Monday, June 16, 2014

Where are they now?

What's the phrase...it's a small world after all. Well, it's an even smaller world if you work in some capacity in college athletics. Spending the current baseball season in Sioux City, Iowa afforded me the opportunity to pay a visit to the University of South Dakota. It sits in a beautiful hamlet about 35 miles northwest of Sioux City called Vermillion. That's where former RSU women's coach Amy Williams is making waves and reaching postseason tournaments. In fact, in just her second year at the helm for the Yotes, USD reached its first-ever NCAA tournament as members of Division 1. It was a fun afternoon of lunch with Amy, her husband Lloyd, and her assistants Chuck Love and Tandem Mays. Lloyd was the RSU men's coach at one time, and Chuck and Tandem are former RSU assistants. I also received a tour of the USD campus and it's highly acclaimed Dakota Dome. The dome houses all the sports teams and athletic offices. The university is set to break ground on a new basketball and volleyball arena shortly, which will give Amy and her coaches a brand-spanking new facility to show recruits. Amy's parents were in town as well, so it made for a wonderful Hillcat reunion of sorts.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Cope Joins Wife in RSU Coaching Circle

There's a new man in charge of the women's basketball program at RSU. Actually, he's the very first man in charge of the women's program. In late March, Bobby Cope was elevated from top assistant to the person pushing the buttons and making the crucial decisions. Bobby becomes the third head coach in program history, following successful runs by Amy Williams and Roxanne Long. I spoke with the new coach recently about his acceptance of the job, what happens in the immediate future, and whether he'll continue to sport a colorful look on the RSU bench. On a side, Cope joins his wife Amy (softball) as the head coach of an athletic program on College Hill. It's the second such husband/wife tandem that's had the privilege of being head coaches at RSU at the same exact time. Click the play button below.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hinson Joins List of Distinguished Speakers

The former ORU and Bishop Kelley head coach was told he needed to "bring it" in order to take his place among the highly acclaimed speakers that came before him at the annual RSU athletics banquet. Barry Hinson, the current head coach at Southern Illinois, did indeed hone his skills before appearing in Claremore. He minced no words, he shredded bad behavior and poor judgement, and he gave the crowd more than a few good laughs. It was a pleasure to steal him away for a few minutes to get his thoughts on college athletics and his one exalted moment in the social media blender.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Postgame Extra: Hartzler Enjoying Sophomore Success

RSU sophomore guard J.C. Hartzler has taken his game to a whole new level this season. The former Tulsa World Player of the Year and state champion on an undefeated Union High School team was timid at times during his freshman season. J.C.'s game has really grown this year, and he relishes being one of the team leaders for the Hillcats. Hartzler turned in his best performance of the season on January 2nd at home against Dallas Baptist with a career-high 26 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 6-for-6 from the three point line. He's had 16 double-figure scoring games this season. I spent a few minutes with J.C. during a recent road trip to Dallas. Click the play button below.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Postgame Extra: Hooks Guiding Hillcats in Transition Year

With a 77-73 win at St. Mary's in San Antonio last Saturday, the Hillcat men improved to 2-1 in conference play and 7-4 overall. This team has been a treat to watch so far this season. It isn't the most talented ever assembled on College Hill, but it is the hardest working group. The 'Cats could be sitting at 3-0 in the league if not for a lack of execution down the stretch in Laredo against Texas A&M International in a three point loss two days before the victory over the Rattlers. I had a chance to catch up with senior transfer and Tulsa native (East Central H.S.) Damien Hooks immediately following the win over St. Mary's. Click the play button below.

***Update: Hooks has scored double figures in 10 of the 11 games at the time of this post.  He's had 29 points twice with one double-double, has scored 20 or more in six games, and has posted 20 points in each of the last three games.

      

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Postgame Extra: Day Has a Night

It's almost to the point of being laughable now. Seriously, the season is only 10 games old for the RSU women and the single-game scoring record goes up in smoke yet again. In case you missed it, junior guard and junior college transfer DaNara Day popped off for 36 points in a 95-88 win at Oklahoma Wesleyan Tuesday night. Day came off the bench in the first half to score 16 points in 12 minutes of floor time. It was only the beginning! Day finished 12-for-18 from the field, 7-for-8 at the foul line, and hit 5 threes (including 3 and-1's). Her night to remember in Bartlesville would end with a much-needed, comeback victory for the 'Cats after trailing by nine at halftime. Day bested the previous mark of 29 points set by Clarissa Cannon just a couple weeks ago. It was broken initially by Katy Harsen, who had 27 in a game at McMurry to open up conference play. At this rate, we should expect the record to fall again a few weeks from now after we turn the page to the new year. Click the play button below to hear from Ms. Day (photo courtesy of Jeff Jackson).

  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Postgame Extra: The Cannon and Kami Show

It's fast becoming a theme for RSU this season...single-game records are not safe on College Hill! Senior forward Clarissa Cannon set the new scoring mark with 29 points in a 76-73 loss to Newman University on Monday. On the same night, junior guard Kami Bunch said TIMBER! to the single-game assists record previously held by Autumn Thompson. Thompson's record of 12 back in 2008 apparently wasn't above reproach. The two discussed their records and the team's first-ever Heartland Conference win 71-63 Thursday night at home over Texas-Permian Basin. As always, click the play button below.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Postgame Extra: Harsen Stamps Name in Record Book

In a span of just six days, both single-game scoring records at RSU were toppled. Senior guard Katy Harsen has just one year on College Hill to prove her worth, but it only took the Coweta native and NSU transfer four games to claw her way into the record book. Harsen poured in 27 points against McMurry University in Abilene, Texas Thursday night. She did it on 7-17 shooting, including 4-8 from three and 9-11 from the foul line. The 27 came in 31 minutes before fouling out with 11 seconds to play. It broke the previous record of 26 held by both Azzie Knox and Leah Smith. Click the play button below to hear from Katy about her fantastic performance. (photo courtesy of McMurry Sports Information)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Postgame Extra: Opong Pings RSU Record Book


