... and the Glenville State College Pioneers!
As I said, I discovered this team thanks to Bob Belf, who we all know is the head women's coach at Henry Ford Community College and one of the administrators of the "Run-and-Gun" Yahoo! message board I joined. This is Coach Harkleroad's first year at the school, located, ironically enough, in Glenville, W.Va., after he spent nine highly successful campaigns with Berea College. Three of his teams there won Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and earned the right to compete in the NAIA National Tournament. Now he's with NCAA Division II Glenville, a member of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The Pioneers have adapted well to "The System" and stand 9-4 overall, with a 7-2 mark in the WVIAC that is good for a first-place tie with Concord, Fairmont State and Shepherd. Earlier this season, in a 133-72 victory over Bluefield State, Glenville State set all-NCAA division records for made 3-pointers (29) and attempted 3s (62), according to the school's Website. The 80 points the Pioneers scored in the first half were the second-highest total in NCAA history, trailing only the 85 scored by West Texas A&M against National Christian on Nov. 29, 2001.
Glenville State travels to Shepherd on Saturday to try to maintain its spot atop the standings. On Thursday, the Pioneers beat Concord 88-69, with Kim Stephens, Beth Deren and Donita Adams each scoring 15 points. They made 33 of 95 shots as a team, including 13-for-44 from the 3-point line, and forced 30 turnovers.
The first half, in particular, was a great exhibition of this style of play. Glenville State took 50 shots to only 31 for the Mountain Lions -- helped by forcing 21 turnovers -- and made 10 of its 30 shots from beyond the arc. It was 50-31 at that point, and the Pioneers rolled from there.
Coach Harkleroad took a few minutes Friday to talk to me about "The System" and his season so far, and here is the bulk of that conversation:
How did you first come across Grinnell, coach David Arsenault and "The System?"
Coach Harkleroad: "I was the head coach at Berea College, and we were trying to be good at everything, and we weren't doing a very good job of it. I read a little blurb about Grinnell, and I reached out to Coach Arsenault. He was very willing to help, and allowed me to pick his brain on how to get adapted with our kids. It stuck and has been very good to us."
What was the interview like at Glenville?
Coach Harkleroad: "We didn't necessarily talk about 'The System.' The players, the search committee, the people around town, they all wanted to play a little faster. I tried to warn them that this was going to be a whole lot faster, and they seemed excited about playing this way."
How did it go teaching this to your team?
Coach Harkleroad: "The big thing was I was hired in late spring, so for the most part, all of my players had already gone home for the summer. We didn't get a chance to evaluate them fully until we reported for the fall. We spent a lot of time trying to unlearn some habits they've been taught their whole lives, but our kids were willing and capable of doing it."
Any reservations about making "The System" work there?
Coach Harkleroad: "I thought we could be successful. We're just trying to get our kids to play hard and have a good time, and if you're kids are doing that, regardless of how you play, you're going to be OK. I thought we could win."
What did you run before you went with the best style of play in all the land? (My words, of course, not his!)
Coach Harkleroad: "We would go with some multiple defenses, man-zone mix, work on help-side rotation, ball-me-man, the things everybody is taught. We had a big thick playbook with lots of sets, and we ran some motion offense. We still do a lot of that on deadball situations. We really pick and choose in our offensive system, do some things that are very, very traditional and orthodox in certain situations. We do everything at a fast pace, though."
The ultimate question: would "The System" work at a major NCAA Division I level?
Coach Harkleroad: "I think on the women's side, at the Division I level, it could work. Any system can work, if you've got kids that buy in, and I'm convinced it would be good at the Division I level. It might be harder with the men, they finish so much better, they're better with the baseball pass. I think regardless, there's no secrets out there. If you've got kids that are capable of doing what you want, you can win and be successful with it."
Do you think you'll go back to "conventional" basketball any time soon?
Coach Harkleroad: "Right now, if you have a Plan B, you're more apt to fall back on that. We're still full-steam ahead right now. We've had four home games, and the atmosphere at all four have been fantastic. People here want to win. I'm sure there's people who say, 'You don't play any defense,' but that would be there regardless of what you're trying to do."
A big thanks to Coach Harkleroad for taking the time to talk with me, and good luck to him and his team the rest of the season. You know, and I know, that I'll keep you posted.
And, now, more updates ...
Grinnell won Friday night! I watched a good bit of the final 10 minutes, and the Pioneers (the ones from Iowa, not West Virginia) held on to beat Lawrence University 90-89 in the friendly confines of cozy Darby Gym. The victory improves the G-Men to 3-10 overall, 2-5 in the Midwest Conference.
Lawrence (6-8, 3-4) shot 67.3 percent for the game but attempted only 49 shots, thanks to 25 turnovers. Grinnell took 19 more shots and shot 19-of-50 on 3-pointers, with Dylan Seelman leading the way with 21 points. Matt Skelly added 20 as the Pioneers again stuck with an uncanny balanced lineup: 15 players got at least 11 minutes of run, and no one got more than the 15 played by Skelly, Scott Kaitz, Alex McDonald and Xander Strek.
Grinnell stays at home for a Saturday game against Carroll, which won an earlier matchup 102-76. Good luck to Coach A and the gang.
And speaking of putting up numbers ... Congratulations to the Whitmore Lake (Mich.) Trojans, a varsity high school boys' team near my hometown of Detroit, who set a state record with 29 3s on Thursday night in a 117-80 victory over Morenci. Whitmore Lake, coached by "Run-and-Gun" board member Dave Arnold, made 29-of-78 from downtown, an unbelievable total for a high school. A school record fell in the second quarter when Coach Arnold's team scored 37 points. For those not paying attention, that's 37 points in 8 FREAKIN' MINUTES!!!!
Austin Cattley made eight 3-pointers (another school mark) on his way to 24 points, and Alex Cattley added 21 points and five treys. The Trojans (5-5, 3-2) face a tough Tri-County Conference game Monday when they host second-place Adrian Madison before a trip to conference leader Clinton on Friday.
I'll try to stay on top of Whitmore Lake and Coach Arnold, and maybe I can convince him to do a guest spot on this blog.