Archive for the ‘Lancer Athletic News’ Category

Serbia’s loss, Grace’s gain: A tale of two Nikolas

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Soccer is in Nikola Blazic’s blood.

The son of a semi-professional goalie, Blazic has dedicated his life to soccer since he was seven years old. This has served him well, as he made the national team at age 10, was the youngest player ever to play in a professional futsol league at age 16, and played on a variety of low-level professional teams.

There is only one problem, though. Blazic is from Serbia. And in Serbia, he could never seem to get a chance to really prove himself.

“Here in America you have options and possibilities to do something if you really want to, but in Serbia you have maybe only one chance and that’s it. I have friends that have gone to college and gotten a degree, but have ended up driving taxi cabs for a living,” Blazic explained.

Blazic needed to get out if he was going to get his chance.

An Unprecedented Journey

Whether it was being benched for older players, being degraded by his coaches, or not being allowed to play because he could not afford it, Blazic was always encouraged to quit playing soccer.

It was at the suggestion of his friend while playing basketball in a school yard that Blazic first had the idea of going to play soccer at a college in the United States. So, Blazic started searching for schools he could play at near Chicago, home to the largest Serb population in America. His search was successful, as it yielded a scholarship to play for Dayton University. Blazic, though, did not get his SAT scores in on time and could not be accepted.

This was only the beginning of Blazic’s unlikely path to Grace.

When Dayton fell through, Blazic’s search continued, only this time he would not come up short. Blazic said that when he saw the pictures on Grace’s website he told himself, “This will be my new home.”

No amount of paperwork for a visa, forms for applying at college, or tests to be able to study abroad could stop him. But his high school transcript almost did.

It was not that Blazic’s grades were poor (he is actually very bright), but when he was at the airport in Serbia ready to go through the American embassy, Blazic realized he had left his transcript at home—a document essential to get in amongst his two-inch stack of other required papers. After an interview with American counsel, though, Blazic told his story and was passed.

So many things had to be worked out for Blazic to get to the United States that worked out smoothly. Blazic knows why.

“It was not just circumstances that got me here. I believe God put me here. Now I see how all along it was just God’s path for my life,” Blazic said.

It is no small feat for Blazic to be at Grace. Three years ago, Blazic’s father was laid off work for a year and a half. Blazic, his sister, and his parents moved in with his grandma, while his mother worked 10 hours a day for $160 a month.

Coming from a war-torn country has not dampered Blazic’s hope.

“I have a strong will and no one can stop me,” he said.
“Never in my life have I wanted to be the best, just a chance to show myself because I know I can do well.”

Blazic is here, and Grace is better because of it.

Just like a Movie

In many ways, America is a dream come true for Blazic.

Soccer head coach Matt Hotchkin remembers taking Blazic out to eat after picking him up from the airport last August.

As they were pulling up to the drive-thru, Hotchkin asked Blazic what he wanted to eat. After being told what they had, Blazic decided on a chicken sandwich, but was staring out of the window with a fascinated look the whole time.

Hotchkin explained, “The whole time I’m ordering, he is staring across at me with this smile on his face. I finally asked him, ‘Nikola, what is going on?’ and he said, ‘Coach, I feel like I’m in a movie, because that’s the only place I’ve seen a drive-thru before.’”

Welcome to America.

A New Opportunity

It is hard to imagine what Blazic’s life would look like without sports.

If soccer were not in Blazic’s blood, he would certainly not be at Grace College right now. For Blazic, being in America is an opportunity to finally show himself after being held back for years. Whether he is cleaning classrooms at 6 a.m. to help pay for school or enjoying playing with new soccer equipment, Blazic considers himself blessed.

“Ever since I’ve come here, only good things have happened. It’s like a dream come true,” said Blazic. “I can never really explain to my teammates what a privilege it is to play on that soccer field.”

A simple piece of advice Blazic’s father told him years ago was “always believe in yourself.” In all the challenges Blazic has faced, he never forgot it.

And he never will.

By Zane Gard

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Nearly four years ago, Grace College gained a Serbian player that would forever change the tennis team, and a Serbian tennis player gained a college which would forever change his life.

A Perfect Fit

In 2008, a Serbian named Nikola Todorovic began looking for a school to attend and play tennis for. Wanting to have an opportunity for a successful career, he knew he needed to go to school in the United States. After finding a random list of colleges online, he started emailing coaches.

After his research, Todorovic decided that he would play Division I tennis as Mississippi State University and pursue a career as a film director. Still, for some reason he kept in touch with a coach from a small college in northern Indiana. Unknown to Todorovic was that school’s tennis team had just ended its season without a conference win for the fourth consecutive year.

Todorovic credits head coach Larry Schuh with his coming to Grace.

“Coach Schuh was very persistent in emailing and seemed to be a man of integrity who genuinely cared about me as a person rather than just me as a player on his team. If it weren’t for his persistence, I probably would not be here right now,” Todorovic explained.

Many international students want to play at the collegiate level, but unfortunately most never get the opportunity because they need too much scholarship money. Schuh said that he pursued Todorovic because of his willingness to work hard to pay his tuition.

“I was looking for some good, hardworking players to start building the team because at that time we were the welcome mat that everyone wiped their feet on at conference matches. I watched a video he posted on YouTube of a tennis match he played in and I knew he would be a great fit for the team,” Schuh added.

Little did Schuh know how good of a fit it would be.

Adjusting to America

When he first came to Grace, Todorovic experienced an expected culture shock.

There was, of course, getting used to the fact that people in the United States do not walk everywhere and finding out that Americans are not as liberal as Serbians. Perhaps many people at Grace overestimated the adjustments he would have to make.

Questions like “Do they have phones in Serbia?” and “Have you ever eaten pizza before?” (yes and yes) became staples in conversation. Yet Todorovic was sure to have fun with this. He laughed as he remembered the time when he told a girl that because of war in Serbia all the radiation caused him to be born with two hearts—and she believed him.

Aside from social culture shock, however, there was another kind of shock—spiritual culture shock.

“The Christian atmosphere at Grace is unlike anything that I had ever been around,” Todorovic said. “In Serbia, the brand of Christianity that we have here at Grace would be considered a cult. It was so good for me to be here, though, because I grew so much from the Bible studies that coach did with our team.”

Schuh, a pastor for eight years before he started coaching, explained that his responsibility as a Christian leader is to impact his players in light of the Gospel. Through season-long Bible studies, Schuh’s aim is to have each player mature in Christ. Todorovic said that these Bible studies have impacted him deeply and pushed him to grow in his faith.

One of the Guys

Now two years removed from his freshman year at Grace, Todorovic has come a long way. From once being a player who would consistently get very frustrated to a player who Schuh now praises for managing his emotions, Todorovic has become better on the court.

In 2009, his freshman year, Todorovic made it to the #2 singles championship in the MCC tournament, finishing 11-4 overall and being named to the all-conference team. This year, after a disappointing sophomore season, Todorovic has bounced back with a 7-2 record in singles match play.

Despite these successes, Todorovic’s biggest impact has been off the tennis court.

A new culture and new community did not stop Todorovic from becoming an instant fixture on the team, which Todorovic described as “more than just a bunch of guys who go to matches and practices together.” Todorovic’s electric personality, humor, and attitude drive the tennis team and add diversity to the Lancers.

Todorovic’s friend and doubles partner for the past three years, Michael Blevins, said that the team loves Todorovic as much as he loves them, saying, “Nikola is by far the funniest person on the team whoalways knows how to cheer someone up if they are down. His impact is one of the most important to how our team performs. If his attitude is good and he plays well, we win 99 percent of the time.”

Despite being one of the most unlikely athletes to come to Grace, Todorovic has made a profound impact on the men’s tennis team. With over a year and a half to go, though, he is far from finished at Grace. More laughs, encouragement, and victories are sure to follow.

Good thing he did not end up in Mississippi.

By Ashley Mazelin

These two stories were published in the October 6 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

A Glimmer of Hope

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Being the first athletic team to enter a country after a prolonged civil war may be daunting, but that did not stop Grace College’s volleyball team from going to Liberia. Over the course of 13 days this past summer, lives were changed both on the team and in the country. Here is part of their story:

From One War-Torn Team to Another

The people of Liberia know war. In the last three decades, two civil wars have devastated the countryside and caused over 350,000 casualties. Peace is new to Liberians, with internal violence only having ceased since 2003.

Members of the Grace College volleyball team are all too familiar with pain as well. Last September, freshman Mallori Kastner died in a freak accident just a month after joining the volleyball team, leaving the team with much heartache. Though it is certainly not complete, senior outside hitter Stephanie Lawson said the team’s trip contributed much to the healing process.

“It was good to bring the freshmen into our team. Though they didn’t have to experience it with us, they still wanted to help us carry the burden,” Lawson explained.

This divine pairing provided a greater connection between the players and the people of Liberia. Not only could the team share their story, but as head coach Andria Harshman put it, “We got to watch how they are getting back up too.”

 

Who Needs to Shower

Entering a third world country, the volleyball team was expecting some cultural adjustments.

Staying in the capital city of Monrovia (population 1 million), which Provost Dr. Bill Katip described as “a big village, rather than a city,” the team would experience poverty firsthand. Yet they were told they would be staying in a hotel with running water, electricity, and Internet—more than almost everyone else could say.

Despite the scenic view, complete with an ocean shore just yards away, the hotel conditions proved to be less than desirable. Players would shower by filling buckets with water, even foregoing showers altogether some nights.

“Rather than having four people be able to shower in 15 minutes on a normal trip, you have to pick who’s going to shower first in case everyone can’t,” Harshman said with a laugh.