Robinson. Odoch. Opong. PING, PING, PING!!!  The 'Cats senior sharp-shooting guard's final stat line read 13-21, 7-12, 10-12, 43 points in 39 minutes.  What's the old phrase, "all records are meant to be broken?" Well, not only did Robinson double-O break the record, he absolutely shattered it...by 11. The previous single-game scoring mark of 32 had been reached twice, by former marksman Matt Kellog and career 1,000 point scorer Sylvester Spicer. His 7 threes also tied a single-game record. Opong's 43 point outburst was one more point than RSU had scored earlier in the week in a loss at Northwestern Oklahoma State in Alva. I spoke with Rob late Saturday night following the bus trip back from Fort Smith. Click the play button below to hear from the Kenyan-born and Canadian-bred who had a night most of us won't soon forget.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Broadcaster Behind Enemy Lines



I had the very good fortune last weekend of being invited to broadcast the 33rd Annual Toilet Paper Game at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. When JBU Sports Information Director Nick Robinson came up with the idea to have me sit in the play-by-play chair, I really felt no trepidation over it. I'd read articles and heard stories in the past about this game, but wanted to experience it first-hand for myself before I passed judgement. Is it a little goofy? Sure. Is it more than I imagined? ABSOLUTELY! I did wonder a little bit going into it how I would be perceived because of my job as the voice of a former Sooner Athletic Conference rival. It was plausible in my mind because RSU is no longer a member of the same division. I came away from the event asking what took so long for me to absorb the atmosphere, the antics, the spirit of this wonderful and wacky tradition. I could not have been treated better or greeted more warmly. Special thanks to Nick, Athletic Director Robyn Daugherty, Head Coach Clark Sheehy, JBU broadcaster Jeff Essary, and all the production staff that helped make it a success. Thinking back on that night had me asking the very next day, what makes you feel most alive? For me, it was that kind of night. Hit the play button to soak up some of the fun.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hillcats Ready to Scratch NCAA Surface

Here we are...only two to three weeks out from the start of a new season again on the hill in Claremore. 2013-2014 will mark the seventh in the short but storied history of the men's and women's basketball programs at RSU. If the next six years resemble the first six, then Hillcat fans are in for a wild and thrilling ride!

The transition to NCAA Division 2 tips off for the RSU women with an exhibition game Friday, November 1st at the University of Tulsa. The 'Cats have played TU at the Reynolds Center before, including last season. It should provide a real tune-up for 2nd year head coach Roxanne Long as she welcomes back just five players from a national tournament team. The season and home opener is on Hillcat Homecoming Saturday, November 9th against our friends from Ecclesia College out of Springdale, Arkansas. The non-conference schedule features new foes in Southern Arkansas and East Central, and old familiar faces from Southern Nazarene and Mid-America Christian. It won't take long to jump into the Heartland Conference slate, as the women open on the road in Abilene, Texas against McMurry November 21st, followed by another league game two days later in Austin against St. Edward's. The first home conference date is Monday, December 2nd against Newman University of Wichita. Make note, weeknight conference doubleheaders will tip at 5:30 for the women and 7:30 for the men.

As for the RSU men, it all begins anew on Wednesday, November 6th with an exhibition contest against Division 1 ORU at the Mabee Center in Tulsa. Whether it's calling a high school state tournament or a college game, the Mabee Center is always a fun venue to visit. The men's regular season also starts with Hillcat Homecoming. Justin Barkley begins his fourth season at the helm November 9th against Southwestern Christian, a new member of the Sooner Athletic Conference. The Hillcats hit the road Monday, November 11th to tangle with old SAC rival Northwestern Oklahoma State up in Alva. The Rangers are now Division 2 members in the Great American Conference. The 'Cats then head to Fort Smith, Arkansas for two games against Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist November 15th and 16th. RSU also squares off against Mid-America Christian and Ecclesia on back-to-back home nights right before the Thanksgiving holiday. East Central is also on the non-league schedule Saturday, December 14th at the Expo in Claremore. The men only return three players who saw any significant playing time last season. For the full men's and women's schedules or to purchase season tickets, head to www.rsuhillcats.com.

While RSU can't compete for conference titles at this time, it's worth noting that St. Mary's of San Antonio has been picked to win the Heartland on the women's side. Arkansas-Fort Smith has been tabbed to claim the men's regular season crown. It's nice to see a mix of old and new on the schedule. That'll help all of us in this transition phase as the Hillcats claw their way to being full-fledged members of NCAA Division 2. For more information on the Heartland Conference, visit the league website at www.heartlandsports.org. I'll leave you with an interview featuring men's coach Justin Barkley. He discusses the new athletic director and what the immediate future holds for Hillcat basketball.

            

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New RSU AD Introduced

New Rogers State athletic director Ryan Erwin was introduced to the media and Claremore community today. I spoke with Ryan to find out why he made the jump from Dallas Baptist to RSU. Enjoy!

(photo courtesy of RSU Sports Information)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Former Hillcat Flying Down Under

Congratulations to former Hillcat Justynn Hammond!  Hammond's playing days did not end on College Hill.  He's currently suiting up in a pro league down in Australia.  Click the link below for an article written earlier this week in the Newcastle Herald newspaper.  There's also a slight connection mentioned in the land down under to former Verdigris standout Rotnei Clarke.  As many of you know, Clarke started his college career at Arkansas and finished it at Butler.  There's also a good close-up photo of Justynn flying to the rim.  Enjoy!

