Surveying Lions about Season's Best
Lions complete poll during bus-trip
Favorite moments, top dunkers on players' list
MIDWEST IN TRANSITION -- As the Southwestern Assemblies of God University men’s basketball team charter bus was trekking nearly 1,100 miles from Northern Indiana to their campus in Waxahachie, Texas; the players were polled about their opinions of the just-completed 38-game season.
Jovial from putting the wraps on a 27-11 season by finishing third in the National Christian College Athletic Association’s nationals tournament, they talked of highlights and memories. There were inspirational stories, a fun name-association game as well as a song session with Jared Gibson (Dallas, Tx / Oral Roberts Univ, Plano West HS) strumming his guitar.
The return from Hoosierland saw some players doing research or homework assignments and reading. Others texted family and friends on social network sites.
It would be the final college journey for Gibson and Ronald Horne (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Waco HS), the senior kingpins on the team.
The twenty-seven wins tied the school record for most victories in a season with the team coached by Terry Bryan. The Lions came short of qualifying for the NAIA national tournament; only Jerry Boone’s 2006 team have advanced that far. Scott Vaughan’s 2005 team won the National Bible College Athletic Association’s national championship, the highest finish on record.
Research on the largest turnaround from one season to the next will not be completed until the NAIA tournament ends in a few days, though SAGU’s meteoric rise this year will surely rank among the best, if not topping the list.
The rousing 84-81 triumph over Hope International University (Calif) in the NCCAA finale was a fitting end to the season. They overcame a 17-point second-half deficit for the victory.
Southwestern players and new head coach Donnie Bostwick had a mix of responses to the successful season, with most left hungry to accomplish more.
Here is a summary of the nine question, player’s poll as the wheels rolled:
Most Memorable Dunks
The almost unanimous top choice was the steal and court-length slam that clinched the RRAC tournament win over St. Thomas by Nathaniel Duce Ward (Waco, Tx / Univ. of N.Texas, Connally HS).
Photos of the dunk are shown above and to the right; from the side and front view.
Coming in at #2 was the tip-slam by Mike Nwelue (Lewisville, Tx / Lewisville HS) against Texas College.
There was a three-way for third; Horne and his screaming breakaway jams, Ward’s tip-slam vs. Texas Wesleyan and Dominique Rambo (Dallas, Tx / Oklahoma Wesleyan Univ, Trinity Christian School) on his tip-jam on Wesleyan.
Horne is the reigning, two-time champion of SAGU's Midnight Madness dunk tournament. It earned him the nickname, "The Flyin' Lion."
Others that made the list included;
Nwelue’s dunk against a redshirt player in practice, a two-handed breakaway by Craig Grigsby (Houston, Tx / Glenda Dawson HS) and his flush at LSU-Shreveport, Jon Walter’s (Garland, Tx / Garland HS) slam at Paul Quinn, and list of Horne to Ward alley-oop jams, Nwelue’s rim-shaker in the 26-point home rout of Our Lady of the Lake.
Plus, Ward’s dunk over the 6’7 Steve Jerich that sparked the comeback win over Hope, the home opener against Sterling College by Grigsby and the pre-game dunks by James Southerland (Macomb, Ill / Macomb HS) and one by Clayton “Birdman” O’Neill (Halletsville, Tx / Halletsville HS).
The team was split on their preferred master of the slam dunk between Ward and Nwelue (new-WELL-a-way).
Ward, a 6’5 junior, was cited for his long and explosive hammering of the ball through the cylinder; Nwelue on his effortless ascension and stare down following his 'deeds of dunk.'
A few interesting names made the list, including the dunk by Coach Bostwick: “He wouldn’t give up trying until he got it done,” O’Neill’s birdman jam and the time when Adam Martinez (Mansfield, Tx / Mansfield HS) got “hung up in the net and fell.”
Best Player One-on-One (most difficult to stop)
Every ballot listed the same player as the #1 hardest player to stop from scoring as Horne, the senior guard.
Sophomore guards Rambo and Grigsby were second and third, with Ward as #4. The “Purple (practice) Squad” voiced their own skills in this area.