The unusual conditions did not come without their own blessings, though. Players grew closer and learned to appreciate what they had more. Lawson told of a moment in the trip that reminded her of the perspective she should have.

“We were sitting on the bus stopped in traffic when this guy came up to our bus window and started talking to me. He spent a few minutes telling me to make the most of my life and how blessed I was. While I was expecting to walk away with a new perspective, I wasn’t expecting to have it be directly told to me.”

Katip came away impressed with how the team responded. “I was proud of them for setting a godly example. I didn’t hear them complain about a thing.”

Not Quite Undefeated

When the volleyball team was not visiting Liberian dignitaries (like the president of the YMCA, the United States’ ambassador to Liberia, the President of the University of Liberia, the Minister of Youth Sport, and the Vice President of Liberia), chances are they were running volleyball clinics, playing with Liberian children, or, of course, playing volleyball.

Over the course of their trip, the volleyball team had the chance to showcase their skills against Liberian competition. Despite beating the United States Marines’ team, the University of Liberia’s women’s team, the Liberian National team, and a group of guys from the YMCA, the volleyball team fell short once—against the Liberian military team. Used to playing without shoes in beach volleyball, the players were not used to playing with one extra level of competition—fire ants—which resulted in the only loss for Grace.

In what was considered “mass chaos at times,” the volleyball team put on clinics three days on the trip—two for volleyball and one for… soccer. Though most players were strangers to soccer, the team helped Liberian Aldophus “Doc” Lawson run a soccer clinic, which was one part of his plan to help develop a parks and recreation system in Liberia.

Because of the Liberian government’s push for gender equality in sports participation, having the volleyball team play and teach volleyball was monumental. All age groups and skill levels were represented at the clinics, where the YMCA served as home for an overseas Lancer Camp.

Harshman explained that the goal of these clinics was to show the Liberian people what a clinic looks like, help improve volleyball skill levels, and teach kids about life. The clinics were well-received.

“It was really great to see the appreciation they had for us,” junior middle hitter Stephanie Bolt added.

 

A People of Hope

When Coach Andria Harshman was exploring options for where the team could go for their trip, she asked Ignite International where the biggest need was. The response? Liberia.

Matched with the team’s desire to go to where they were needed, the opportunity to help Doc Lawson jumpstart his sports program made the team choose Liberia over going to Israel. Their help was a huge step for future ministry in Liberia.

Judy Fox, founder of Ignite International, thanked the team for taking one man’s goal (Lawson’s) and making hundreds of people see it.

“I’ve been to 15 or 16 countries and what I always have seen is that when we go back the second and third times the trip far exceeds the first time. With what we experienced with the Grace team, it’s hard to imagine anything exceeding that. Future groups will be so well received and already have an impact before they get there because of the Grace team,” Fox said.

Despite losing a generation to war, the country of Liberia has not given up. In fact, the youth are active in trying to get the country back on its feet.

For one day on the trip, Katip, Harshman, and Fox were scheduled to speak at the YMCA about leadership. Though it was intended for eight to ten people on staff, 200-300 people from all over showed up to listen.

“I was impressed that the people of Liberia were still a people of hope and ambition,” Katip said. “The civil war didn’t take away their vision of the future.”

Thirteen days. Fourteen players. Numerous volleyballs hit. And countless lives touched. The volleyball team’s trip to Liberia is a story of hope.

And hope does not disappoint.

By Zane Gard

This story was published in the September 1 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

Grace names Bailey Weathers the Director of Athletics

Monday, August 29th, 2011

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace College is pleased to announce the hiring of Bailey Weathers as the new Director of Athletics.

Weathers has an extensive amount of administration and coaching experience at the NCAA Division I level and also has years of experience working with the United States National Swimming Team.

“I believe Grace College is an incredible place. The faculty, staff and the student body grow together to change each other’s lives and prepare the students for the world ahead,” Weathers said. “I believe athletics can be a unique part of that relationship, and I am excited to have the opportunity to work with our coaches to maximize the development of the student-athletes at Grace.”

Most recently Weathers served as the Executive Head Coach for Club Wolverine in Ann Arbor, Mich. At Club Wolverine, Weathers oversaw a staff of 19 year-round coaches along with eight coaches from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

Overall, Club Wolverine works with over 400 swimmers from the ages of 6-28. In 2008 Club Wolverine had 42 athletes qualify for the US Olympic Trials and had four Olympic team members. In 2009 Weathers’ club produced six members of the USA Swimming World Championship team.

“Bailey is uniquely qualified with his gifts and experiences to be a coaches’ coach who can provide godly leadership for the athletic department,” said Grace College Provost Bill Katip. “He knows what it means to achieve athletic excellence at the premier level, and thus he is the perfect person to lead us onto continued success at even higher levels.”

Prior to Club Wolverine, Weathers had three successful head coaching tenures at NCAA Division I swimming programs.

From 1995-2005 Weathers was the head women’s swimming coach at the University of Notre Dame where he led the team to nine consecutive Big East Conference championships. Weathers was named the Big East Conference Coach of the Year six times.

Weathers also a three-time Metro Conference Coach of the Year winner and a National Independent Conference Coach of the Year during his time as the head women’s swimming coach at the University of South Carolina.

Weathers was given NCAA Division I Coach of the Year honors in 1986 as the head women’s swimming coach at Southern Illinois University, fielding nine All-Americans in his two-year experience at SIU.

Before becoming a head coach, Weathers served stints as an assistant swimming coach at the University of Texas and Indiana University.

Furthermore, Weathers has on different occasions served as the head and assistant coach for US Swimming Olympic Development Camps in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“I was very impressed with the level of excellence in the coaches and their commitment to the student-athletes at Grace,” Weathers continued. “They are going to be a fun group to work with, and my wife and I are excited and blessed to join the Grace family.”

Weathers graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education in 1982 then went on to obtain a Master of Science in Physical Education from the University of Texas in 1984.

Weathers is married to Susan, and the couple has two daughters – Christina (26) and Elizabeth (22) – and a son named Timothy (18).

Year in Review

Monday, June 13th, 2011

From the volleyball team’s inspiring finish in conference play to the men’s basketball team’s third trip in four years to Branson, Missouri, it’s been an incredible athletic year in Lancer sports. Jessica Stolle and MariJean Wegert, two of the all-time greats in Grace women’s athletics, completed their probable hall of fame careers this season, and we witnessed junior baseball player Nate Wottring climb to the top of Grace’s hitting records. Check out Grace’s End of the Year Awards and Top 10 Stories of the year, chosen by athletic director Chad Briscoe and Grace’s Sports Information Department.

END OF THE YEAR AWARDS

Male Athlete of the Year: Bruce Grimm Jr. (men’s basketball)

Grace’s only male athlete to receive NAIA Honorable Mention accolades helped lead the Lancers to another NAIA national tournament appearance, averaging 13.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.9 apg and 2.1 spg. Grace’s sophomore transfer was also named First Team All-MCC.

In Grace’s last seven regular season games, Grimm had three games with 27 points or more, helping secure the Lancers’ bid to Branson. He had a season-high 29 points against Spring Arbor on February 12, totaled a season-high 11 rebounds against Taylor on January 8 and contributed a season-high 10 assists in Grace’s final game of the season on March 10.

Honorable Mention: Nate Wottring

Transfer of the Year: Bruce Grimm Jr (men’s basketball)

Last February, the 2009 Indiana Mr. Basketball Runner-up was playing for East Tennessee State, preparing for a first-round matchup against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. This February, he helped Grace finish second in the MCC and earn a bid to the NAIA national tournament.

Honorable Mention: Clifford Buttermore

Female Athlete of the Year: MariJean Wegert (women’s track and cross country)

In her senior season, Wegert’s unorthodox barefoot running style got her to the NAIA championships in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. She finished 17th in the 800-meter in outdoor nationals, finished eighth in the 800 at indoor nationals and finished 60th in a field of 331 runners at cross country nationals.

After a stressful junior season, “MJ” contemplated her return for her senior campaign. Under first-year head coach Jeff Raymond, however, Wegert returned and completed her probable Hall of Fame career, resetting the Grace College record books and becoming one of the most successful runners in Lady Lancer history.

Honorable Mention: Jessica Stolle

Freshman of the Year: Dana Johnston (volleyball), Juaneice Jackson (women’s basketball)

Right from the start, Johnston proved she would be a key component to the team when she tallied 16 kills in the Lady Lancers’ first match. Johnston was second on the team with 318 kills overall, leading Grace to a third-place finish in the MCC and receiving First Team All-MCC honors. She totaled a season-high 19 kills against both Bluefield College on Aug. 27 and Goshen College on Oct. 5. Her stellar .309 kill percentage was the highest on Grace’s team.

On the hardwood, “JJ” earned Freshman of the Year honors in the MCC as Grace’s sixth man and averaged 7.3 ppg. Jackson filled in for injured Hannah Lengel nicely on Jan. 29 when she exploded for 26 points against Marian University. She had another big performance two games later when she tallied 17 against Goshen College.

Honorable Mention: Olivia Winget

Comeback of the Year: David Henry (men’s basketball)

After an injured back sidelined him for all but 10 games of the 2009-10 season, Henry bounced back in his senior campaign and was an integral part of the Lancers’ national tournament run. Henry ranked No. 12 in the NAIA in 3-point percentage (.434) with 72 made threes in 166 attempts.

Henry drained five threes a trio of times throughout the season and had a season-high 20 points on Dec. 1, leading Grace to a victory against conference foe Bethel College, Grace’s first win against Bethel in four years.