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1688398/hawks-cast-eye-over-hammond/?cs=306

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bradley Walking in Memphis

I write this entry with a pinch of sadness this week.  Not only is Rogers State losing its athletic leader but I'm losing a good friend and tireless advocate.  Ryan is headed to the University of Memphis as an Associate Athletic Director for Marketing and Strategic Communications.  He will be reunited on the Memphis staff with Wren Baker.  I am so happy for both Ryan and Wren, two quality individuals who gave me a chance to become a college basketball play-by-play voice back in 2007.  I will be forever grateful that I was allowed the opportunity to spread my wings as an announcer.  Ryan paid me the highest compliment last weekend.  I asked him if I should expect any change in my status as the basketball voice, and he said "they're not gonna find anybody better..."  I will miss Ryan because he gave me a shot, but I will also miss him because we share the same love for family and same unending adoration of St. Louis Cardinals baseball.  Your presence changed a community, an athletic department, and one man's broadcast bucket list.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

One-on-One with Sheri Coale

(photo courtesy of RSU Sports Information)

While I've had the pleasure of interviewing Sheri Coale a few times previously on radio, those times couldn't rival the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the Oklahoma Sooner coaching icon.  Coach Coale graciously gave me a few minutes of her time to dish about the Hillcat programs, the state of women's basketball in Oklahoma, and the WNBA's Tulsa Shock.  Simply put, she's the Bill Self of women's basketball.  She was more than advertised as a banquet speaker. Click the play button below, and enjoy!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Yesterday

The end of an era arrived for the RSU basketball programs last week as the Hillcat women fell in the 2nd round of the national tournament in Frankfort, Kentucky. The 'Cats beat Our Lady of the Lake in the opening round to reach the Sweet 16 for a second straight year before losing to eventual national champ Westmont of California. It was the last game EVER in the NAIA as the school transitions to NCAA Division 2 and the Heartland Conference next season. After 6 years of RSU Basketball, all the memories flashed before my mind's eye. It's hard to put into type all the "take your breath away" moments, so I'll leave you with this video below of the hit song by Boyz II Men..."It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" from 1991.

 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Where are they now?


RSU's first-ever 1,000 point scorer, Sylvester Spicer, is playing for the North Dallas Vandals in the ABA.  Spicer still shares the single-game points record with 32 in a game against Oklahoma City back in the 2008-2009 season.

www.ndvandals.com





Nep Darden is playing overseas in Duesseldorf, Germany.  Nep was a member of the 2012 NAIA national tournament team that won two games in Kansas City.

www.duesseldorfbaskets.de/home.html







Eric Young is suiting up for the Lone Star Strikers in the UBA.  Eric was the most versatile player on the RSU team that went 30-2 and finished the regular season ranked #1 in the country.

www.lonestarstrikers.com/main/

Monday, December 31, 2012

SAC Swan Song Starts Thursday

RSU begins its final stages of Sooner Athletic Conference play this week with a road date at USAO in Chickasha Thursday and the league home-opener Saturday against Mid-America Christian.  It's a come-to-grips moment after being a member of one of the best small college basketball conferences for the last six years.  Once again, if you didn't hear the news, the 'Cats are leaving the NAIA for NCAA Division 2 beginning next school year as a provisional member of the Heartland Conference.

Many solid memories have been earmarked for future discussions...the lighter times, the sad stories, the glorious achievements in such a short tenure in the league.  The lasting imprint for me, though, is how much all of us involved since day one have grown.  Six years doesn't seem like all that long ago, but then I think about those who sat courtside at the Expo who no longer do so.  I think about the rapid ascent in terms of quality of play, not just at RSU but throughout the conference.  I had some knowledge and respect for the SAC as a basketball league going into this back in 2007, but it grew by leaps and bounds as each new season passed.  The statement "any team at the bottom of the standings could beat any team at the top on any given night" is more true now than ever before.  That's positive growth.  That's competitive clarity.  That's all a fan, an administrator, or even a broadcaster could ever ask for in college athletics at this level.

As the 'Cats start their final 16 games of the regular season this Thursday night against the Drovers, I hope you'll take a moment to realize what's transpired for this university, and how it wouldn't be headed where it is today without the Sooner Athletic Conference as a commendable partner.  Don't forget to tune in as well, the final voyage could provide the most exciting thrill of all! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Former Hillcat Circling the Globe


It's been a while since I last updated you on former RSU standout forward Sylvester Spicer.  Big Spice is quickly becoming an international man of intrigue.  The latest stop in his professional career is Reykjavik, Iceland.  According to Wikipedia, sports are an important part of Icelandic culture.  The main traditional sport in Iceland is Glima, a form of wrestling thought to have originated in medieval times.  Iceland is Spicer's 8th country to visit while displaying his rim-rocking craft.  He's also played in Israel, Portugal, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico.  Not bad for a boy from Big D!

Skyline of Reykjavik, Iceland

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hillcats Return to Terrestrial Radio



What's old is new again! And, with that also comes the end of an era as we start the 2012-2013 basketball season next week on College Hill. If you haven't heard (click play button above), RSU men's and women's basketball is making a return to the radio airwaves of 91.3 FM. For old souls like myself, it's hard to fathom not being able to dial up a play-by-play broadcast on a car radio or in the office. You would think someone 35 years old would've embraced the new technology and moved on, but I just can't seem to shake the romance of a ballgame on terrestrial radio. For those of you much more tech savvy than me, you'll still be able to listen to games on the Hillcat Network through your mobile devices. The re-entry into the RSU Radio fold also means we get to work again with good people like Cathy Coomer and Steve Doyle. Steve helped arrange the promo above to promote the return to radio. It's solid, just like Mr. Doyle's daily work at the station! Now, a brief on both teams as RSU plays its final season in the NAIA and the Sooner Athletic Conference...

