LSUS Pilots claim first-ever No. 1 NAIA national ranking
February 22, 2006
Shreveport, LA---On January 9, 2003, LSUS issued the following statement: “LSUS has named former school standout Chad McDowell as its head men’s basketball coach. The university’s chancellor, Dr. Vince Marsala, and its new athletic director, Doug Robinson, made the announcement.” Three years and 95 games later, Coach McDowell and the LSUS Pilots have accumulated a 71-24 overall record; captured a 2005 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Championship; participated in the 2005 NAIA National Championship Tournament; and have now captured the schools first-ever No. 1 NAIA national ranking.
“This is a tribute to a lot of people, but most importantly our university. Our chancellor, Dr. Marsala, has given us the chance to succeed and we have made the best of it. Doug Robinson, our athletic director, has helped us every step of the way and he deserves a lot of credit for what he has done for our athletics program. Our entire campus continually shows their support by filling up the stands at The Dock. And our players, both past and present, along with the best assistant coaches anyone could ever ask for, have worked long and hard to get to this spot and are very excited and proud of our No. 1 ranking we received today. Simply put, we have been very blessed,” explained a very excited Coach McDowell.
With two games remaining on the regular season, the Pilots are currently in a tie for top spot with the Spring Hill College Badgers at 10-2. LSUS will be at home Thursday night and will play host to the Loyola University Wolfpack on a night that will pay tribute to the Pilots six seniors. LSUS defeated the Wolfpack 94-70 in early January. However, the Pilots lead the series by just a 3-2 margin over the past three years.
“Before we ever got started three years ago, I remember stating in our gym that we are not just going to be another basketball team; we are going to compete for a national championship. Being the number one team in the country was just one of our goals along the way. We still have two very tough regular season match-ups that we need to focus on so that we complete our goal of winning a GCAC Championship which is the most important thing on our minds right now,” stated McDowell.
The Pilots regular season finale will take place Saturday night in Hattiesburg, MS where they will take on the William Carey College Crusaders. The Pilots and their fans will be scoreboard watching throughout the night as the No. 23 University of Mobile Rams will play host to the No. 14 Badgers. If the Rams were to knock off the Badgers and the Pilots were to win their two remaining games, the Pilots would claim the GCAC Championship outright.
“I don’t even know what to think,” commented third year senior Derrick Sowell. “It is a great feeling. But, we have to get past that and take care of business from here on out. Our goal all year has been to win a conference championship, and right now we are in a good spot to do so,” concluded Sowell.
While the Pilots success has been marked by a successful GCAC season, they also have posted a 6-2 overall record against teams in the latest NAIA rankings which is highlighted by a 92-86 win over the No. 9 Union University Bulldogs, and a recent 97-77 victory over the Badgers.
“Our guys have really stepped it up a notch over our last six games. Our depth off the bench has become a huge asset and everyone has contributed night in and night out which makes us a tough team to beat,” said McDowell.
Much of the LSUS depth this season comes at the hand of five junior and senior NCAA Division I and II transfers who returned to the city where they played high school basketball.
Pilots senior point guard Kyle Blankenship transferred from Tulsa University for his senior season and is currently leading the NAIA with a 3.52 assist/turnover ratio.
“This is one of the reasons a lot of us transferred to LSUS. We all knew or played for coach in the past and knew that he would have us competing for a national championship. This has been the most fun I have ever had playing basketball, but we still have a long way to go,” commented Blankenship.
The return of the 2005 NAIA scoring leader and All-American Fredericko Payne combined with the presence of Stephen F. Austin junior transfer Josh Porter, who is also a Shreveport native, has provided the most powerful scoring tandem in the NAIA. Both Payne and Porter currently rank in the top 11 in scoring and average a combined 39.5 points per game.
“There is no question that we have a lot of talent. Our goal now is to continue to play together and ride this thing out as far and as long as we can, which hopefully will end with a national championship,” concludes McDowell.