Honorable Mention: Kiera Gray, Jessica Anton

Two-Sport Athlete of the Year: Kiera Gray (basketball and track & field)

One year after tearing her ACL, Gray averaged 9.2 ppg for the Lady Lancers in their 2010-11 season. She also competed in the high jump for track and field.

Gray scored a season-high 22 points in Grace’s last game against Mid-America Christian on March 19. She scored in double-figures 13 times throughout the season and shot 36.1 percent from the floor. In the high jump, Gray qualified for NCCAA Nationals and finished in seventh place.

Honorable Mention: Derek Zwier and Michael Humprey

Clutch Play of the Year: Grimm’s layup secures NAIA berth, Wottring’s home run breaks record

Trailing 56-55 with 17 seconds remaining, Bruce Grimm Jr. grabbed a long rebound and went coast-to-coast to score the go-ahead bucket with 12.7 seconds left to give Grace the 57-56 upset against No. 14 University of Saint Francis. The victory was a momentous one, most likely punching Grace’s ticket to Branson, Mo., for the NAIA national tournament.

On April 23, Nate Wottring completed his climb to the top of Grace’s hitting records. Wottring blasted a home run over the left-field fence against the University of Saint Francis for his 153rd hit, making him Grace’s all-time career hits leader in only his junior season.

Honorable Mention: Victoria Casey nets game-winner against Marian

Moment of the Year: Volleyball wins for Kastner

One week after the tragedy that took the life of freshman teammate Mallori Kastner, the Lady Lancers, supported by a packed-out OCC, defeated Huntington in straight sets on Sept. 24.

Hundreds wore orange to the game, Kastner’s favorite color, and the campus united in a time of sorrow and suffering.

Right, head coach Andria Harshman hugs Kastner’s father.

Honorable Mention: Wegert qualifies for three NAIA races

Character Award: Genevieve Benson and Dayton Merrell

Both were selected by athletic director Chad Briscoe for their exemplary Christian character on and off the athletic stage.

Benson was recently named a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete and was also one of 14 NAIA student-athletes selected for the the Red Cross Collegiate Leadership Program in Washington, DC.

Merrell received the Inaugural NCCAA Game Plan 4 LIFE (GP4L) Character Award for men’s athletics in early April for his leadership on the team and his involvement in the campus community.

Honorable Mention: Bethany Michalski (volleyball), Brad Heintz (baseball), Victoria Casey (soccer) and Sean Smith (cross country, track).

Coach of the Year: Andria Harshman, volleyball

In her third year at the helm of Grace’s volleyball program, Harshman led the seniorless Lady Lancers to a third-place conference finish following an eighth-place finish the year before.

Grace improved from 9-24 overall in 2009 to 17-17 in 2010. The Lady Lancers’ conference success was their best since Harshman’s senior year at Grace.

More importantly, she led her team through a tragedy that shattered the campus and continued to win for the Kastner family. Following the tragedy, Grace won four of its next five matches and went on a three-match tear toward the end of conference season.

Honorable mention: Scott Blum, women’s basketball

TOP STORIES OF THE YEAR

1. Livin’ on a Prayer: “Crush Huntington on Friday. But remember, it’s just a game.” The motivational words came from Mallori Kastner’s father during her memorial chapel service on Sept. 23. The team played inspired the remainder of the season, defeating Huntington in straight sets on Sept. 24 and finishing third in the conference after an eighth-place finish last season.

2. It’s About Time: Grace’s men’s basketball team swept the rival Pilots of Bethel College with an 84-76 win on Dec. 1 and an 87-82 win on Jan. 25, their first victories in eight contests.

3. Barefoot Sensation: Senior MariJean Wegert capped off her stellar career with the Lancers, qualifying for the NAIA Championships in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.

4. Quiet but Dominant: Senior Jessica Stolle completed the best tennis career in Grace’s history with a 48-8 overall record at No. 1 singles.

5. Busy, Busy, Busy: Starting next year, Grace’s athletic department will host both the men’s and women’s NCCAA basketball championships.

6. The Quest for No. 153: Junior Nate Wottring broke Grace’s all-time career hits record with style on April 23, jacking his record-breaking hit over the left field wall to break Mike Cox’s record of 152 hits.

7. A Signature Win: Head baseball coach Josh Bailey led the Lancers to a victory against Spring Arbor on April 20, Bailey’s first victory against the Cougars in his four years with the program and possibly the first victory against SAU since they joined the MCC.

8. It’s a Start: For the first time in the last half-decade, the Grace softball team earned a berth in the MCC tournament under head coach Heather Johnson.

9. Next Stop, Winona Lake: In their tour across the country, the Harlem Globetrotters stopped at the Orthopaedic Capital Center on Jan. 19.

10. Top of the Charts: Grace set a Guinness World Record with its 379-person Knockout game on April 8.

The award recipients and top stories were chosen by athletic director Chad Briscoe and the Sports Information Department.

Lancer Legend Integral Part of Miami Heat Success

Monday, June 6th, 2011

In the National Basketball Association, no team is under a larger microscope than the Miami Heat. After bringing in superstars LeBron James and Chris Bosh to team up with Dwyane Wade this past summer, the Heat immediately transformed from a playoff afterthought into a formidable championship contender.

But behind all the highlight performances and jaw-dropping plays on the hardwood, a Grace College graduate named Chet Kammerer serves with the same humility and charm that helped define him when he was the original “Coach K” for Grace decades ago.

Chet Kammerer is a big deal.

He coached collegiate basketball for over 30 years, been inducted into numerous halls of fame, served as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and currently is Vice President of Player Personnel for the NBA’s Miami Heat.

He has been blessed with a gift for recognizing basketball talent and has been a key influencer in bringing in superstars like Wade or less-than-recognizable but solid performers such as Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony.

“My job is basically evaluating players,”   Kammerer said.  “I have access to a lot of statistical  information about players, and I’ll often be asked for my opinion on whether or not a player would fit our team.  Some times I’m right, and some times  I’m not, but (Heat president), Pat Riley leans heavily on myself and my  assistants for our input in determining our roster.”

While Kammerer does not interact with the players as much when they are a part of the Heat, he is integral in adding fresh talent to the roster and finding players that fill the gaps on the team. Kammerer said, “It’s my job to get [the players] here. It’s the coaches’ job to develop them into NBA players.”

But before Kammerer could even fathom working at the highest level of professional basketball in the world, he was just a self-described farm boy not far from Grace College who simply loved the game of basketball.

Judging by his upbringing, Kammerer should have a pitchfork in his hand rather than a pen and computer. Growing up, the Kammerers were farmers. No one from his family had ever been to college, so his career path seemed to be farming by default. But his high school principal Ed Trexler motivated him to try something different. “[Trexler] said to me: ‘Chet, you’re not a farmer. Your dad is and your brother is, but you ought to go to college.’ He is 90 percent of the reason I went to college,” Kammerer recalled.

The other 10 percent was most likely sports. But for a player who would finish his basketball career at Grace as the top scorer in Lancer history, Kammerer surprisingly was not recruited for his play on the basketball court but rather on the baseball diamond.

As Kammerer recounts the story, then-Grace coach Dick Messner attended one of Kammerer’s high school games at Leesburg High School (now a part of Warsaw Community). After a less-than-superb performance by Kammerer, Messner approached him about attending Grace. “[Messner] didn’t ask me anything about basketball,” Kammerer recalled with a laugh. “He said, ‘I understand you’re a pitcher on the baseball team.’ I’ll never forget that.”

After promptings from Trexler and his high school coach (Bud Lantz), Kammerer enrolled at Grace and was instantly struck by the emphasis on each person’s spiritual life, a concept that was foreign to him. He credits his friendship with Ron Henry, the former “voice of the Lancers,” for challenging him in his Christian faith and for leading him to Christ on the third floor of McClain Hall.

Another important steppingstone in his life happened on Grace’s campus – he met his future wife in a class called “Recreational Leadership.” Opposites seemed to attract for Chet and Sherill, or as he likes to call the two of them, the “converted rascal” and the “preacher’s kid.”

“Grace College was a very important part of my life,” Kammerer continued. “It’s where my life totally changed in that it’s where I became a Christian. My two biggest decisions in life happened there, and it’s where my foundation happened.”

Grace is also where he embarked on his collegiate coaching career – at the ripe age of 22. After a year as an assistant under Messner, Kammerer took over the Lancer basketball program and began to lay the foundations for the storied program. He described himself as a student of the game, attending clinics, talking to coaches and even starting the Lancer Basketball Camp (which still exists) in the late 60s in part to learn from the top high school coaches in the state.

“Grace’s administration showed a lot of confidence in giving  me the opportunity to coach and the responsibility of directing the  program.  At first it was a trial-and-error process, and sometimes it was  painful,” he said.  “Because I was young and inexperienced, I was  determined to become the best coach I could  be.”

And that’s exactly what Kammerer did. He led Grace to eight winning seasons, zero losing seasons and a record of 173-88 during his time from 1966-75. His winning percentage as a coach (.663) remains the all-time best, and he coached Grace to its first three 20-win seasons in program history.

It’s impossible to deny the legacy Kammerer left on Grace’s basketball program and on the students he coached. One of Kammerer’s athletes was a young man named James Kessler, affectionately known today as “Jim” or “Coach K,” the current head coach for Grace’s team. Kessler remembers a point in the program’s history when nearby schools like Taylor and Manchester would refuse to play Grace (“the little Bible school”). But under the era of Kammerer and later Kessler, that all changed.