The Hillcat women's program has its first new head coach in six years. By all indications, Roxanne Long has the same kind of passion and integrity Amy Williams brought to the program the first five seasons. Plus, Coach Long has a decent amount of returning talent to make one salivate at the thought of a return trip to the national tournament. She's expected (by the broadcast crew) to rack up another 20+ win season. If the preseason league coaches poll is any indication, others outside Claremore have high expectations for this year's team as well. The 'Cats have been picked to finish 2nd in the conference, behind Lubbock Christian but in front of defending national champ Oklahoma City. RSU returns nine ladies from last year's team, including six seniors. Logan Froese is set to go down as one of the most gritty players in Hillcat history, and fresh off a stellar national tournament run she'll be relied on for steady leadership in the post. Don't let that toughness fool you, though. She's been known to fight you tooth and nail, and do it with a smile and a wink after it's over. Former Union High School standout Larielle Giles will also play a factor on the front-line, having gained significant minutes as a true freshman a year ago. Expect some big minutes as well from transfers Adrianna Leatherbury, a 6-0 forward from El Paso and New Mexico Junior College, and Clarrisa Cannon, a 6-0 forward from Las Vegas and Cowley College (KS). It's often been said a team's post-season potential is defined by how good its guards play...well, this team has plenty of returners to keep last year's run to the Final 8 fresh on the minds of fans. My favorite Brazilian, Ariani Silva, returns as one of the best shooters in the SAC as she set the new RSU single-season record for made threes last year. Leah Smith can also fill it up from outside after leading the 'Cats in scoring. Point guard transfer Kelby Fritz will be a coach on the floor after the Vinita product arrived from Missouri Southern. She has just one year to show her wares in front of the home crowd. Finally, last but not least...the "Preston Pick-Pocket" Sierra Cornwell is back for her senior season. Great nickname handed out by our public address announcer last year. Sierra is the reigning middleweight champion of defense in the Sooner Athletic. She is the most ball-hawking women's player we've seen in the NAIA to date. You blink, she steals it...you sneeze, she steals it...you go to the restroom at halftime and she has 10 more steals by the time you return to your chairback. She is that good! Needless to say, I think the RSU women are in for one of those really special seasons. It all starts with two exhibition games at Tulsa (Oct 31st) and at Arkansas (Nov 4th).

The men's program is coming off back-to-back runs to the Elite 8 at the national tournament in Kansas City. As you might imagine, the preseason hype machine is grinding its gears again. The 'Cats have been picked to finish 2nd preseason in the SAC, and likely will be in the Top 10 national preseason rankings. RSU might just have the best guards of any roster in the country, with all-SAC returners Donald Williams (Ole Miss transfer) and Kendrell Thompson (Sam Houston State transfer). Those two had memorable moments in conference games in their first seasons wearing the red and blue. Two other guards are back that will continue to impact games, senior Alex Ewings from Jenks and senior Justynn Hammond out of Seattle and Paris Junior College (TX). Ewings continued to elevate his game to a whole new level last season, hitting big shots off the bench and playing frenetic defense to boot. Hammond is a solid athlete at 6-5 who can play multiple positions, including point guard. He could be called upon to rebound more and play a point forward depending on how much depth is developed with a lack of size up front. A key acquisition on a one-year shot is ORU transfer and former Tulsa East Central standout Ken Holdman. Holdman was one of the better defenders in the Summit League in his time at ORU, and was also better than expected at point guard for Scott Sutton's Golden Eagles. Again, you might not find a collection of guards any better than what's been assembled in Claremore. Up front, RSU should be bolstered by the return of Brian Gibson, a 6-8 bruiser who fought through injuries last year to become a major contributor at nationals. Gibson, a Baton Rouge native, is the tallest player on the roster. The 'Cats will definitely need younger and less experienced guys to fill voids at the forward spots. That could come in the form of two-time state champion at Booker T. in Tulsa, 6-6 sophomore C.J. Hyslop, or 6-7 sophomore Trevar Mayon from Houston. It'll be interesting to see if the rebounding improves, which will depend heavily on the bigger RSU guards. Two true freshman may see some playing time right away, J.C. Hartzler of Union (Tulsa World Player of the Year), and Edison standout Ehron Ponds. Both guards had exceptional high school careers. The Hillcat men have set the bar so high in the first five seasons, that anything short of another trip to Kansas City will be viewed as a disappointment by outside observers. I do believe this team can win a ton of games, but it will need to be achieved with stellar shooting, kick-you-in-the-teeth defense, and a determined effort on the glass on both ends. By far, this year's schedule is the most treacherous ever assembled. Kudos to Coach Justin Barkley for going out of his way to toughen up the 'Cats before the shorter league schedule takes hold. Difficult non-conference foes include Northwestern Okla. State, Mid-America Nazarene, and Our Lady of the Lake. Remember, the SAC is down to just nine teams, so that means 16 conference games instead of 22.  The fun all starts October 30th at home in the season opener against Central Baptist of Arkansas.

Here's hoping for a memorable end to the maiden voyage in RSU basketball history. Before the 'Cats shove off to the NCAA and the Heartland Conference, make it a point to take in a small college game at the Claremore Expo Center this season. And, don't forget to "leave a mark".

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Leaving Her Mark



I didn't originally set out to become a play-by-play broadcaster so I could meet interesting and influential people. I didn't intend to do it for any reason other than serving my own self-interests. I desired a career where I attended ballgames for free, a career where I had more fun than the next guy, and a career where I never had to work a day in my life. While I've definitely achieved all those dreams of my younger days, my reasons for calling games have certainly evolved. One of those reasons is what you see expressed in the photo above from the new women's basketball coach at the University of South Dakota.