Gibson, Mo Oglesby (Arlington, Tx / Zion Academy) and James Ford (Victoria, Tx / Faith Academy) also made the grade as one-on-one stars.
Best, Pure 3-Point Shooter
The player who was second in the NAIA in three-point baskets as a junior, Gibson, was on every ballot. He finished his career with over 200 triples.
Ford was the selection for second, with Horne and Caleb Feemster (Addison, Tx / Trinity Christian Academy) tied for third.
Several others received votes, including the 6'7 Southerland.
Best Three-Point Shooter in the Clutch
Which player, with the game on-the-line, was chosen as the best under pressure?
A pair of guards were deadlocked at #1; Horne and Grigsby. Horne set the NCCAA record by going 7-for-7 in the semi-finals while Grigsby was the team’s most accurate during the regular season.
Ford and Feemster were even as the #3 choice amongst their peers. Christian Wood-Dvorak (Halletsville, Tx / Halletsville HS) led a group of others receiving mention.
Favorite Moments During the Season
Most often listed as the choicest of favored moments was the 106-80 blowout of #5 ranked Our Lady of the Lake.
The next two most common highlighted memories were the comeback win over Hope International and the great camaraderie the team enjoyed during the season.
Edging nationally-ranked LSU-Shreveport, 64-59, was fourth.
The remainder of recalled items ranged from playing for Coach Bostwick to individual favorites like sinking the Wing Shot (awarding the crowd with a half-dozen wings from Buffalo Wild Wings when the team makes 13 threes in a game), Oglesby dropping eight-points against Jarvis Christian College, to Bostwick’s dunk in practice, to the performances by the Purple Squad, tip slams by Ward and Rambo, drawing charges against the opposition to taking 3rd at the NCCAA Nationals.
Favorite Things about Playing at Home
The Lions won 12-of-15 home games during the regular season. The confines of the Sheaffer Center were friendlier than ever, with the only setbacks, including the 112-109 RRAC semi-final loss to OLLU, coming by 2 (70-68 to Wiley College), 3 (61-58 to Texas Wesleyan), 1 (74-73 to Texas College on ‘3’ at the buzzer), and 3 points (to OLLU).
SAGU went 8-9 in 2011, 7-12 in 2010 and 6-8 in 2009, a three year total of 21-28.
The players’ file of pleasantries of playing in the Lion’s Den was clear. As one ballot listed their favorite three items, they responded: "The fans, the fans and the fans!"
Others wrote: The standing Jungle Section, the home Crazies and family coming to the games. Another said a benefit of playing in Sheaffer are the great facilities and family being able to watch the games on the SAGU Sports Network. They broadcast home games in HD and remain the top production in the NAIA.
Winning Buffalo Wild Wings was cited as well as one player who made mention of fans holding signs that read “I Love (heart) #14.”
An interesting comment was one who spoke of the conveniences of the “short distance” from their dorm to the gym.
Most Liked Elements at NCCAA Nationals
A myriad of responses, with the 2,000 seat Orthopedic Capital Center gym topping the list. The atmosphere and hospitality of the hosts at Grace College rated high, as did the community service project the team participated.
Getting another chance to play and the joy of being with the team receiving votes, while going bowling, the hotel facilities and winning 2-of-3 games for the second straight week (went 2-1 in Denver the week before).
Best Players SAGU Faced this Season
The Lions were partial to opposing players from the Red River Athletic Conference, selecting a pair from Texas Wesleyan University as the top two; 6’8 Eric Frederick (25.4 ppg) and guard Ronnie Moss (22.0 ppg).
The 3rd and 4th players on their Top 5 were Greg Parker (19.2 ppg), the 6’6 forward for LSU-Shreveport and Hope’s point guard Kris Rosales 912.6 ppg), with the University of the Southwest's Demetrius Evans (22.8) and LSUS’ Greg Shyne (20.6) coming in next.
OLLU’s Robert Martinez (15.3 ppg and 113 threes) appeared on ballots as did the appearance of SAGU’s Purple Squad, whom the Lions’ starters had to face on a daily basis.
Individual and team honors will soon be posted on-line.
Fans can follow the team’s off-season activities and the announcement of new recruits on the Southwestern website at www.sagu.edu/athletics