“Coach Kammerer took over as a young coach and took Grace’s competitiveness to the next level,” Kessler remarked. “He used a high-post offense, which I still like today, and he was ahead of his time in terms of defensive concepts. As a coach, we often coach as we were coached, and Kammerer had a definite influence on me.”

Kammerer’s accolades at Grace led him to a head coaching job at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., where the college eventually renamed the playing surface Kammerer Court due to his outstanding 17-year career there.

But for all his professional success, Kammerer has not forgotten his roots and how Grace shaped who he is today. He described his Christian perspective as directly affecting his priorities and his ethics in the professional world. He is dedicated to influencing the hearts of people rather than solely impacting the win/loss record of the Heat.

“There’s no question that Grace was a very important part of my life. I know other players over the years can share something similar, but the basketball program is where lives have been changed. That’s the thing I’m excited about,” Kammerer continued. “I will forever be indebted to the leadership of Grace and to the school for taking a chance on a local kid who needed direction.”

By Josh Neuhart

This story was published in the April 29 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

Husband, Wife Coaching Staff Find Balance

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Jay and Heather Johnson are competitive people.

Jay recounts stories from early in their marriage—stories of not-so-casual grocery cart races from the store to their car that often involved one of them being knocked over and races to see who could put the case on their pillow first when changing the bed sheets. “We just can’t be on opposite teams,” Jay said.

It is a good thing they are both on the Lady Lancers’ softball coaching staff.

The Johnsons came to Grace College last season after being gone a decade and a half. As one of the most decorated athletes in Grace history, Heather was no stranger to the softball program. In fact, she was elected into the inaugural class of the Grace College Lancer Hall of Fame in 2008 with a record 86 wins and 0.92 ERA over her career.

What is unique about this tandem, though, is Heather is the head coach and Jay is the assistant. Although they are in circumstances that could potentially pose problems for others, the coaching duo has excelled. “We’ve had a lot of people ask us how we work together, but there’s never been any major disagreement with us coaching together,” Heather said.

So how do they work together? The Johnsons came to Grace with the foundation already laid, having already coached and worked together. “After 15 years and running four businesses together, you know what buttons to push and what not to push,” Jay explained. Jay has always helped with Heather’s previous coaching jobs, but not to the extent he has at Grace.

It does not take much to see the differences between the two coaches. Heather has the administration, organization and detail-oriented side, while Jay brings the vision and vocal leadership. “He’s the one pushing people in the weight room, while I’m the one sitting down and talking with them,” Heather joked.

Yet their differences allow them to complement each other. There are times when Jay’s intensity is necessary and times where Heather’s laid-back approach works better. And the softball program is better because of it.

Still, everything does not always run perfectly. Heather explains that sometimes she needs to take charge as head coach. “As a wife, you want to let your husband take the lead, but he’s still my assistant. Sometimes you have to take it back and make adjustments when it’s yours.”

It is not as hard as could be expected for Jay to follow Heather. He says, “I respect her as my head coach, but also my wife.” In turn, Heather praised his humility. “He always wants to do what’s right and accepts correction very well.”

The most difficult thing Jay and Heather have to deal with, however, is at home. With three kids, the Johnsons must balance time at softball with time with family. “In a sense we often leave home unmanned, but we have a great support group of friends that help us,” Heather said. “We talk about softball all the time at home, but we have to set apart time at home with no softball so our home is not overshadowed by softball.”

Nevertheless, the Johnson family is intertwined with the softball program. The entire family, kids and all, have gone on three trips this spring with the softball team. It seems the Johnsons’ kids have picked up on college life fairly quickly. “It’s funny to hear them talk about college all the time,” Heather said. “How many 5 or 7-year-old kids talk about their future majors or roommates?”

Jay summed up their relationship as a divine arrangement. “God knew what he was doing when he brought us together.”

By Zane Gard

This story was published in the April 29 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

Warsaw Trio Reunites

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

This was the last thing Jordan Kistler, Jeff Himes and Jake Bloom expected. To be playing together…again.

Between school and travel ball, the Warsaw Community High School triumvirate has been playing together for a decade. But after high school, their time together appeared to be over.

“Just from an athletic standpoint, I never pictured myself coming here. Especially growing up here, they had contacted me, and I pretty much told them ‘no.’”

2008 Warsaw graduate Jeff Himes’s route was, yes, unexpected, but much more traditional than Bloom’s and Kistler’s.

During his senior year at Warsaw, Himes had his eyes set on Sinclair Community College and had practically told Grace to buzz off. When he visited Grace’s campus, however, he reconsidered. “All the people I met were unreal nice and unreal friendly,” Himes said.

After the coaching staff persistently contacted him, Himes gave into Grace, which established a pipeline to Kistler and potentially Bloom. It’s Himes, in fact, that may be the underestimated lynchpin behind Kistler’s arrival.

“There were always times last year when Jordan would call me to catch up,” Himes said. “He would ask questions like, ‘What’s chapel like?’ But I never caught on.”

While Kistler was at Iowa Western, Himes was Grace’s only marketer.

“There is nothing else to explain it except for…God works in crazy ways,” Himes said. “That’s why it’s so great. I never saw this coming. It’s cool…There are no words to say.”

“Never thought I’d be here, honestly. I grew up in Warsaw, and I was born here. I want to play, but at the same time, I don’t want to be here my whole life.”

Entering his freshman year at University of Indianapolis, 2009 Warsaw grad Jacob Bloom had every intention of trying to walk onto the team. After attending all the baseball meetings, however, Bloom coughed over the team shirts and shorts he had paid for, got his $20 back and quit the team because of a number of “outside factors.”

Every day Bloom worked out, however, he walked through campus, saw the U-Indy baseball field and realized something: He missed it. “It just ate at me, and it got to me a little bit,” Bloom said. “I just realized how much I missed it.”

Bloom began exploring other schools and learned that he could practically attend Grace for free. Bloom transferred to Grace for his freshman spring semester, joined Himes on the roster as a redshirt and is back on the field again this season.

“To go for free and play baseball again…It feels good,” Bloom said. “Taking a year off is not easy, but it just feels good to play again and be out there…I just kind of showed up.”

“They were like, ‘Hey, if anything ever goes south, get ahold of me.’ Apparently I remembered that when it went south.”

Jordan Kistler’s plan was panning out perfectly.

In his sophomore season, 2008 Warsaw graduate Kistler had just led his team, Iowa Western Community College, to the 2010 Junior College World Series title. With a 10-0 record on the mound, his reputation was at its peak. And after two years of recovery from elbow surgery, he was throwing his best since high school. He was on the brink of attaining his dream: Playing Division I baseball.

His success hadn’t gone unnoticed, either, and a number of bigger schools were flocking after him. At the end of May 2010, Kistler fulfilled his dream and signed with Division I University of St. Louis.

Three months later, however, something went incredibly wrong.

“I thought I was getting $34,000 out of $44,000 for my scholarship,” Kistler said. “I was under the assumption that I would get 85 percent, but I got $20,000 and didn’t get anything for academics.”

The timing of the debacle, one week before school, left him in a conundrum. Remember, this was in August. While most college students were packing up their cars for school, one of the top JUCO pitchers in the nation didn’t even have a team.

That’s when Kistler remembered his encounter with Grace’s coaching staff at the BPA (Baseball Players Association) convention at Grace’s Orthopaedic Capital Center earlier that summer. They had told him that if things ever went south, he could contact them.

So he did. Luckily, head baseball coach Josh Bailey just so happened to have scholarship money available. And it also helped that Kistler’s high school sweetheart, Rachael Slater, just so happened to still be in the area.

Kistler realized that in Warsaw, he had a chance to be around the people he loved and be part of a team that valued him as more than a baseball player.

“Even at a DI school, you are just a scholarship on the mound pitching,” Kistler said. “Here, you are a person.”

What makes the Warsaw trio’s reunion even more capturing is the depth of their relationships. Himes and Bloom have been dominating the outfield together for years, Bloom went to Kistler’s father for hitting lessons, and Kistler and Himes are, well, best friends. “Jeff and I have pretty much known each other since we’ve been in diapers,” Kistler said.

They shared their graduation open houses together. They vented to one another over the phone about the stresses of collegiate baseball. Himes even remembers having “Beanie Baby wars” upstairs at Kistler’s house where they would whirl the plastic pellet-filled critters at one another (whether that was their six-year-old days or last summer, he wouldn’t say).

“He’s my best friend,” Himes said. “He’s my go-to guy for a lot of stuff.”

It wasn’t just three former teammates that reunited this season. It was three friends that reunited…somehow.

“For me, it really hit home that everything happens for a reason,” Kistler said. “When you think you know life, you obviously don’t. You just have to have faith, and it will all work out.”

By Steve Copeland

This story was published in the April 17 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

Bailey, Lancers on Brink of Turning Around Program

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

History is not on the side of  the men’s baseball team.

In fact, the team has never topped 21 wins in a season. That could change in 2011. While far from glamorous with an 11-15 record, the team is moving out of the days in the MCC cellar.

Josh Bailey is now on his fourth year as head coach. When he came to Grace, he mapped out a five-year plan—a plan to make a dismal program a competitive one. It would be no small task. Bailey took over a team that went 3-35, ended the season on a 16-game losing streak, and had only five juniors and seniors combined. There was a culture to change in the program, which meant beyond wins and losses.

In each of the next three seasons, the Lancers would increase their win totals, going from three wins to 10 wins to finally tying a school record by going 21-33 last season. Though a .389 winning percentage still appears shabby, the talent, experience and confidence needed to win is slowly seeping in.

The progression has come slowly, but steadily. This year the baseball team looks to build on last year’s improvement. Junior Brad Heinz has noticed the difference.

