy, something Mamer has no shortage of. It’s all about the people. The students. The season ticket holders. Relationship building is the driving force in almost everything Mamer is passionate about.

When you talk to her, it doesn’t take long to pick up on that thread.

“What I enjoy most about my job [at Augustana] is getting to be a student’s biggest cheerleader,” said Mamer. “There’s nothing I love more than hearing about the success of students, while at the same time being there for them during the hard times. Getting the chance to get to know students as their most authentic self is really special.”

Note the similarities in her response when asked what the most fun part about her gig with the Skyforce is:

“The most fun part about being an emcee is being able to interact with so many different people,” said Mamer. “People of all ages and from all backgrounds…I really enjoy being able to make a kid’s day by inviting them down to the court to play a game!”

As mentioned, “Wendy from the Skyforce” has become a staple at Skyforce home games over the past four seasons. Being closest to the action, she’s not only gotten to know Skyforce fans and season ticket holders, but she’s had the chance to interact with the players and coaches over the years as well.

Her favorite player, she says, is one who has been in uniform for the Force even longer than she’s been on the mic—a growing rarity as roster turnover has become a common thread in the NBA G League environment.

“It’s tough to choose, but ultimately I think I’ll have to go with Bubu [Palo],” said Mamer. “He’s such a passionate player and wears his emotions on his sleeve, which is something I wholeheartedly relate to! He’s been here every season I’ve emceed.”

Four years of center-stage-life produces a lot of memories, but for Mamer, there’s one memory from her time on Heritage Court that stands far above any other.

“My favorite Skyforce memory is an easy one,” said Mamer. “It’s definitely when my now-husband Kyle proposed to me on the court. He surprised me with all of our best friends and both of our families in the stands. It truly was so special. It made it even better that he’s terrified of being the center of attention, so it was a BIG deal for him to do that!”

Major life experiences. Successful growing opportunities. New relationships with fans from all walks of life. Mamer makes life as an emcee look easy, but it’s not all fun and games. It’s a job that requires preparation, professionalism, and constant diligence throughout the game.

“The most challenging part of being an emcee is that I can’t watch all of the game while also paying attention to the moving parts of the gameday operations crew,” said Mamer. “I really, really enjoy basketball, especially when the games are close. I always need to remember that I’m first and foremost there to facilitate on-court promotions.”

Not getting “sucked in” to watching the game action is a frequent battle for a lot of Skyforce staff, especially those more passionate about the game of basketball than others. As far as problems go, though, it’s a good one to have. Who better to hype up the crowd during the waning minutes of a back-and-forth game than someone who is as emotionally invested as any other super fan?

The answer is no one. There’s no one better.

Next time you see Wendy at a Skyforce game, on Augustana University’s campus, or anywhere around Sioux Falls…stop and introduce yourself. She’ll be glad you did, it’s who she is.

Give her some props for being one of the best in the business. It’s harder than she makes it look.