Sometimes Coaches Do the Right Thing

21 Jan

February 10, 2009

During times when college basketball is resembling big-time college football and professional sports in the pressures of win now, win-or-else and what have you done for me lately, it is easy to see how the story of the North Dakota State Bison slipped through the cracks.
Coaches often redshirt players, usually freshmen, to give them time to learn the style of play or to adjust to college basketball and the college atmosphere in general. But in 2004-2005 when Brett Winkelman, Ben Woodside and three other freshman signed on at NDSU, then a fledgling division I school beginning a transistion from division II, they were all red-shirted by then coach Tim Miles (now at Colorado State). Coach Miles didn’t sit the young men because he thought they needed an adjustment period, he had ulterior motives and the future of his freshmen class in mind when he made the decision. See coach Miles had the foresight to realize that this was a special freshmen class and they had the chance to be a very good group of players. So he sat the entire class for the 2004-05 season so that by the time they were seniors this season they and the school would be elgible for post-season play, including the NCAA tournament for the first time.
Miles was right, this was a special group of players he had. In the two years prior to Miles leaving for Colorado State, the Bison combined for 36 wins including beating Wisconsin in Madison in ’05-’06 and Marquette in Milwaukee in ’06-’07. The five red-shirt freshman combined for 50.2 points and 21.7 rebounds per game during the 05-’06 season, in 2006-07 those totals jumped to 54.9 and 21.3 respectively. Before the beginning of the 2007-08 season Miles left for the Mountain West Conference and assistant coach Saul Phillips took the helm. Phillips reaped the benefits of Miles’ decision, winning 16 games in his first season including beating their former coach in Fargo. The now Junior class continued to roll amassing 60.7 points and 21 boards a game.
Fast forward to this season, the five seniors performance surely has Miles and Phillips both smiling. With five games remaining in their Summit League schedule the Bison have a 2.5 game cushion over perennial league-favorite Oral Roberts with the two set to clash in a season-ending battle on Feb. 28. Phillips’ squad is 18-5 (12-1 in Summit League play),with four of the five losses being to a Minnesota squad who has been in the top 25, at USC by 4 points, falling to Stephen F. Austin by one in triple overtime and at Oakland by one, the same Oakland team that handed ORU a 12-point defeat on Feb. 5. Woodside, Winkelman and company have again led the Bison averaging 58.9 pts and 19.8 rebs.
In the coming weeks with talk of seeds, bubbles, and must-wins swirling remember to keep an eye on the North Dakota State Bison and the Summit League tournament. The results could leave two coaches in two conferences beaming with pride and a well-deserved feeling of accomplishment. Brett Winkelman, Ben Woodside, Matt Nelson, Lucas Moorman, Lorenzo Riley and Tim Miles are what college athletics should be about.


College Hoops Haven


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