“In previous years we have had excuses for not playing well. Now we don’t have any, and the coaches demand and expect more. We just have to put it all together.”

Hot and cold streaks have marked the 2011 season. After starting the season on a six-game losing streak, the Lancers won ten of their next eleven games, including a victory over Bethel College for the first time in over five years. Now the team’s resolve is under fire as a mid-season slump has left the team on a seven game slide and 1-7 in the MCC.

“You see your character when you’re losing,” said Bailey, who says losing has helped humble the team. “Our schedule is set up so we play a lot of bad teams in-a-row and a lot of good teams in-a-row, so we need to learn how to be consistent.”

Before this season is labeled as a turnaround, Bailey is quick to point out that the team has a ways to go. This season is simply part of the plan, not a reversal of circumstances. The past losing seasons have taught the team the value of working hard, which will follow the team through ups and downs this year.

Still, the plan is falling into place. The team has leaned on strong freshmen contributions this year and Bailey anticipates continued improved recruiting in the future with the team only having one senior this year. Though pitching has been a struggle in years past, the Lancers pitching staff now has the second lowest ERA in the MCC and is earning the respect of conference opponents.

A final surge over their last 22 regular season games is well within reach. Freshman pitcher Clifford Buttermore says that success will come after the team regains their confidence. “It just takes one good game to get out of a slump. We feel we can win once we put all the pieces together at once.”

New talent and higher expectations are paving the way for the Lancers’ baseball team. History might not be on the Lancers’ side, but it is history they are learning from.

By Zane Gard

This story was published in the April 8 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

Softball Enters 2011 with Different Look

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – The Lady Lancer softball team enters the 2011 season looking to continue rebuilding a program that has been in shambles in recent years. They’ll take the field with a different look, too, showcasing a roster that boasts talent, youth and promise.

Head coach Heather Johnson, entering her second season at the helm of the program, brought in a seven-person freshmen class to jumpstart the rebuilding process, six to seven of which will most likely start.

“The freshmen will make up for their lack of experience with high energy and their versatility,” Johnson commented. “We are going to play aggressive, and for this reason, I know we will make some mistakes. But it won’t be because of a lack of talent.”

The freshmen that are expected to have the biggest impact are Olivia Winget, Jordan McKinley and Brooke Shadinger. Winget and McKinley will be shouldering most of the load on the mound this season, and Shadinger will man centerfield and will be heavily relied on to be a leader in the outfield.

Winget posted a 1.59 career ERA at Southwood High School with 494 strikeouts, 43 victories, 15 shutouts and two no-hitters. She will also add some power to the middle of the lineup as she batted .494 during her senior year at Southwood and totaled eight home runs.

Johnson stressed that with a team this young, team chemistry is crucial to the program’s success and foundation.

“Our team is striving to be unified and to work through the challenges that this season will provide,” Johnson said. “We have become more of a unit since the fall and now throughout the winter. We are excited to see what the spring brings.”

Grace only returns three starters from last season in Genevieve Benson, Katie Clouse and Sam Fields. Fields looks to solidify the middle infield, as she was an MCC All-Conference honorable mention last year as a freshman. She led the team in hitting with a .336 batting average and will look to do so again.

Benson is the lone upperclassman and will serve as the leader on and off the field. She will play alongside Fields in the middle of the infield at second base. Clouse is transitioning from playing third base to being the catcher for the Lady Lancers this season.

Johnson expects her young lineup to play an aggressive, high-energy style of softball. Grace will turn out a faster lineup this season that will generate more hits and consequently more runs.

One of the team goals this year is to qualify for the MCC conference tournament, something they’ve been unable to do the last half-decade. They also want to compete in the NCCAA regional tournament come postseason.

Overall, Johnson is excited for the upcoming season as she tries to lead her players to compete beyond their years. Even though Grace’s youth will bring about some challenges, it will allow them to mature early as they pursue their team goals.

Says Johnson, “Our biggest challenge will be to build their confidence early as we try to put all the pieces together and pursue our team goals.”

The LAB — Live from Branson

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Click here to follow the Grace men’s basketball team on their quest for an NAIA national championship in Branson, Mo. Grace’s sports information department will provide stories, analysis, photos, blog posts, video interviews and highlights from the NAIA Division II men’s basketball tournament continually throughout the week.

Wednesday, March 2
Thursday, March 3
Friday, March 4
Saturday, March 5
Sunday, March 6
Monday, March 7
Tuesday, March 8
Wednesday, March 9
Thursday, March 10

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Lancer Dream Ends — 3/10/11 (8:50 p.m.)

Dakota Wesleyan opened up the second half with an 11-7 run to take back the lead at 43-42 early in the second half.

For Grace, Greg Miller came out hot in the second half scoring seven of the first nine points in the half.

Later, Grimm slashed to the basket and dished it off to Johnson for a deuce to bring the Lancers within four. After a trey from Wesleyan’s Jake Kneeland, Grace forced a pair of turnovers, but was unable to capitalize.

Grace hit a shooting slump in the second half and Dakota Wesleyan mounted a 20-6 run to take control of the game for good.

With 8:03 remaining, the Lancers found themselves trailing 50-58 and their hopes of making a deep run were slowly fading. However, Elliot Smith had something to say about that. He nailed a deep triple to bring the Lancers within five. But that was not enough as Dakota Wesleyan upped the lead to nine with 4:01 remaining in the contest.

With less than four minutes to play, Dakota Wesleyan’s Chase Walder hit the dagger three to stretch the Tiger lead to 12 points. Grace was unable to start a run and cut the deficit.

Over a span of 11 seconds in the final minute, David Henry hit a pair of threes in desperation to bring the Lancers within seven. But it was too little, too late. Grace was forced to foul and the lead got to nine.

In the final minute, senior Stephen Kaufman checked into the lineup one last time as a Lancer.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, all the Grace hopeful that made the trip to Branson gave the Lancers one final applause in thanks for a great season. The final score read Grace College 62, Dakota Wesleyan 71.

Click here to check out and download photos from Grace’s opening round game against Dakota Wesleyan.

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Lancers Lead at Halftime — 3/10/11 (7:26 p.m.)

Game day has finally arrived. The team rolled into town on Monday evening. It is now Thursday. In talking with members of the team, they are itching to get out on the floor and play. The much anticipated tipoff time would have to wait as play was delayed throughout the morning session because of scoreboard issues.

During halftime of the Northwood vs. Fisher game, the guys hit the floor to shoot around a bit before getting the official team picture taken.  From there it was back to the locker room to go over the game plan one final time.

After the final buzzer sounded, ten minutes were put on the scoreboard. Only ten minutes remained before tipoff between Grace College and Dakota Wesleyan. Lancer Nation has a presence here in Branson, with around 100 Grace fans in attendance.

Grace starters include Duke Johnson, David Henry, Greg Miller, Elliot Smith, and Bruce Grimm Jr.

In the opening minutes, neither team could produce much offense with the score being 4-2 Dakota Wesleyan after nearly five minutes of play. Freshman Greg Miller put the first points of the tournament on the board for the Lancers followed by a 3-pointer from Henry. Grace trailed early 7-10 at the first timeout with 12:55 remaining in the first half.

Grace’s shooting woes continued going almost three minutes without a basket. However, Henry again nailed a trey to bring the Lancers within four at 10-14. With seven minutes remaining in the half, Grace was down nine points before Miller hit a three from the left wing

Bruce Grimm scored his first points of the tournament as he slashed to the right block and backed in the runner.

Grace took its first lead of the game at 24-23 on back-to-back buckets from Duke Johnson. Grimm followed with a free throw line jumper to increase the lead to three with 3:24 remaining in the half. Jake Peattie put in a reverse layup on the assist from Grimm to give Grace a seven point lead. The lead came on the heels of a 15-0 run by the Lancers.

Dakota Wesleyan pulled within three to close out the half. The Lancers lead the Tigers 35-32 at the break here from Keeter Gymnasium in Point Lookout, Missouri.

Duke Johnson leads Grace with 11 points and six rebounds. Greg miller has seven points and three boards. Henry has a pair of treys and four rebounds.

By Adam Basinger

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Scouting Report: Grace vs. Dakota Wesleyan — 3/10/11 (2:29 a.m.)

Head coach Jim Kessler feels like his team has spent three weeks preparing for Dakota Wesleyan. And they almost have.

Thursday night, however, Grace’s time will have finally come. The No. 15 Lancers (22-10), who earned the sixth at-large bid, will go up against the evenly matched Tigers (23-8) of Dakota Wesleyan, the seventh-at large bid, on Thursday evening.

And Kessler believes the Lancers are ready.

In our interview with Kessler, conducted on his scenic back porch at the Hotel Grand Victorian (he insisted we try to capture the pine tree in the background), “Coach K” hit on several things for Thursday night’s game. The video, after all, is nearly nine minutes long.

Two things Kessler stressed were 1) Shutting down senior Brady Wiebe and 2) Defending the 3-pointer.

Wiebe, who ranks No. 15 in the nation in points per game (20.0), has attempted—get this—a whopping 348 free throws this season, knocking down 270 of them (77.6 percent).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PQMxfx-o7E[/youtube]

Let’s dissect that a little more. Three hundred and forty-eight free throws. The entire team has only taken 837 free throws this year. That’s 41.6 percent of the team’s free throws. That’s 11 free throws a game. That’s only three less free throws than his attempted field goals (351). And of those field goals, he’s made 175 of them. So…per every made field goal, he attempts nearly two free throws to along with it. Yikes.

