by M. B. Miller, ALC News
The 2013-14 season has been one of highs and lows for the Alice Lloyd Eagles. The team has hovered around .500 and has never seemed to develop the consistency it craved. In the lead-up to the conference tournament, they went on a three-game losing skid that could have proved to be their unraveling. But, in an unlikely turn of events, they won their final game of the season and blazed into the KIAC quarterfinals, eliminating #3 seed Brescia in an overtime gut-check thriller.
The victory was Alice Lloyd’s first conference tournament win in 16 years.
“I am absolutely loving this,” says senior point guard Isaac Wilson. “I’ve not felt this way since high school.”
Wilson, a four-year starter for the Eagles, had a superb high school basketball career at Corbin High (KY). He scored over 1,000 points, winning two Regional and District titles, as well as being named the 13th Region Player of the Year in his final season. He is no stranger to success, and it’s obvious that he’s overjoyed to be bringing a taste of that to Pippa Passes.
“This team has met all the expectations I could ever want,” says Wilson. “It’s the best team I’ve been on ALC, because we’ve stayed close with one another. There’s great camaraderie, and because of that, we’ve got great chemistry.”
Wilson, who stands at about 5’9”, has a big, confident voice and speaks eloquently about his teammates and their experiences throughout the season. There is no question that he is a second coach on the floor and knows the game inside and out. His leadership has been perhaps the chief reason that this team — a team that was expected to crash out in the opening round — has thundered into the Final Four.
He is quick, though, to duck out of the spotlight and point it at his coach and teammates.
“Coach (J. R.) Hammond is one heck of a guy,” says Wilson. “He’s the one constant in everything. He’s always there for his players, on and off the court. He’s a second dad. I wouldn’t trade that relationship for the world.”
The senior guard had high praise for sophomore forwards Tyler Rogers and Cody Malicoat, two players who have greatly contributed to Alice Lloyd being ranked second in all of NAIA Division II in blocks per game and total blocks. However, most of his comments centered on fellow veterans Stuart Stamper and Cody Stumbo.
“That guy has a very high basketball IQ,” Wilson says, speaking of junior forward Stumbo. “He is one heck of a teammate. He always stays focused, and he’s always coming up to me in games and giving me little tips that end up helping us play so much better.”
A key component in much of the team’s overall success has been senior guard Stuart Stamper. Stamper played his first two years of college ball at Union, but decided to return to his native Knott County (KY) to finish out his career.
“I wanted to move back to my hometown,” Stamper says, referring to his reasons for choosing Alice Lloyd, “and play for my community.”
Stamper hails from Hindman, which is a short drive from the Alice Lloyd campus, and was a high school phenom at Knott Central. He held the all-time scoring record at the school for four years. (The record was recently broken by current Knott Central star Cameron Justice.) Along with being named the 14th Region Player of the Year in his senior season, Stamper led the Patriots to a Regional title.
His decision to bring his considerable basketball talents back to his hometown college was certainly a welcome one.
“Stuart brings a never-say-die mentality to our team,” says Wilson. “If he’s going (on offense), the whole team goes. He brings everyone else up to his level.”
“I just try to help the team in every way I can,” Stamper chimes in. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get the win.”
Stamper has been shooting the ball extremely well this season, claiming a 45% field goal percentage. His offensive output has served as a rallying example to his team, and the Eagles know they will need him to step up again if they hope to advance further in the tournament.
“If we play as a team,” Stamper says, “we’re going to be hard to beat.”
Wilson and Stamper on “Senior Day.”
They know the match-up with Cincinnati Christian will be a huge test, especially because CCU has kept a stranglehold on the #2 KIAC ranking throughout the season. CCU will also be difficult to handle inside, as they have a pair of post players who have some serious size.
“Expect a dogfight,” says Wilson. “We haven’t backed down from anyone, and we never give up. That’s the great thing about this team — we don’t get down on ourselves. We’ll step up to the challenge.”
Alice Lloyd will also have the advantage of playing the game on their home floor, which the team is hoping will spur them on to victory and land them in Saturday’s championship game.
“Anything can happen in tournament time,” Wilson points out. “It’s why we play. And, besides, it’s not about our record — it’s the times and the memories that we’ll remember.”
And almost as an afterthought, as if he was talking to no one but himself, he said, “It’s gonna be fun.”
Watch as seniors Wilson and Stamper lead Alice Lloyd, the #6 seed in the KIAC Men’s Basketball Tournament, up against conference heavyweight Cincinnati Christian University on Friday, February 28th, at 3 PM. The game will be played at the Grady Nutt Athletic Center on the campus of Alice Lloyd College.