Statesmen Enjoy Fairytale Ride
Oskaloosa, Iowa – It’s been a storybook year, but will it be a storybook finish? The William Penn University Men’s Basketball Team is looking to finish off its storybook year with a big trophy hoisted in victory.
Head Coach John Henry and his team sat Wednesday evening as their opponent in the opening round of the national tournament was announced; the Statesmen drew McPherson (Kan.).
Coach Henry says that having the team together to watch the selection show is similar to what the Division I teams do. Making the players, coaches and family feel as special as possible is all part of the evening. “Love all of the people who provided food,” Henry said.
Acknowledging all of those people who helped to make the night special as the team sat and watched a highlight video MCG (Mahaska Communication Group) produced from the two games during the MCC Tournament. “A lot different than last year, when we got together to watch St. Ambrose and Grand View play” Henry said. “We needed St. Ambrose to win for us to get in.”
This year is very different. “We know we’re in now, and not only do we know we’re in, but we’re the #1 seed. It’s been amazing,” Henry expressed.
This year has been a fairytale in the making. Coach Henry explains that there was a lot that came back to the team this year, even though on paper it looks like they added four players. “We really only added James Devlin. Kevin Faye and Brandon Beasley were red shirts, so they actually have been through this before. They were here last year so that makes a big difference.”
Back in September, Henry remembers going home and telling his wife “I think we’re on to something here.”
Back at Penn, Henry remembers telling William Penn University Executive Vice President, John Ottosson, “If everything goes the way it’s supposed to go, I think we’re going to be pretty dang good.”
“Luckily everything has fallen into place,” Henry said while mentioning the setback the team has experienced during the injury of Arman Rasul. According to Henry, Rasul has handled the injury with class, and will be making his return to playing form for the national tournament.
In last year’s appearance, as in years before, the team was ousted from the tournament in the first round.
This is the team’s fourth appearance in eight years, and it helps in being prepared for the big dance. “I know what we’re getting into. I know the practice times, I know the travel,” Henry says of being familiar with how the tournament works. Even those simple things of knowing there isn’t as much warm-up time before the game. “A first year team or even a team that didn’t have anybody on the roster and hasn’t gone doesn’t know these things.”
Henry then talks about making it past that elusive first game. “Everybody’s always talking about the national championship, the final four, everything else, we [Coach Henry & Coach McKinstry] just want to win a game to get the monkey off our coaches back, so then we can move on. To win a game, and get in that Sweet 16 has always kind of been our coaches goal without telling the players. We want them to dream big, but coming from where we come from with 30 losses in ’03, to today, I just want to be able to say I won a game at the national tournament.”
Henry goes on to say he’s extremely nervous about the first round, “anything after that, I’ll be fine.”
MCC Player of the Year Brandon Beasley was enjoying the moment with his teammates as they watched the announcement. “It’s really just a good feeling to have everybody here to enjoy this ride, knowing that we’re the number one seed and that we’ve got a chance to win it all.”
During senior night, it was said that Beasley’s major in college was basketball. He explained that, so far, this is his basketball dream come true.
Beasley, who sat out last year as a red shirt with an injury, felt that this year would be special. “We knew that we’d have everybody back, so we had a strong core. Then we added James [Devlin] and that just made everything even better.”
Penn’s title run starts with McPherson on Wednesday at 1:45 and the games can be heard on KBOE Radio.