Even the Black Hills State players in the hot tub last night were raving/ranting about how Wiebe has a knack for getting to the free throw line. “He’ll tick you off,” one of them said.

Luckily, Grace is prepared for Wiebe considering this year’s MCC season could be dubbed “the year of the flop” as Kessler says.

Regardless, have fun guarding him, Duke Johnson.

The other key for tomorrow night is defending the 3-pointer, as the Tigers rank No. 42 in the NAIA in 3-point percentage (35.3).  They have five players shooting above 35 percent from beyond the arc, led by Chase Walder who ranks No. 23 in the nation with 77 made 3-pointers. Walder is Wesleyan’s Dave Henry.

A good sign for Grace is that they have contended the 3-pointer well all season and actually rank No. 1 in America in 3-point field goal percentage defense (28.5 percent). If Grace plays like they have all year, Wesleyan’s threatening presence from downtown shouldn’t give the Lancers any problems.

On Thursday night, it begins. With a victory, they’ll most likely have their hands full with legend Rollie Massimino’s Northwood University in the second round. But for now, maybe they can just keep Wiebe off the free throw line.

By Justin Oren and Steve Copeland

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Ride the Ducks — 3/9/11 (11:45 p.m.)

After morning practice at the Branson RecPlex, the team came back to the hotel for a film session on Dakota Wesleyan. After analyzing game tape, the guys went to Chester’s Restaurant with team sponsor Hawthorn Bank.

After dinner, the guys headed to “Ride the Ducks”. Like the Dixie Stampede, some of the guys had been there before, but the new guys had a lot left to learn. The tour of the Taneycomo was led by “Captain Corn”. It was a chilly afternoon, but the guys made a good time of it. Even head manager, Aaron Minglin, got in on the action by taking his hand at the wheel.

After some good laughs, the team loaded up and drove over to the beautiful campus of College of the Ozarks to watch opening round games. The other MCC teams fared well on day one with Saint Francis and Indiana Wesleyan both pulling out victories.

Prior to watching the hometown team, College of the Ozarks, all 32 teams took the floor for the Parade of Champions. This is a time when each team is introduced and walks out on the floor to form “NAIA” on the hardwood.

Shortly after the parade, the team headed to dinner at Denny’s for a team meal. The remainder of the night was free for the players to relax and mentally prepare for tomorrow’s matchup.

In the morning, the team will have shootaround at the RecPlex at 10 a.m., followed by a film session and lunch. Grace will take on Dakota Wesleyan tomorrow night at 5:45 p.m. CST. The game will be broadcast in Alpha Dining and can be heard over Stretch Internet as Andy Thompson and Jerry Gurrado bring the play-by-play.

Ladies and gentleman, tomorrow the Lancers begin their quest for a second national championship.

By Adam Basinger

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The World of Branson — 3/8/11 (11:59 a.m.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSEQZ9_05-Y[/youtube]

Freshman forward Greg Miller and junior guard Jake Peattie discuss the world of Branson. Miller and Peattie love the atmosphere and are excited about the atmosphere that surrounds Branson and the NAIA National Tournament. They conclude the interview only as Lancers can.

Q. Greg, this being your first time in Branson, discuss the atmosphere that you are experiencing?

A. I love the atmosphere. It is a great place to be. The people are great, and our sponsor’s are awesome. I can only hope that we back here three more times, and I win it all at least once.

Q. This is your third trip in four years, what is it like?

A. I can only speak on Branson. It is the best atmosphere and people. We are going to ride the ducks tomorrow. It is a great place to be with the team.

Q, What is the atmosphere of the gym like?

A. It is unbelievable. Just knowing that you’re playing for a national title is awesome. They bring in some elementary school kids to cheer on the teams that don’t have that many fans in the earlier rounds. In the later rounds the crowd gets bigger and bigger. Hopefully we get to play in a few. This makes it more exciting.

Q. What are your guys’ expectations?

A. We are trying to get healthy. Our goal is to play to the best that we can. If we do that, we can’t complain.

By Justin Oren and Caleb Ridgeway

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Humphrey Addresses the Twitter Phenomenon — 3/8/11 (11:59 a.m.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVYF_sSDY3o[/youtube]

Freshman point guard Michael Humphrey describes his time in Branson, Mo. He also elaborates on his Twitter account “IHeartHumphrey” that was created by teammate Ben Euler and has become an instant phenomenon on the trip. According to the account, it was designed “for all you freshmen ladies who want to know Michael Humphrey’s every move while in Branson, MO at the NAIA national tournament.”

Q. Are you enjoying Branson so far, and what is your favorite part?

A.  I am loving Branson, it has been a great experience. The best experience would definitely the Dixie Stampede, a really unique experience that others will helpfully get to see.

Q. Tell us about the Twitter account made about you and what your favorite tweet is/was?

A. I don’t have a favorite tweet, and I don’t even follow it that closely. All I know is that Ben Euler has been updating it quite frequently with some creative thoughts. I have no part in its creation or its continuation. Just throwing that out there.

Q. If you had one thing to say to the Twitter world, what would it be?

A. After the comments that Ben has been throwing out there, I really have nothing to say.

Q. What is your prediction on tomorrow’s game?

A. I predict a win.

By Caleb Ridgeway and Justin Oren

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Lancers Prepare for First Round — 3/9/11 (1:30 p.m.)

The team met for breakfast this morning before heading to the Branson RecPlex for one final tune-up before tomorrow’s game. The one hour walkthrough concluded at 11 a.m.

Before practice began, the guys warmed up taking some shots before stretching and officially opening practice with prayer.

The coaching staff put together a practice plan that was filled with drills and scout team activities. For one shooting drill, Coach Yeh upped the ante by offering the winning team milkshakes. Grimm and Henry had the lead after round one, followed closely by Merrell and Humphrey. After four rounds of different shots, the top group was Grimm and Henry with 186 points.

It was a physical practice with guys getting after each other. They worked through offensive plays and also worked on defensive strategy.

As for Grimm, he continues to improve each day. Having not seen many practices this year, I thought he looked good. He was running up and down the court working hard. He was hounding people on defense and getting his shot on offense.

The team has a film session scheduled for this afternoon before heading out to lunch with team sponsor Hawthorn Bank. Weather permitting, the guys will head across the street from the team hotel to “Ride the Ducks”. This attraction puts spectators in an amphibious vehicle and takes them around Lake Taneycomo to see the exquisite landscape and beautiful Ozark Mountains.

By Adam Basinger

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From the Big Dance to Branson, Bruce Grimm Jr. — 3/9/11 (2:01 a.m.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cc2PB58B7tU[/youtube]

Sophomore point guard and Newcomer of the Year Bruce Grimm Jr. updates Lancer Nation on his leg injury, discusses his evening with the team in Branson and compares his preparation at the NAIA tournament to last year’s NCAA tournament when East Tennessee State University played the University of Kentucky in the first round of the Big Dance.

Q. How’s the recovery coming on your leg?

A. Great. The last couple days I’ve been able to practice, and it’s felt fine. I got hit once, but it feels good. So I guess it is going pretty well.

Q. How are you liking Branson so far?

A. It’s fun. Tonight, we went to the Dixie Stampede. We saw some horses… The North won, so it was a solid event. It’s going well.

Q. How does the NAIA tournament in Branson compare to the NCAA tournament last year?

A. It’s similar. A tournament is a tournament. Just trying to learn your opponent. That was Kentucky, so you can only learn so much about them. Just try to learn what they can do, and just have fun, pretty much.

By Justin Oren and Caleb Ridgeway

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First Time in Branson, Elliot Smith — 3/9/11 (2:01 a.m.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTr-Q6X4GYs[/youtube]

Sophomore shooting guard Elliot Smith compares his NCCAA tournament experience last year in Oakland City, Ind., to this year’s tournament in Branson, discusses the team’s daily schedule and tries to give LAB followers a picture of what Branson is like.

Q. How do the two tournaments compare?

A. We want to be here this year. We didn’t really want to be in Oakland City. It’s just real nice here. We have all the teams everywhere, and there are a lot of people out really supporting us. Restaurants and everywhere we go, they are just excited that the NAIA national tournament is here. So it’s a lot different because this is our goal. And we got here. Our goal wasn’t really to go to Oakland City last year.

Q. What is your day-to-day routine?

A. Well, we had a two-hour practice on Monday, and we had an hour today in a middle school gym or something. We just wake up, go to practice, come back, shower up, go out to eat, hang out in the afternoon, and then go out to dinner. We are in a routine, and we will probably do the same thing tomorrow. It’s nice to have some free time in the afternoon, which we usually don’t get on trips. It’s nice to have some down time.

Q. For those who haven’t experienced Branson, Give us a picture of what Branson is.

A. It’s basically like a big tourist trip. There are a bunch of weird shows, anything you can think of. It’s like Vegas for old people. When we drove through, there was like a Titanic Memorial Museum…but it was for the dogs on the Titanic.

By Justin Oren and Caleb Ridgeway

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Hot-Tubbin’ and Dixie Stampedin’ — 3/8/11 (10:14 p.m.)

Upon arriving last night in Branson, the guys took advantage of the facilities at the hotel. Some sat back and relaxed while others took some time to hit the hot tub. Tannan Peters posted this on Facebook about his first night, “In Branson, at the hotel, the hot tub was nice.”

After a good practice this morning, the team had a free afternoon to relax. A number of guys worked on homework in the lobby while others went shopping at the Tanger Outlet Mall down the hill from the team hotel.

