PART THREE IN A SERIES ABOUT THE NCAA Division III men’s national tournament
CRAWFORDSVILLE, IND – Imagine being near the back of an endless line for a major attraction at Walt Disney World. Suddenly you’re moved to the front, and then you’re told you’re going to get the same treatment for the rest of the day. Then you discover that you can even ride past the park’s closing time.
That’s kind of how the parents of Wabash’s 2021-2022 basketball team feel right now. They’ve witnessed their sons win the college’s first-ever North Coast Athletic Conference championship, then seen the Little Giants notch four straight victories in the NCAA Division III post-season playoffs, all on the road.
“I keep thinking this is a dream I’m going to wake up from, but it’s not a dream,” says Kathy Schreiber, whose son Kellen is a senior forward on the team. “It’s a dream come true!”
The Schreibers and all the other basketball parents have shared common upbringing experiences, as well as shared in the similar upbringing of their basketball-loving sons. Most of the team’s players began as biddy basketballers around the age of five. The boys had only imagined themselves in a national tournament until the unexpected success that has come with winning 24 consecutive games this season.
“My wife (Kelly) and I joke that Jack learned to read and write by watching the NCAA tournament on television,” says Mike Hegwood, whose son Jack is a senior forward on the team. “He completed ‘brackets’ every year, watched every game he could, and was mesmerized by the unbelievable buzzer beaters and upsets every year.”
Hegwood is one of several members of the team who grew up with tournament aspirations.
“Avery has had a basketball in hand ever since he could walk. He has been the one of the top scorers on all of his teams, starting from tiny tots at the YMCA,” says Ron Beaver, father of sophomore guard Avery Beaver. “When he accepted the offer from Wabash, he said he wanted to win a national championship.”
“Jack’s goal has always been to win the conference tourney, to have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament, and to make a run,” says Dawn Davidson, who’s son Jack is a senior guard on the team and who became Wabash’s all-time leading score during the season. “Jack sat out the season last year (due to Covid) as he wanted to have this opportunity, and believed they had the team that could do it.”
One common observation among the parents is how close-knit this team has become, and how well the coaches relate to and care about their sons.
“This has been an incredible ride with so many highs. The complete turn-around (of the season) after a few losses is number one to us, explains Cary Buccilla, whose son Vinny is a freshman guard on the team. “This could have gone sideways in a hurry, but the senior and upper-class players took over and look where they are.
“It’s not just about the wins, but also to see how these players ‘truly’ love each other both on and off of the court is complete admiration,” Buccilla adds.
“The dedication that the coaches give to these players is top notch,” says Amy Watson, whose son Tyler is a senior guard on the team. “Coach Brum(ett) and his wife (Stephanie) make sure they have dinner with 4-5 players each week and it’s a family atmosphere. Coach Sullivan is always available to work out with the players, and the relationships the coaches have formed with them (the players) will be with them for the rest of their lives.”
“Unselfish basketball is exciting, and the chemistry is one of this team’s strengths. It’s palpable and anyone who spends any amount of time with this group can feel it,” says Meg Comer, whose son Sam is a sophomore forward on the squad. “The parent group (is) amazing families who genuinely love these kids, the players truly love each other, and that just making winning together much more fun.”
The playoffs have also served as an additional unifying force for an already close-knit group of team parents. While Wabash’s bus carried the basketball team to Atlanta, then to Bloomington, Ill., moms and dads scrambled to make their own travel arrangements. They got to know each other even better as they ate meals together and stayed in the same hotels on the road.
There’s also been some special parent-son moments throughout the course the winning streak and the post-season playoff run. Junior forward Ahmoni Jones’ mom Dayna relates one example.
“When Ahmoni was younger, he loved that I cheered and was the loudest fan in the stands. As he got older he wanted me to sit quietly, which took a lot of work for me to accomplish,” Dayna explains. “With this winning streak we are on and the nail-biting games, I wasn’t able to keep quiet for long. But my son told me that all his friends, teammates, and classmates in the student section said they love what I bring (noise and talk) to the crowd of Wabash. So now I have his permission to cheer loud again.”
One other thing the basketball parents agree upon: The lives of their sons will forever benefit from their basketball-playing days at Wabash.
“Choosing Wabash was more than basketball for Brennan. He loves his professors and the experiences in the classroom,” says Amy Beasuir, whose son Brennan is a freshman foward. “Little Giant basketball has added the gifts of brotherhood, leadership, grit, and Wabash pride.”
For Edreece Redmond, whose son Edreece II is a sophomore guard on the team, the Wabash brotherhood also rings true. “We just look at all of the support and advice from alums each and every one of these players are receiving,” he observes. “That’s something they’ll be able to call upon for a lifetime, once the ball stops bouncing.” “The experiences our son is having are incredible, says Stella Royal, whose son Turner is a sophomore guard. “Basketball has added so much, but there are also so many opportunities (for students) throughout Wabash.”