NAIA Adds Grueling Twist, Familar Names To March Madness

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 25th, 2011

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.


Seemingly every March, pundits put forth the idea that playing on consecutive days in conference tournaments wears teams down for the Big Dance. While Connecticut has laregly debunked the theory, imagine playing nearly every day for the whole thing. Welcome to the reality of the Buffalo Funds NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship, which recently concluded in Kansas City.

Operating outside the parameters of the NCAA are nearly 300 small schools from across the country, 32 of which make the championship’s field. After the 32 schools are selected to compete, a frenzy of 31 games in seven days determines the national champion. All told, the tournament’s finalists played five games in six days, with no days off between the semis and the final. Touting itself as “college basketball’s toughest tournament, ” the event was held solely in Kansas City, which meant nonstop opening round action from 9:00 a.m. local time to around midnight.

Though the schools may be obscure, some of the players are anything but. The tournament featured its share of players with familial connections and histories with some of D-I’s top talent:

  • Brian Wanamaker (Texas Wesleyan College) – The twin brother of Brad Wanamaker of Pittsburgh, Brian ran the point this season, averaging 19.1 points per game.
  • Michael Stockton (Westminster College, Utah) – Gonzaga fans are familiar with the Stockton family, with David following in the footsteps of his father and NBA legend John Stockton, but Michael isn’t too bad himself, averaging over 18 points per game to go along with four helpers.
  • Taylor King (Concordia College) – King’s journey began as a 14-year-old UCLA commit before stops at Duke and Villanova left him a journeyman. Returning home to Southern California, King feels comfortable at Concordia, where he led the Eagles in scoring (15 PPG) and rebounding (7 RPG) this season.
  • C.J. Henry (Southern Nazarene, Oklahoma) – The one-time New York Yankees draft pick followed his brother, Xavier, first to Memphis and later to Kansas, but carved out a niche at a smaller school, averaging 13 points per contest.

In Tuesday’s final, televised nationally on CBS College Sports, Pikeville (Ky.) College topped Mountain State (W. Va.) 83-76 in overtime behind 32 points and 17 rebounds from Trevor Setty. Quincy Hankins-Cole, a transfer from Nebraska, also chipped in with 21 and 16.

Pikeville College Won the NAIA Title This Week

Next time they hear about a team losing its legs or looking worn out, a handful of players from a small college in Kentucky can deservedly scoff at their televisions, knowing they conquered a grueling test of stamina to capture a national crown.

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C.J. Henry Leaves Kansas For The NAIA

Posted by nvr1983 on August 27th, 2010

The past six years have been nothing if not an interesting journey for C.J. Henry. The former Yankee prospect/Memphis-Kansas recruit announced yesterday that he would be transferring to Southern Nazarene, a NAIA school. A year ago Bill Self was being congratulated for adding C.J and his brother Xavier Henry after they had initially committed to Memphis before John Calipari decided to head to Kentucky. Although the subsequent transition to Lawrence were complicated by what appeared at times to be a soap opera the Jayhawks had an exceptional season before being cut down by Ali Farokhmanesh and the brothers performed at the level that everybody expected them too.  Now after just one year Self is left without either Henry as both have become one-and-dones in an unusual fashion. Xavier did it the traditional way by entering the NBA Draft following a solid, but uneven freshman campaign. On the other hand, C.J. was confined primarily to the end of Self’s bench as he played just 5.6 minutes per game in 13 games and only played double figure minutes in three blowouts. Although C.J. had been a fairly highly rated prospect coming out of high school he had spent 4 years (2005-2008) playing minor league baseball and redshirted the 2008-o9 season so most people did not consider his minimal production particularly concerning especially given reports that he had battled injuries all season long.

C.J. in one of his many uniforms (Credit: NJ.com)

However, in a surprising move, Kansas announced last week that Henry had decided to transfer from the school with some speculating that it was due to the amount of competition at the guard position potentially limiting his ability to get playing time. Still many in the Kansas area ripped him apart for his decision (not surprising given the allegiance of many writers/fans in the area). Given Henry’s limited basketball experience in the past 6 years, his injuries last year, and relatively advanced age (24 with 3 years of eligibility remaining) many programs would undoubtedly have reservations about taking on Henry, but we assumed that his basketball pedigree and athleticism would get at least  several major programs interested in his services. Instead Henry has opted to go the NAIA route and not forgo a year of his eligibility, which is not a small thing for a 24 year-old sophomore who still harbors NBA aspirations (unlikely since he would be 27 if he goes straight through college). For their part, the coaches at Southern Nazarene, who won the NAIA title in 1981 and made it to the NAIA championship game in 1998, say that their conference is chock full of Division 1 talents [Ed. Note: We can't confirm since our knowledge of the Sooner Athletic Conference is limited to this post.] that should give Henry the competition he needs. At the very least he will have someone to text in Taylor King (formerly of Duke/Villanova/USC) who is currently enrolled at Concordia (at least the last time we checked).

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Wooden Five: 06.09.10

Posted by jstevrtc on June 9th, 2010

We’ve been wondering how RTC could pay tribute to John Wooden besides the photo we posted on the day he died along with one of our favorite quotes of his, a maxim we felt summed up the heart of the man…if a single quote can accomplish such a thing.  We’re a few guys in our late 20s and 30s, which means Mr. Wooden was done coaching by the time we were small children — and not even born, in one case.  None of us ever had the chance to meet him later on in life.  There’s no matching the tributes that have come from his players, friends, and professional writers who knew him.  Therefore, while we’re certainly in awe of who he was and what he meant to the game, and that he’s considered a hero even by people we consider heroes, for us to pontificate on his life would be more of an insult than a tribute.  The best that guys like us can do is to assist in his immortality by continuing to tell future generations of fans what he stood for, and to continue as fans of the sport knowing that a lot of what’s good about our game, even to this day, is because of him.  Considering all the tributes and anecdotes over the past few days, we also offer our respects by dedicating our day-starting feature to him this morning.  The regular Morning Five will return tomorrow, but for today, here’s the Wooden Five — a collection of five of our favorite links/stories about Coach Wooden.

1. Integrity, anyone?  In 1947, while at Indiana State, Coach Wooden refused to take his team to the NAIA tournament for which they had qualified.  When you read why, you’ll see what people have been talking about when they refer to him as a man of “timeless principles.”

2. Former player Bill Sweek (UCLA ’69) told The Sporting News about a time when he bucked his coach, immediately regretted it (and had to face a little fire from the man), and how Wooden’s forgiveness helped turn it into a teaching moment for the good of the entire team.

3. We’ve always loved that story — both versions of it —  about Bill Walton’s challenge of Coach Wooden’s team tonsorial policies.  One part of the story that’s not often mentioned is that after Walton rushed to comply, he made it back to the end of practice that very same day.

4. Can you imagine Wooden coaching anywhere else but UCLA (and Indiana State)?  It’s spooky to think about how a snowstorm and 30 minutes of Minnesota reticence changed so many lives.  Even though he preferred the position with the Gophers, he had already given UCLA his word.  We think it worked out.

5. No notes.  No nonsense.  No further introduction needed:

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