The main event left for the evening was to go to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede for dinner. Seven players had been there before, but the remaining nine had yet to experience it. The dinner attraction, depicting events in American history, has been a big hit each time the Lancers have been in Branson. Many of the veterans reminisced about it, and the newcomers were in for a treat.

Once the guys came back from dinner, the Sports Information staff conducted interviews with players to get there take on Branson so far and will be posted shortly.

The Lancers have a busy day scheduled for tomorrow. Practice is scheduled for 10 a.m. with a team activity in the afternoon. They will also head to Keeter Gymnasium to watch some first round action.

Tomorrow marks the first day of competition for the 2011 NAIA National Tournament. The first round will last two days with the second round taking place on Friday. Grace is scheduled to play on Thursday night at 5:45 p.m. CST against Dakota Wesleyan.

By Adam Basinger

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Bracketology: How Far Will the Lancers Go? — 3/8/11 (11:59 p.m.)

With the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament starting on Wednesday morning, Michael Blevins and Zane Gard made some predictions and analyzed the tournament bracket. They predicted a winner, sleeper, one-and-done team, and an MVP of the tournament. And of course, they predicted how far Grace will go on their quest for a national title. Print out your NAIA bracket here.

This column by Zane Gard will be published in the March 11 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

Winner- Oklahoma Wesleyan

Been there, done that.

Two years ago, the Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles cut down the championship nets in Branson. Last year they made it to the Final Four. This year they are “only” a No. 7 seed. Oklahoma Wesleyan is led by an experienced coach in Donnie Bostwick and a potential Player of the Year candidate in Sadiel Rojas.

Two players outside of Rojas also average over 12 points per game, and Oklahoma Wesleyan outscores their opponent by an average of 12 points. Three of the Eagles’ four losses came against teams in the tournament. They are ready, they are experienced, and they are hungry.

Sleeper- IU-East

Yes, this is the same team that Grace beat by 29 points. And they very well may have squeaked into the tournament as the twelfth at-large bid. But…

They have a true scorer in Tyler Rigby. They create turnovers (first in the nation in steals). They shoot well (fourth in 3-pointers made). They pass (ninth in assists per game). That, I believe, along with a manageable schedule makes them dangerous.

One-and-Done: All Wesleyan schools not beginning with “Oklahoma”

I just don’t think you’re ready right now, Indiana Wesleyan. Yeah, you have the No. 9 seed, but your two leading scorers (Patrick Hopkins and Jordan Weidner) are a sophomore and a freshman. Five of your seven losses were away or at a neutral location, and Branson is no place to bring a team that does not travel well. You started well, but you finished the season 4-4. I’m sorry.

It’s just not going to work out, Iowa Wesleyan. See, I like stability, and you have three first-round exits in three tournament appearances. But now you have to play a red-hot IU-Southeast. Goodbye.

It’s not you; it’s me, Dakota Wesleyan. I’d like to give you credit for beating Briar Cliff University and Black Hills State University, but only half of your conference finished above .500. OK, it’s you.

MVP: Sadiel Rojas, Oklahoma Wesleyan

There are 15 good reasons for Rojas to be the tournament MVP. Unfortunately, 15 minutes is also the length of his YouTube highlight reel, so you will have to see for yourself.

Stats do not lie, however. Rojas ranks first in Division II total scoring and second in total rebounding. He has also tallied 22 double-doubles this year and is shooting 55 percent from the floor. And this is coming from a small forward. In addition to crazy athleticism, Rojas is the complete package. He is averaging over one 3-point shot made per game and has 42 steals and 13 blocks in 31 games.

More importantly, he makes his team better. He has filled the place of departed teammate and national Player of the Year Steve Briggs effortlessly and has stepped up as the captain.

Lancers’ Fate: Losing in Elite Eight

The Lancers have worn the Cinderella shoes many times. They have, after all, made the Elite Eight twice in the past three years.

Looming ahead in the second round is a potential matchup against No. 2 Northwood University. Mr. Disney himself could not have scripted a better Cinderella story than an underdog going against the coach who led a No. 8 seed to an NCAA national championship 26 years ago.

Yes, the Lancers may have an injured Grimm, but they are not without talent. The team can count on center Duke Johnson and rely on their defense. In fact, the Lancers have the top-ranked 3-point defense in Division II basketball.

Need I remind you that Saint Francis won the tournament last year as the No. 15 seed? Yes, another Elite Eight appearance is more than possible for the Lancers.

By Zane Gard

This column by Michael Blevins will be published in the March 11 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJGINHO19vk[/youtube]

Winner: Northwood University

Overall this team can score on anyone, and they play great defense. The one thing that will take this team over the top and win the tournament is head coach Rollie Massamino. Sound familiar? Massamino is the former head coach of Villanova—the one who led them to the 1985 national championship. He is the first head coach of Northwood and has compiled a stellar record of 104-29 in five seasons.

Massamino led No. 2 Northwood to 30 victories this season including two wins over No. 6 Embry Riddle. They are the top team in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (41 percent) and rank second in assists and fourth in scoring margin.

Northwood wins the tournament beating Walsh in the Championship.

Sleeper: IU-Southeast

If you remember playing at Conseco Fieldhouse, then you will remember this team. IU-Southeast, who defeated Grace on Nov. 16, is my pick as the sleeper. Led by the nation’s third leading scorer in Jazzmarr Ferguson, they have scored over 90 points in their last seven games. Offensively, they are explosive, ranking No. 2 in the nation in scoring offense and No. 1 in the NAIA in 3-pointers per game.

The reason they are the sleeper is because they were at one point a top-10 team in the nation. They have dropped off a bit, but it is about how you are playing at the end of the year. They won the conference tournament, beating another hot team in IU-East.

The bottom line is this: You can’t stop Ferguson or stop this team at all from scoring. They can beat anyone in the country if they are hitting threes.

One-and-Done: Bellevue

Bellevue is a top-5 team in the country and one of the hottest teams in the country. Why would I pick them to lose in the first round? The reason is because of their unfortunate matchup against Ashford. They are both strong defensively, but Ashford is one of the best in the country at controlling the boards. They also hit a fair amount of threes, ranking in the top-40 in both categories.

They will keep it close through the whole game and, at the end, bury Bellevue from downtown. They control the clock, hit lots of threes and play good defense.

They’ll keep it close and pull off the upset. Happens all the time in college basketball.

MVP: Jonathan Dunn, Northwood

With the prediction of Northwood winning the championship, they must have a leader on the court. That leader is Jonathan Dunn, the team’s starting shooting guard and one of the nation’s leading scorers. He ranks No. 2 in the nation in total scoring (787 points) and fourth in points per game (23.9 ppg). He is also one of the top all-around shooters in the country, whether it is from the 3-point line or from the free throw line.

Dunn is the leader of the team and the catalyst behind Northwood’s 30 victories. In some of their biggest games of the year, Dunn has performed his best, including his 32 points against Saint Francis.

MVP: Dunn. Champion: Northwood.

Lancers’ Fate: Sweet Sixteen

The Lancers are looking for a third Elite Eight appearance in the last four years. Sadly it does not seem like that will happen. The first round is very winnable as the Lancers take on Dakota Wesleyan. Grace will win because of its size underneath. The problem is the second round game is against the Northwood, who spent the entire year as the No. 1 team in the country.

Grace struggles against good 3-point shooting teams (Marian and Indiana Wesleyan) and struggles to contend stars like Jazzmarr Ferguson of IU-Southeast. Plus, Grace’s rhythm has been thrown off because they’ve been playing without Bruce Grimm Jr.

The Lancers will play Northwood close, but I see Dunn taking down the Lancers.

By Michael Blevins

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Bruce Returns to the Practice Floor — 3/7/11 (3:00 p.m.)

This morning, the team headed to Maryville University to have practice before making their way to the Promised Land. Grace wasn’t the only qualifying team to have practice at MU. MCC rival Indiana Wesleyan had the time slot just after ours.

There is great news for Lancer Nation wondering if the First Team All-Conference and MCC Newcomer of the Year, Bruce Grimm Jr., is ready to make his return to the floor. Over the last few days, Grimm has been able to ride a stationary bike and get some shots up. Today marked the first full practice for Grimm after having surgery to remove a MRSA infection from his left leg. He was able to fully participate running up and down the floor and even dove on the floor for a loose ball.

When Bruce was sidelined nearly two weeks ago, the hearts of many Lancer fans sank. I know mine did. The team had worked so hard and finished the season so well, winning five of its final six games to end the regular season. But the recent developments will give the Lancers, who went 1-1 without Grimm in the conference tournament, a boost.

After practice, the Lancers packed up for the four-hour journey south to Branson. For dinner, the team stopped at local favorite Lambert’s Café, “The Only Home of Throwed Rolls.” If you want a roll just raise your hand and the server will literally toss a piping-hot, fresh roll.

Tomorrow the team will have practice and then have some time to enjoy the sights and experience Branson.

By Adam Basinger

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Lancers Depart for the Promised Land — 3/6/11 (1:30 p.m.)

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Winona Lake. Not only was the sun shining, but also the Lancers were about to embark on their journey to Branson, Missouri. After church services concluded, the team met at Alpha Dining Commons for team dinner with departure time set for 1 p.m.

Waiting in the parking lot were three vans, all with one destination in mind. Before leaving, all the members of the team were talking and laughing in the entryway of the OCC. Each Lancer had a goodie-bag in hand that was supplied by faithful fans wishing the team luck.

At 1 p.m. the much awaited time had come. It was time to load up and hit the road. The players headed to their respective vans, whose passengers were drawn out of a hat. A few lucky ones, Stephen Kaufman, Greg Miller, and Aaron Minglin were chosen to ride in the luxury van.

