The 2019 NIRSA National Basketball Championship began its three-year tenure at Wichita Hoops in April—and what a successful start it was! The windswept plains of Kansas helped to bolster a wind of change itself as the National Basketball Championships saw 78 teams make the trek to Wichita and use this fresh iteration of the Series to renew their own determination and spirit to compete for the crowns of Men’s and Women’s Club, Men’s and Women’s Intramural, and Unified National Champions.
New site, new strategy
It takes an incredible amount of planning to make sure 804 participants from 29 states enjoy their experiences at the national championship. With Wichita State University—a new facility and managing host—thrown into the mix, extra challenges appeared and kept the host committee on its toes throughout the tournament. Austin Sanderson, Assistant Director of Competitive Sports at Wichita State and Tournament Co-Director, felt his team did an exemplary job meeting expectation for the tournament’s first year in Kansas.
“Anytime there is change and transition there is going to be challenges,” says Austin. “Not only did we change sites from The Ohio State University, but we moved the event off campus. The Ohio State University did a great job providing us with details on how they ran the tournament. Not only are we very different program but we were not hosting the event in our facility. Determining what we would be able to do and not do was the biggest challenge we faced.”
Austin also recognized that a monumental effort was needed from volunteer staff. “Without everyone’s effort from Wichita State University staff to everyone on a NIRSA Championship Series National Basketball Tournament Committee, the transition would not have gone as smoothly. We were very happy with how everything transitioned and the expectation level we set,” explain Austin. “I’m excited to work with all of the returning tournament assistant directors, directors, and Wichita State University staff to continue to raise the level of expectations for the tournament.”
Volunteers are the heart and soul of the tournament’s operation. The volunteers are passionate and well qualified to run this type of event. A tournament of this scale isn’t possible without volunteers who possess both those traits. Everyone there has the same goal: a successful event that is enjoyed by teams and teaches valuable skills to officials and staff. A chance to learn, network, and—most importantly—give back to the student participants and officials through volunteering and their craft is what makes the NIRSA volunteer stand out among their peers.
The NIRSA Championship Series social media presence solidified its presence even more this tournament. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat were active with a pictorial perspective of the tournament as well as updates about teams and how they were faring in action. The media relations team gave look-ins to games as they were occurring on Twitter. Our Instagram story was also active, getting some great footage of behind-the-scenes happenings and special events such as the three-point shootout. Thanks to this coverage, more family and friends who couldn’t make it to the tournament were able to follow their favorite institutions more easily than before.
Why they play
Whether it was a team that had been there before, or a new team looking to make its mark in its respective division, teams came ready to take advantage of the new venue and the opportunity to square off with new opponents in their quest for a national championship title. Each team needed to take the games as they came and find the best strategy to win and keep their Sunday hopes alive.
Hannah Ossola from the Missouri State Women’s Club Team said, “We’re looking forward to getting some more games in and seeing how our season is going to play out.” Antrone “Juice” Williams from the University of Toledo added, “It means so much to be at the National Basketball Championship. This is an amazing tournament. We lost in the first round last year, and this year we’re coming back with a vengeance.” While teams are in heated competition throughout the weekend, one could also see these same teams cheering on other squads—and participants from different teams laughed and talked during their down times in between games, showing that comradery can be created in the midst of competition.
The Unified Sports Division had its largest team count since its inception, and the participants were ecstatic for the opportunity to play new teams. Twelve teams were locked in and ready to compete for the Unified Division crown. The division has always provided fast-paced play and amazing shooting to keep spectators on the edge of their seats.
The Assistant Director of the Unified Division, Abby Van Note, Coordinator of Competitive Sports at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was thrilled with the outcome of this year’s Unified Division. “This was the fourth year NIRSA and the Special Olympics have partnered together to offer a Unified Sports Division at the National Basketball Tournament,” she says. “Unified Sports is an opportunity for individuals with and without disability to play sports on the same team. We had twelve team participate this year—a record high!—with ten of the teams being first-time attendees at the national tournament!”
She goes to on to say, “Moving to Wichita was great as teams from other parts of the country could attend the tournament who may not have been able to attend in the past. The Unified Division is unique from some of our other divisions because we provide opportunities for partners and athletes to socialize on and off the court through bowling activities and group photo challenges. Next year we’re hoping to increase the number of Unified Sports teams to 16!”