My path intersected with Amy Williams' journey back in the fall of 2007.  Simply put...it was chance, luck, and circumstance that landed me as the play-by-play voice of RSU Basketball. I never envisioned how rewarding personal relationships with the coaches, players, and their parents would become as a game caller. There was a time in my life when I was quite introverted, but my chosen profession has definitely balanced my equilibrium a little, even though I wouldn't necessarily call myself an extrovert now. It's people like Amy who make my job easier. For me, Amy was always approachable. She also flashed that winning smile when I greeted her before recording our pre-game interviews, or when I hopped on the travel bus. Don't take me wrong, though. When the ball was tipped in her 5 years at Rogers State, she was as tenacious and gritty as I've ever seen from a head coach. It's the juxtaposition about her that I liked so much. I'll remember that most, but I'll also remember the brief moments we spent discussing our children. She has two wonderful daughters. I'll miss seeing them sprint across the Claremore Expo floor during pre-game warmups or in timeouts. I'll also miss her because I had the privilege of working with her husband Lloyd. Those two drew up out-of-bounds plays like nobody's business in their coaching days at RSU.

So, it is with sadness that another chapter in RSU Basketball history is written. Amy made back-to-back national tournament appearances, including reaching the final 8 this past March. She is so very deserving of this opportunity at the NCAA Division 1 level, plus it's in her home state. I really view myself as a pawn when it comes to the basketball programs in Claremore, but I cherish the time spent and memories made with great people like Amy. She also takes with her the best RSU internet listener on the planet, her father Tim. Maybe, he'll tune in every now and again from up in the Dakotas just to check if Bontrager is his same old surly self. We'll miss you Williams' family, best of luck!

Friday, April 20, 2012

VIVA MEXICO!


With the assistance of social media, Claws the Intern helped us track down the latest whereabouts of former Hillcat Sylvester Spicer (pictured above with arms spread). His current adventure takes us south of the border into Northwestern Mexico, near the Gulf of California. He's living it up on the beaches of Guasave, Sinaloa...all while ballin' on the courts of the CIBACOPA. Big Spice is averaging 10 points and 4 rebounds a game for Frayles de Guasave. It's apparently the "most important basketball league" in the Baja region of Mexico. There are 12 teams in the league, and the season runs from March to June.

More research and development by Claws has turned up quite a gem about the team's nickname. "Frayles" is another version of the word "frailes", as in friars en espanol. Story goes that a friar once killed himself by jumping off a cliff in the area because he loved a woman. Some of the other teams in the league include the Tijuana Zonkeys, Los Mochis Pioneros, and the Cananea Mineros.


If you're ever interested in a visit to Mexico, hop on the Chepe train in Chihuahua and ride it all the way to Los Mochis. Don't forget to stop along the route and visit Copper Canyon. It's ten times the land mass covered by the Grand Canyon. It's the most heavenly place on Earth. I could've died two summers ago after our trip there and my life would've been complete. Now, the family didn't take the Chepe train all the way to Los Mochis near where Spicer's playing but it's on the agenda for next time. You can even take a ferry across the Gulf of California and back. That's where the Legend of Zorro began, or so I've read.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

That's a Wrap



Now that March has come and gone, it's time to close the book on the 2012 RSU basketball season. And, a record-setting season it was. Both the men and women reached the quarterfinal rounds at their respective national tournaments in Kansas City and Frankfort, Kentucky. It's the first time in the 5-year history of Hillcat hoops that's happened, and the first time ever for the women. I'll go to my grave believing this year's men's team was as good as anybody in Kansas City. For a second consecutive year, RSU was one win away from reaching the Fab 4. The 'Cats had #1 Shorter University of Georgia on the ropes and failed to make a free throw or two down the stretch. Shows you how important that line from 15 feet out is in post-season play. So it goes, and so goes national tournament wins over Tougaloo and Evangel into the Hillcat history books. RSU will sorely miss the steady hand that ran the point for three national qualifiers in five years. Mo Rutherford is an exemplary human being who you'd want your own children to model their lives after. He's been forced to deal with adversity that some would succumb to, but he managed to thrive in pressure-packed situations his entire collegiate career. Thanks for the memories "Mighty Mo". The men will also need to replace the clutch shot-maker Larry Cox, and post-presence Nep Darden. Joey Twilley and Jeremy Marsielle will also be missed. It'll be interesting to watch how Coach Barkley retools the roster for the year ahead.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...Amy Williams can flat-out coach her tail off. She helped guide this team to back-to-back national tournaments, and then had the RSU women on the brink of the Fab 4 after post-season wins over Cumberlands and Shorter, before losing to Georgetown in the quarters. It was, no doubt, an unexpected run but if you knew the grit and strength these ladies played with for much of the season, espcially against the top teams in the Sooner Athletic, it wasn't a surprise looking back. It wasn't the most talented team at RSU so far, but it'll go down as the one who did the most when it mattered. Seniors Gianna Woods, Sasha Barnes, and Brittani Smith were all key contributors to this year's success. The Hillcat women finished 4th in the conference, but their deep run in Frankfort is further evidence of just how impressive the SAC is year in and year out. It's a privilege covering hoops in this league.

With that said, times are a changing...the departures of Southern Nazarene, Oklahoma Christian, and Northwestern Oklahoma State will drop the SAC to nine members next fall, which means a 16-game conference schedule. Will it hurt the league's reputation as one of the best, if not THE BEST, NAIA basketball conference in America...only time will tell.

Friday, March 9, 2012

National Tournament Time


After a week to decompress with no RSU hoops, HERE. WE. GO! For a second consecutive March, the Hillcats are double-dippin'. The RSU men and women have both landed spots again in their respective national tournaments in Kansas City and Frankfort, Kentucky. Congratulations to another 20-win season for Amy Williams and the Hillcat ladies. In some respects, it was a group that over-achieved this season. The 'Cats had a ton of newcomers who meshed better than I thought they would early in the non-conference. RSU has the unenviable task, though, of facing a really good Cumberlands (Ky.) program in the opening round next Wednesday night. The women's tournament sets up a tad different from the men's field. There are four pods, each seeded 1 through 8, and RSU is the 7 seed with Cumberlands the 2 seed. It'll tip at around 9:45p.m. Wednesday, and you can tune it in with Steve Braun at the mic on the Hillcat Network.