Before they could get settled in, Coach Kessler called them all back out to get a team photo and team prayer before they left. No matter what the stage, Assembly Hall in Bloomington or Conseco in Indianapolis, prayer and thanksgiving to God is number one.

After team pictures, it was time to leave. The team has reservations to practice at Maryville University tomorrow morning. This is the place that the previous two NAIA tournament qualifying teams conducted practice before punching its ticket to the Elite Eight.

After practice in the morning, Grace will head the rest of the way to Branson.

By Adam Basinger

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One Day Away from Departure — 3/5/11 (5:14 p.m.)

The Branson Bound Lancers are working hard. Just a few days after finally hearing that the NAIA National Tournament has become a reality, the men are in the gym for one final practice in the confines of the OCC. Tomorrow, the team will head to St. Louis for the first leg of its road trip en route to Point Lookout, Missouri and the NAIA Men’s Division II National Tournament.

They will depart campus after church services conclude on Sunday and stop in St. Louis. On Monday morning, the team will hold a practice at Maryville University before hitting the road again to drive the remaining 245 miles. The team will be traveling in style, taking three lavish vans that were donated by Explorer Van of Warsaw. This same type of van was taken the last two times the Lancers have ventured to Branson.

Starting at 11:30 a.m. today, Jerry Gurrado, the color commentator for Lancer basketball games on Stretch Internet, is hosting the “Dancin’ in Branson” preview broadcast live from Kessler Court in the Orthopaedic Capital Center. They will be talking all things Branson from our opponent, Dakota Wesleyan, to the latest on Bruce Grimm Jr.

Lancer Nation can follow along in a number of ways as the tournament unfolds. The Grace games will be broadcast via webcast in Alpha Dining and also broadcast over Stretch Internet. Stay tuned as the Sports Information Department will be covering the team and its happenings in Branson by supplying player and coach interviews, highlight reels, pictures, and a blog. The Lancers are Dancin’ in Branson!

By Adam Basinger

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Lancer Fans, We’re Spoiled — 3/4/11 (3:00 p.m.)

Call it the Marvelous Millennium. Call it the Golden Years. But whatever you call it, just know this one thing: we are living in the best years of Grace basketball. Ever.

Think I’m exaggerating? Think again.

Consider this: even when Grace won a national championship in 1991-92, they defended their title with a first-round exit in the following year’s NAIA tournament. What followed next for Grace basketball was perhaps the lowest years of the program – nine years of futility with only one winning season (1996-97).

But with Tuesday’s announcement of Grace as the No. 15 seed in Branson, the Lancers have now earned a berth in five straight national tournaments, three in the Promised Land of Branson.

In the past five years, Grace has amassed a record of 110-59 (.651 winning percentage). Only the win total from the mid-80s can top that in the record books. But the Lancers only had one trip to Branson during those years.

“These are certainly some of the best years. We have been very solid and competitive on a national scene,” said head coach Jim Kessler. “The competition level is also stronger now than it was in the past, and now we play the elite teams in the NAIA.”

The Lancers have much thanks from the past four years to go to David Henry and Stephen Kaufman, two seniors who have battled through more injuries and surgeries than the dude in the Operation board game.

Their goal is clear – “to finish a year with a win instead of getting beat and going home,” as Henry put it. Even if you had asked Kaufman, he would admit he didn’t expect this type of success during his career. “Coming out of high school, I wasn’t a part of championship teams. So to come to Grace and be a part of a successful program was a sweet experience for me,” he said.

The best part is that the future is incredibly promising with only two seniors on the roster and one starter in Henry. With (current juniors) Duke Johnson, Dayton Merrell, Jacob Peattie, (sophomores) Bruce Grimm Jr., Tannan Peters, Elliot Smith, (freshmen) Greg Miller and Dennis Williams all returning and all contributing in a major way the past season, the Lancers will display a talented and battle-tested squad fit for another deep run in the NAIAs.

So as incredible of a journey as the last several years have been, the magic might still be beginning. Coach K has navigated this team through Branson with a sterling 8-3 record in his career, and Lancer Nation should be in store for more wins.

But regardless, soak in every game, every player this week in Branson. Seasons and memories like this might not happen again for several more Grace generations.

Lancer Nation, we are spoiled.

By Josh Neuhart

This column was published in the March 5 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.
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Grimm’s Health Questionable, Essential for a Deep Run? — 3/4/11 (3:00 p.m.)

Bruce Grimm Jr. is a giant question mark.

Yes, he’ll play. But how many minutes will he last?

Yes, it helps that Grace’s first game isn’t until Thursday night—more time for recovery. But will he be able to play three games in three days if Grace goes to the Final Four?

Who knows? I’m not Bruce. I can’t feel the inch-thick chunk of flesh missing in my left thigh. I’m not his doctor. I didn’t dig it out.

“I’m not worried about being rusty,” Grimm said. “The first time we play up and down will probably be the first game I play, but I’m in pretty good shape, so I’m not worried about it.”

Gulp. Pen quivering.

All I know is this: Grace needs him. And without him, I don’t know if the Lancers are national-championship caliber. I think they can win a game or two, yes. The MCC season is great preparation for Branson. But I think his presence is crucial for a deep run.

Notice I said “presence.”

That’s because head coach Jim Kessler brought up a great point: The Lancers won an NAIA national championship in 1992 while their star transfer, Scott Blum (who also wore #44), missed the first-round game, had a broken foot and had a broken nose.

Parallels…

Blum only played a fraction of the national championship game, but he was still there. And things worked out pretty well, I’d say.

“The bus driver (Grimm) doesn’t have to push the bus,” Kessler said. “You just drive it.”

And who says driving the bus requires 35 minutes of PT, 20 points and eight assists?

A positive sign is that Kessler seems to think we may see 35 minutes of playing time from Grimm, anyway. Or at least he didn’t rule it out. “I wouldn’t assume that he won’t be full strength,” Kessler said. “I think he can go 35. We’ll see.”

It’s just difficult to gage the essentiality of Grimm because we’ve only seen two games without him. If this was Duke Johnson injured, I’d give it to you flat out: We’d be done for.

We dropped four in a row earlier in the season when he was getting limited playing time recovering from his ankle injury. And Grace has two victories and six losses when Johnson has scored less than 10 points.

But we’ve only seen two games without Grimm. In the first game, Grace yielded 73 points to Taylor, missing his lock-down defense. Still, however, a win.

In the second game, the Lancers nearly beat Saint Francis in the semifinals while shooting 1 for 16 from downtown, taking nine less free throws and playing without their star point guard. Still, however, a loss and a loss against a Branson-esque team.

Whatever the case, ever since Grimm took over at the end of the season, I feel uneasy without him in the lineup.

So again, who knows? Grimm’s status is a question mark. And so are the Lancers without him.

“I’m assuming that we won’t have him,” Henry said. “But even if he does play, he won’t be able to go 35 minutes. With or without him, we’ll be fine.”

I’m not sold on it. But please, prove me wrong.

Just like 1992.

By Stephen Copeland

This column was published in the March 5 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.
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[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9gKtdSPZqo[/youtube]

Former Lancer Creates Video about Branson — 3/3/11 (9:30 p.m.)

Josh Arnold, a current junior who played for Grace last season and is a manager this year, created “Grace Men’s Basketball (Part 3)” about the Lancers’ upcoming trip to Branson.

His video series has become a Grace Internet sensation…or at least, it’s become popular on campus.

The series highlights two Grace students, one who is an avid Lancer fan and another who hates the Grace men’s basketball team. Student A continually tries to convince Student B to become part of Lancer Nation, but he stubbornly refuses time after time.

Arnold made the first video as a promo for Grace’s game against the University of Saint Francis on Feb. 15, a 57-56 victory that punched Grace’s ticket to Branson and clinched second place in the MCC regular season conference standings.

The second video was a promo for Grace’s last regular season game against Indiana Wesleyan University when the Lancers had a chance to earn their first regular season conference title since 1993.

In the third video, Student A begins discussing a road trip to Branson to cheer on the team. A major breakthrough occurs…enjoy.

Click here to see the first video.

Click here to see the second video.
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Lancers Earn Bid to NAIA Tournament — 3/2/11 (10:00 a.m.)

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – For the third time in four years, Grace’s men’s basketball team will be playing for an NAIA championship in Branson, Mo.

The Lancers made the 32-team tournament as the No. 15 seed and as the sixth at-large bid. It will be their fifth NAIA Division II national appearance. The Lancers’ national tournament record stands at 8-3 all-time, including a national championship in 1992. In their last appearance in 2009, the Lancers made it to the quarterfinal round.

During the 2010-11 regular season, the Lancers finished with a 22-10 record, good for second in the MCC. In the MCC tournament, they defeated Taylor University before falling to Saint Francis University in the semifinal round.

Grace will play Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) in the first round at 5:45 CST on Thursday, March 10. Dakota Wesleyan has a 23-8 record and received the seventh at-large bid. This will be the Tigers’ fifth consecutive national tournament appearance, but they have gone 1-5 over that span.

The Lancers survived a tough schedule this season, with five of the Lancers’ losses coming against teams in the national championship tournament. Senior David Henry says this has prepared them well for a tournament run. “Being there before, I see that our conference is as good as any other. We can compete against the top teams if we take one game at a time.”

Should the Lancers win, they will most likely face No. 2 Northwood University (Fla.) who takes on Fisher College (Mass.). But head coach Jim Kessler says his team is ready for the challenge. “I’m proud of what our men have done this year. We know what we have to do to win, and we will make the best team effort we can.”

By Sports Information

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