Pilots featured in City Lights magazine by LSUS graduate, Darrell Reboucher
February 16, 2006
Most local sports fans have not heard of “The Dock.” Trust me; it’s the place to be in Shreveport this basketball season. The basketball program at LSU-Shreveport is enjoying quite a revival, and The Dock is where they’re invigorating the ever-expanding Pilot fan base. The gym, officially named the LSUS Health & Physical education building, seats about 1100 for basketball, and the place is almost always packed. Having a clever nickname for home port certainly doesn’t hurt.
The second incarnation of Pilot basketball is now in its third season. The men’s program is led by dynamic coach Chad McDowell, whose infectious enthusiasm for life and basketball pervades his team. “Being up tempo, definitely exciting is our best opportunity to win night in and night out,” said McDowell, who played at LSUS the first time the school gave basketball a try. Up tempo may be an understatement. Through the first 12 games of the season, McDowell’s Pilots were averaging 108 points per game. That figure includes a gaudy 153 point total against Paul Quinn on November 6th. More often than not, five players will score in double figures. It’s part of the McDowell plan. “Our success so far has not come at the hands of one player this season, but it is a different trio every night that seem to put up very impressive numbers,” the coach is quick to point out.
The Pilots compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), not in the NCAA. This has created a bit of a recruiting advantage. Players can transfer from NCAA schools and be immediately eligible to play. Jeremy Johnston from Louisiana Tech, Kyle Blankenship from Tulsa, Josh Porter from Stephen F. Austin, Greg Tyer and Rico Payne from Northwestern State have coalesced to create, along with their teammates, an emerging small college power.
“At the beginning of the season we questioned whether there were enough basketballs to go around with all of the talent we have in this group,” McDowell said. In all of my years coaching at the High School level and even my two years here at LSUS, I have never had such a close group of guys who understand and make the best of every minute they have on the floor which I think that speaks highly of the character of this team.” Keep in mind that no player is on full athletic scholarship. It’s the NAIA way.
Clearly, the Pilots have found clear sailing. Last season, they were ranked #7 in the nation among NAIA schools when the regular season ended. They advanced to the “Sweet 16” round of the national tournament. This year, they have been ranked in the top three. They’ve tested themselves in exhibition games against McNeese State, Northwestern State, Arkansas and LSU. All of this is motivated by a goal which may actually be attainable: an NAIA national championship. McDowell has been around long enough to become an expert on coach-speak, but this has some truth to it: “It should be everyone’s goal as it is ours to be #1,” he said. “We are proud to be recognized throughout the country. However, our focus will continue to remain on playing together night in and night out and letting the rest take care of itself.”
National recognition has come, but a lot of local folks have missed the boat. The Dock is rocking. It’s not too late to jump on board.