As is tradition at the NIRSA Championship Series National Basketball Championships, the Saturday Night Unified Sports Banquet did not disappoint. The Unified Division highlights the building of community through competition and commonality, and the pinnacle of this philosophy can always be seen at this banquet. The sense of unity could be felt at the Shocker Sports Grill & Lanes as teams enjoyed food, fun, and the opportunity to put aside wins and losses for friends and respect.
Student officials are often one of the largest volunteer groups at tournaments as well as one of the most scrutinized due to their role. At this tournament, 48 student officials came from 36 institutions around the country. These individuals are selected through regional tournaments and at-large application, and all take the opportunity to engage potential mentors and receive critical feedback that allows them to refine their skills in an avocation that requires intense concentration and judgment.
Ashley Lax, Assistant Director of Competitive Sport at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Director of Officials at the tournament, remarked on how the officials improved overall throughout the tournament, and the impressive job Wichita State did in its first go-around with the national championship.
“The National Basketball Tournament at Wichita State will always be one of my favorite memories as a professional. The officials committee staff had the opportunity to meet, connect, and develop 48 student officials from around the country,” Ashley begins. “We had a strong group of officials for the weekend, and their skills only improved as they had a chance to interact with quality and experienced campus recreation professionals and experts in the field of basketball officiating from the NCAA and pro ranks. The transition to Wichita State was seamless and the environment provided by Wichita Hoops added to an overall fantastic tournament experience. The most exciting part is Wichita State will only get better as they look to host the next two years of the National Basketball Championships.”
The student officials had much to look forward to during the weekend. Official Justina Young from Kennesaw State University says, “I’m looking forward to working with the different officials from around the nation and learning from these officials to help advance my game.” Michigan State University’s Eric Bach adds, “I’m looking to networking, gaining even more relationships than I already have in officiating, and to becoming a more proficient play-caller.”
Champions and All-Tournament recognition
After battling through their divisions, the following teams and individuals emerged victorious and earned their respective championship honors in the following divisions:
Men’s Club Championship: The Ohio State University
Women’s Club Championship: Georgia Tech
Men’s Intramural Championship: Stephen F. Austin
Women’s Intramural Championship: North Carolina A&T
Unified Championship: Florida State University
Men’s Club All-Tournament
Evan Grootenhuis – The Ohio State University (MVP)
Luke Lenhardt – Gonzaga
Drew Harbour – NC A&T State
Gregory Shead – Houston Community College
Jadyn Michael – Grand Canyon University
Trever Neate – The Ohio State University
Women’s Club All-Tournament Team
Katie Delaney – Georgia Tech (MVP)
Bri Schnese – Marquette University
Paris Lucci – UC Davis
Jennifer Harvey – Georgia Tech
Ariyanna Cashen – UC Davis
Corri Hamilton – University of Wisconsin, Madison
Men’s IM All-Tournament Team
Jeffrey Martin – Stephen F. Austin (MVP)
Joshua Alexander – Stephen F. Asutin
Cody Edwards – Dixie State University
Joshua Peck – Dixie State University
Brock Anderson – Dixie State University
Brazhton Wilson – University of Central Florida
Women’s IM All-Tournament Team
Payton Turner – NC A&T (MVP)
Madison Gordon – Missouri S&T
Dawena Magwood – Georgia Southern
Jacie Klose – Angelo State University
Shannon Thompson – Angelo State University
Tyana Scott – NC A&T
Unified Sports All-Tournament Team
Albert Dorsey Jr. –Florida State University (MVP)
Henry Womack – Florida State University
Brandon Schmit – University of Oregon
Colt Harrison – University of Louisiana- Lafayette
Dion Herrington – Colorado State University
Rashaan Scott – University of Louisiana- Lafayette
Chase Furlough, East Carolina University
Courtney Styfurak, University of Akron
Montrell Cade, Georgia Southern University
Leah Johnson, University of Wisconsin
Detroy Farquharson, University of Central Florida
Tyus Heinrich, Kansas State University
August Fishell, University of Nebraska
PJ Hall, Florida International University
Chase Bryant, University of Nebraska
For complete tournament coverage, including game recaps and award winners, visit the NIRSA Championship Series blog, check out the @NIRSAChamp handle on Twitter and Instagram, and visit the NIRSA Championship Series YouTube channel. To learn more about the NIRSA Championship Series—including information on 2019–2020 regional and national tournaments—visit the NIRSA website.
Wichita awaits us once again in 2020 as the second year of the NIRSA National Basketball Championships will be upon us before we know it. We look forward to seeing all of our teams and volunteers in Wichita next year!
- For more information, please contact NIRSA National Sport Programs Coordinator Nicole Jackson.