BY SCHALLON FOGGS
As we all know, winning is the most important thing when it comes to sports. Ha! Just joking. It’s about playing to the best of your ability and hoping to win. Speaking of winning, McKendree University now has one of the biggest winners of all time. Who might this be? Harry Statham, the men’s basketball coach. Harry Statham now claims the title for having the most wins in collegiate basketball history.
Coach Statham has worked hard and for many years to obtain this title. In the process of gaining this esteemed title on his belt, he has faced many obstacles. There are plenty of articles about how he feels about his record win, but this article isn’t about that. I sat down with Statham to ask him about some of the behind-the-scene things that have influenced his coaching throughout the years and things that he likes to do.
To get a deeper look into who Statham is as a coach, I asked him what he thought was most challenging. “Creating the right athletes. I was being very particular in choosing people with good character and with strong academics.” Statham puts a lot of effort into choosing his players, and he really cares about their individual growth. He is invested in these boys all the way up to graduation and beyond. “The game prepares them for the real world.” As a funny remark to his players, he likes to say, “stay out of the grey area. If you are unsure about something, don’t do it.”
Before he began inspiring his own players, Statham had a mentor of his own. He told me that he looked up to Coach Adolf Rupp, former coach of Kentucky’s men’s basketball program. “He was a major motivator at the beginning of my career.”
Alongside Head Coach Harry Statham, Assistant Coach Eric Echelbarger is there for the team. Echelbarger is all about helping Statham and the team to get the win during a game. Coach Echelbarger believes that the players have worked hard this season and that they have been very competitive against some of the best teams. After Coach Statham obtained his title for having the most wins, Echelbarger felt feelings of nostalgia. “As we look back on the year, I believe it is something each person on the team will look back on for many years to come.”
Harry Statham has really left a mark on the lives of some of his players. These select men have helped him gain his title, but who are some of these men that made it possible to achieve his lifetime award? I sat down with two starting players David Franklin and Robert Hudson to know more about who they are on the court.
To those who do not know him, David Franklin comes off as a serious individual. This is not the case. Most people are not aware that when he is on the court, his sole focus on the court is to do his best and help his team win. When it comes to his tactics on the court, some might say his is a bit too aggressive. Due to this, some spectators at the games have been known to criticize some of his antics, especially one move in particular: “bum rushing” to the basket. To every good athlete, there is a method to their madness. “When using that method to gain a goal,” he said. “I do it because the other teams usually leave gaps towards the basket and I have to be aggressive in order to make the shot.” Besides making impressive and jaw-dropping moves, Franklin truly enjoys playing division II at McKendree and feels very blessed. He has plans to continue to grow and see where his potential will take him. He would also like to thank Statham for giving him the chance to make his mark here at McKendree.
Another player who has gained knowledge from Statham and continues to grow is Robert Hudson. “I was recruited to play at McKendree by Coach Statham from my junior college in Palatine, Illinois,” he said. Currently, Hudson is playing more of a “reserve role” with two years of eligibility after this year. At the beginning of the 2016 season, Hudson was known by many of the fans as the player who was thrown into the game, shooting and making crazy 3-point shots! The fans would always go wild for those. He would like to credit his coaching staff who are making him a more skilled and effective player. “I’d like to credit my skills, especially my 3-pointers to the pre-season workouts,” Hudson said. He believes that his team’s hard work was a contributing factor to gaining the historical win for their Head Coach, Harry Statham.
Even aside from Coach Statham’s win, we truly have proven we have a good team here at McKendree. As we know, behind every good team there are fans to cheer them on. On Feb. 25, McKendree University came together to celebrate Coach Statham’s victory and honor ceremony for receiving his esteemed award. There is much more to be said about the night, including the participation of the fans. Luckily, on that night McKendree felt the need to have the stands packed like they never have before.
Lastly, we must look into our support. To gain a bigger sense of community and unity, the McKendree on-campus community must do more to support our athletic department. Our stands should be filled with all spectators giving their best Bearcat roar at every game. Students should not attend a game just because they were enticed or bribed to go. With that being said, everyone’s experience at this institution will be different, but experiences made at McKendree are what you make them to be. Supporting your sports teams is just one example of school spirit. I think it is something that we could use a little more of. We are happy for Harry Statham and his achievements, but we are happier to see our devoted student fans in the stands at all events.