It's off to Kansas City we go with the RSU men for a third time in the five-year history of the program. It also marks the first back-to-back stretch in the final 32 for the 'Cats, having made a memorable run to the Elite 8 a year ago before losing to eventual national runner-up Mountain State. Men's coach Justin Barkley joined the Middle of the Day show Friday on 97.1 FM, The Sports Animal in Tulsa to preview the tournament. Big Al Jerkens, Coach Pat Jones and yours truly delivered the questions. Click HERE to listen (do NOT click on the big play now or download now buttons, find the embedded player and hit the play button). RSU opens with Tougaloo College of Mississippi in round one. It tips at 9a.m. Wednesday, with pre-game coverage at 8:48. Man, that's early for basketball! Enjoy. I have to go pack my bags...note to self, expect the unexpected after last year, so extra socks, boxers, toothpaste...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Rise of March


It's what I love about what I do. March is my favorite month of every year. It reminds me of the song "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by The Byrds. Because, truly to everything there is a season. Maybe it's my favorite month because the best basketball at all levels is played in March, whether it's at the Big House in Oklahoma City or Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City. Or, maybe it's because I know the crack of the bat in March delivers me unto a new baseball season. Or, better still, maybe it's just because I know more bearable weather is right around the corner. I'm 34 years old now and I despise winter anymore.

March offers a renewal of energy, an opportunity to fill your tank when it might be cratering into the red. I feel a new spirit come over me like I don't feel at any other time of the year. Hopefully, the same can be said for the Rogers State basketball teams. Both will likely play in the national tournaments. The women in Frankfort, Kentucky. The men in Kansas City, Missouri. RSU pulled the double dip last year with both teams reaching the 32-team joyride in the same season for the first time in the athletic department's short history. Up first, though, the Sooner Athletic Conference tournaments at Bill George Arena on the campus of John Brown in Siloam Springs. It's cool to have the games played in a two-year-old facility, and hosted by the hospitable folks of northwest Arkansas. The prospects are good for the 4th-seeded Hillcat women, who open up with St. Gregory's in the first round Thursday morning at 10:45. The teams split the regular season series in two close games. If all falls right, RSU will have a chance at the nation's #1 team in Oklahoma City in the semifinals Friday. The RSU men, on the other hand, will have a much more difficult road right from the jump. The 'Cats are the #2 seed and take on 7th-seeded Oklahoma Christian in the opening round Thursday at 4:30. RSU swept the two-game series during the season, but they were heart-stoppers. The Hillcats won both nearly at the buzzer, on the road by two and at home by three. It wouldn't shock me at all to see any of the 8 teams in this year's field hoisting the Sooner Athletic tournament trophy come Saturday night.


It had to have been in the mid-to-late 1980's when the month of March grabbed hold of me and put me through the spin cycle. I was an energetic spitfire who had just started my foray into competitive Catholic league basketball at the grade school level. The photo above is probably from 6th or 7th grade, suiting up in the orange and white of St. Francis of Assisi. Check out those shoes...the pumps were all the rage back in the day, especially for those who couldn't afford the Air Jordans. It's a shame the heels of the shoes didn't fill up with air to make me taller. I digress. March stole my heart back then. March spoke to me. March latched onto my chest and gave me a bear hug that to this day has never left. I hope the teams I cover play well enough to cut down nets, and make me feel like the shooting star I once was in my childhood. It's why I broadcast games, it's why I never want to leave the gym. Hillcats...I'm living vicariously through you. Now, go make us proud!

Friday, February 3, 2012

KJRH Feature on SuperFly

A special RSU thanks to "2 Works for You" Sports Reporter Cayden McFarland in Tulsa. He had a great visit with Oklahoma's best dunker, Kenny "SuperFly" Edwards. Take a look!

 

Monday, January 16, 2012

"SuperFly", Halfway Home


Well...we've essentially reached the midway point of the Sooner Athletic Conference schedule, now 10 games into a grueling 22-game league season. Some men's and women's basketball thoughts in a moment, but first take some time to watch and reflect.The video below is provided by the RSU Media Relations staff, and it features three, 2nd-half dunks by junior forward Kenny Edwards (Indianapolis, IN-Panola Junior College). The Cats went on to beat Oklahoma Christian in thrilling fashion last week 71-69 by scoring the game's final 8 points. Kenny claims he's never had his vertical measured, but it's at least 45 inches. He's also been given the nickname, "SuperFly", by Hillcat Network color man Steve Bontrager. When I hear that, it reminds of my wrestling fandom days back in the 1980's watching Jimmy "SuperFly" Snuka come off the top rope to lay down the hammer on some unsuspecting opponent. Kenny's dunks are as lightning-quick, and equally punishing...take a looksy!



At this point in the season with 12 conference games left, both the men's and women's races in the SAC are rapidly taking shape, and tightening at the top. OBU holds a slim lead on first-place, but the Bison suffered their first loss of the season in overtime to Southern Naz last weekend. That means RSU heads out to West Texas this week for games against Lubbock Christian and Wayland Baptist only a half-game out of first with an 8-2 mark. The Hillcats have played one more game, but OBU already beat RSU in the first meeting this season. SNU and USAO are nibbling on Rogers State's heels, though, with both teams at 6-3 and tied for 3rd. RSU had a real productive two games last week, beating Okla. Christian narrowly and then locking down at home defensively in an 11-point win over Northwestern. That followed a week in which the Cats lost 2 of 3 to OBU and to MACU in upset fashion. It appears the ship is steering better as RSU points its compass to the Lone Star State later this week.

As for the RSU ladies, the Cats are all alone in 4th place with a 6-4 record. The women are a half-game ahead of Oklahoma Baptist, and not far behind Southern Naz (7-2). Lubbock Christian finally did what some of us saw coming, and that's hand #1 Oklahoma City its first loss. LCU hammered the Stars 88-66 for OCU's first loss of the season. So, at the top it's Lubbock at 9-0 and OCU in 2nd at 9-1. The Hillcats have won 3 straight and are really doing solid work on the defensive end, especially limiting second chance opportunities during the current win streak. We'll see if Amy Williams' ball club can go pick up two wins in Texas to match a season-high 5-game win streak. It'll be difficult to win at the Rip Griffin Center in Lubbock, but RSU had a 2nd-half lead on LCU in Claremore so it's possible.

A closing thought...if the first half of conference play has lent us anything, it's this...there are more teams on any given night in the SAC this season that can rise up and beat some of those in the upper echelon of the standings. We've seen it with Mid-America upsetting the RSU men already, and we'll likely see it somewhere again as we hit the home stretch. Enjoy the race!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Big Spice Ballin' in South America



Really cool to see former Hillcat Sylvester Spicer still working right around the rim. The video below highlights a Big Spice follow-dunk while playing pro ball for Ancud, Chile last month. The crowd goes absolutely berserk!

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Uniforms, Bontrager Reports to Practice


Okay, I was jazzed up for the approaching basketball season earlier in the week, but now even more so. This is apparently the new uniform for the 'Cats this year. Is this sweet or what? Don't answer, rhetorical...the model is Jenks native and returning RSU guard Alex Ewings.

P.S.-RSU color commentator Steve Bontrager took in some of today's workout, and on paper and on the Claremore Expo practice floor, he says this collection of talent trumps any of the previous teams in RSU red and blue. Steve doesn't blow smoke my way very often, except when he's losing personal bets to me on NBA Finals series. No word on if he challenged any of the newcomers to a free-throw shooting contest.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New Home for Hillcat Broadcasts


It's always hard to fathom basketball being right around the corner, especially when you're fully engulfed in the high school football season like I am as the voice of the Sapulpa Chieftains. With that said, the start of the 2011-2012 RSU hoops season is 3 weeks from tonight (say it with me now, WOW!). The Hillcat men play an exhibition game on Tuesday, November 1st at ORU, while the women square off in an exhibition contest at Tulsa the same night.

If you're unaware, there have been some big changes to how the basketball broadcasts will be delivered. The basketball games can no longer be heard on the airwaves of RSU Radio, or viewed through the prism of RSU Public Television. The athletic department has taken the broadcasts completely in-house, through the capabilities of Stretch Internet and the Hillcat Network. All home events will have video and audio, with audio only for road games. The broadcast crew remains the same, with the serendipitous Steve Bontrager as my partner for a 5th season. RSU has added former student, former assistant SID, and former all-around good guy Steve Braun as the full-time producer/coordinator of sports broadcasts and new media. He'll be our right-hand man at the controls, making us sound better than ever.

Now, as I understand it you should be able to watch/listen to Hillcat basketball through various avenues. Just click HERE to give it a test run. The athletic department has already broadcast several soccer games with the new technology. You can go through either a computer or through your internet phone hookup, if you're adept at doing that. Lord knows I'm not, I still use a flip phone from 5 years ago. Looking forward to another season of heart-stopping Hillcat basketball.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Seismic Shift in Sooner Athletic Conference

Could the days of the Sooner Athletic Conference be numbered? All accounts lead me to opine that it appears so. Sixteen schools across the country recently applied for, and ten were granted...entry into provisional membership of the NCAA Division II ranks.

Among those from the SAC applying for a move to D2, only Southern Nazarene has been accepted at this time. Northwestern Oklahoma State and Oklahoma Christian were denied for various reasons. I still fully expect NWOSU and OC to eventually be included. Rogers State has gone on record stating it plans to apply as well, at the earliest next summer. SNU will be joining the newly formed Great American Conference, which is made up of Oklahoma regional schools previously in the Lone Star Conference and Arkansas institutions from the Gulf South. Northwestern has already been invited to the GAC, granted the school is accepted for the jump from NAIA to NCAA. Oklahoma Christian (if approved at a later date) will likely head to the Heartland Conference.


That brings me to my completely hypothetical and for discussion only purposes conclusion...that within 3-5 years, the Sooner Athletic Conference will cease to exist. Follow me here. If the mass exodus of NAIA schools continues, that leaves a rippling domino effect for SAC members. And, the only reasonable outcome is a 14-team Heartland Conference with only Panhandle State playing football. RSU would be a very strong candidate for invitation to the Heartland, joining Oklahoma Christian in its desire to become a D2 school. Now, with Oklahoma Baptist and Wayland Baptist adding football one would think those schools are hinting at a date with the NCAA. If that happens, count OBU among those who would like to be in the Great American Conference. With the departure of some Lone Star schools, I'm pretty confident Wayland Baptist could end up in that league.

The remaining scenario has John Brown peeking at a move out of the NAIA, and joining up with Arkansas-Fort Smith as a natural rival in the Heartland. Lubbock Christian is a solid school with athletic success that points to an NCAA future as well...Chaps welcome to the Heartland! Throw those schools together with RSU and OC in the Heartland, and that leaves you with one more to ponder, Oklahoma City. We all know the Stars have the resources and the gumption to make a move to D2 work. Their hands may be forced after other SAC members leave them high and dry. Or, is OCU still holding out hope that it can shift back to NCAA Division 1 status? That would take a sizable prayer book and bank account to happen, but I guess it could. In the end, I peg OCU for the Heartland. Finally, you might as well add Cameron University in Lawton to the mix. Combine no football and a desire to leave the Lone Star schools behind, and you have another university that meshes more with the Heartland in terms of scope and mission.

With all that said, that leaves only two schools in the Sooner Athletic Conference's future...St. Gregory's and Mid-America Christian. Sadly, that's the long-term track of this league and those very tiny, private schools with low-dollar athletic budgets. Could the SAC add a Southwestern Christian and an Oklahoma Wesleyan to start a rebuild? Sure, but it's more likely SGU and MACU just look for an existing NAIA Division 2 league to join, see the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference. Ultimately, the current summer is the beginning of the end of one of the all-time, great conferences in the NAIA. The SAC was first formed in 1978, but by 2015 it could be sent to the scrap heap by the small college continental divide.

My new and improved Heartland Conference will include 6 schools from Texas, 5 from Oklahoma, 2 from Arkansas, and 1 from Kansas. For more information on the current league, click HERE.

*Addendum...I overlooked the latest news on the league's website, but McMurry University in Abilene, Texas has been accepted into Division 2, and will compete in the Heartland. The school had been an NCAA Division 3 member (D3 schools don't offer athletic scholarships). The more the merrier under my plan. I hope they find one more to add and make it a 16-member conference.

(The views and thoughts expressed in this blog are solely those of Shawn Tiemann. They do not reflect the opinions of the Rogers State athletic department, or the university.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sylvester Spicer Overseas



It's great to see former Hillcat Sylvester Spicer doing well in his first year playing pro ball overseas. Click HERE to read a recent article in a New Zealand newspaper featuring his latest tour of duty. Click HERE for a highlight video of Spicer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

NWOSU to New Okla./Ark. League?


Add yet another Sooner Athletic Conference member looking to jump ship to NCAA Division 2. Having covered Northwestern Okla. State for 4 years as a sports reporter in the area, I can tell you this is the right decision for the Rangers. Plus, they have the added benefit of instantly being more attractive to the new Oklahoma/Arkansas league that's about to form due to football.

I still contend this new league will want to grow with more than just football-playing schools. I say that because the more basketball-playing members you have, the less non-conference games you have to worry about scheduling. RSU could gain a foothold because, along with NWOSU, SOSU, SWOSU and ECU, it's a public and regional university. And, being so close in proximity to the Tulsa market helps a bunch.

We'll see...the early handicapping from my end says the future is in the Heartland Conference, but if the new league wants more than football schools, it's the Arkhoma Intercollegiate Athletics Association!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Oklahoma Schools Leaving Lone Star


It seems conference realignment's starting to shake NCAA Division 2 to its core...the excerpt below was compiled by my former colleague at Fort Hays State, Gerard Wellbrock of Eagle Radio, up in Kansas. While not on the grand scale of Division 1 realignment, this is far more interesting to follow for me because of my past work with the D2 ranks, and RSU's impending move to that level.

"The Lone Star Conference says three of its Oklahoma members plan to withdraw from the NCAA Division 2 league. Conference commissioner Stan Wagnon says the league has been notified that East Central University in Ada, Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant and Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford are leaving the conference, effective June 2012."

"The presidents of the three schools met last Friday with leaders of six Arkansas Division 2 schools to discuss the possibility of forming a new conference in an attempt to reduce travel. Last month, MIAA presidents received letters from Central Oklahoma and Northeastern State."

Now, I gotta believe RSU would fit in beautifully with the new Oklahoma/Arkansas league that's about to form. But, it begs the question...what on God's green Earth is NSU in Tahlequah thinking? UCO might be on a different plane because of its much higher enrollment in Edmond, but it'll be a PR disaster for NSU to join the MIAA. Not only will the RiverHawks not win, but they'll forfeit natural in-state rivalries that have been in place for decades. They'll also absolutely be lost in the shuffle once Okla. schools join up with this new conference. While NSU's busy meandering its way to such fine locales like Kirksville, MO...Omaha, NE...and Emporia, KS, everyone in Oklahoma that follows small colleges will be discussing this new league with potentially as many as 7 or 8 schools from the Sooner State all stealing the headlines (if there are any to be stolen). RSU would be a great fit for the new league once the jump to D2 is made, and the travel and external costs incurred will be much less than joining the Heartland Conference. Plus, you stay out of the state of Texas in conference play.

Look, NSU is doing the exact opposite of what Fort Hays State did in 2005...FHSU went the common-sense approach. It moved out of a conference it never really belonged in (Rocky Mountain) and moved to a league with members it used to compete against regularly back in the day (The MIAA). Some folks need to realize that even at D2 football-playing schools, all sports are essentially non-revenue. The #1 objective should be to look out for the almighty budget. RSU's brass is definitely going about all this in the right manner. And, I'm blessed to be a very small part of it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

RSU to NCAA


Some big news in Claremore this week, as Hillcat fans try to wrap their arms around a potential move from NAIA to NCAA Division 2. It was probably expected that the task force would come back with the recommendation to apply for NCAA status. With the growth of the university as a whole, and the solid foundation put down with the fast start by all of RSU's athletic programs, this is a no doubter!

The next question, or first question from a fellow collegiate play-by-play man I used to work with at Fort Hays State up in Kansas...what conference are the 'Cats looking to join? All of this is just speculatory on my part, but the best fit would be the Lone Star Conference, or the Heartland Conference. Might I suggest all of the regional institutions bring their braintrust together and form a league you could name the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Athletics Association. There's some chatter out there, though, that Northeastern State in Tahlequah and Central Oklahoma in Edmond are trying to convince the powers that be they both belong in the MIAA. That could be decided as early as next fall. Which would then pave the way for RSU and NWOSU (Northwestern Okla. State) to jump into those two vacated Lone Star spots and fill the void left by NSU and UCO. All very intriguing possibilities. Peace!