By William Tissane, Staff Writer
The 2013-14 basketball season has been a dynamic and challenging stage for the Warren Wilson College Men’s team. Coming off of a national title in their previous season and welcoming a new head coach, there was a lot resting on the Fighting Owls’ shoulders this year.
New head coach William Monts came to Wilson from a position as head assistant coach of the Georgia Southwestern State University Men’s Basketball Team in Americus, GA. This season, Monts led the Owls to beat Lees-McRae College, the first NCAA Division II team to have been defeated by Wilson in the history of the Fighting Owls basketball program.
“[Monts] has been a great coach this season,” says sophomore guard Chris Dillard. “He always holds [the team] to high standards, and he’s focused on building the program.”
In a unique opportunity for the Wilson Athletic Program, the team travelled for four consecutive nights in November to compete against four NCAA Division I teams: Kennesaw State (GA), Florida International (FL), Eastern Kentucky (KY), and Youngstown State (OH). Although the Owls were not victorious, they managed to score a collective 197 points in the four games and put forth an impressive effort. Monts was very proud of the team after the hard-fought tour.
“The purpose of the trip was to raise money for our program and to give [the team] a great experience of competing against teams at the top level,” Monts said. “It was very positive. I am most proud of the mindset that this team was able to keep throughout the week. It’s easy for a coach to look for positives even in a loss because that is his/her job. However, it’s more difficult in a loss for the players to do the same, but these guys did. We got a lot better playing the best competition possible and are a much better team after this trip.”
The potential elimination of the Wilson Business Program caused some initial uncertainty mid-season as to the future of some athletes, many of whom are business majors. Monts, however, was not concerned about the potential loss of players and expressed faith in their commitment to the program.
“In regards to the Business major being removed, I know that our team will be fine,” Monts said. “Many of our players are majoring in business, but those who have started as ‘business majors’ will be able to graduate as ‘business majors.’ It will work itself out and I think the business area of Warren Wilson will be even stronger with the emphasis on economics.”
Despite facing a variety of obstacles in addition to the removal of the Business Program, the Owls have had a solid season. Led by senior Rashad Ali and sophomore Justin Gonyea, who are both averaging 14 points per game, the Owls currently record 15 wins (9 at home, 6 away) and 10 losses (2 at home, 8 away).
“Ali has been extremely consistent for us this year as a senior. He has a knack for getting his hands on rebounds and being in great position for rebounds,” Monts said. “He has given us many second chances in possessions by working hard on the glass.”
Senior captains, Ali and Timur Oktay, were both honored Sunday, February 18th during their last home game against North Greenville. Both will be graduating this spring after four years playing with the Fighting Owls, giving way to four new team members: freshmen David Grice, Thomas Hay and Bradley Triplett, and transfers Garth Bailey and Timmy Johnson. Unfortunately, Bailey had to undergo knee surgery early in the season, but he will hopefully be able to return to play for the 2014-15 season.
The Owls currently await the status of their running in the 2014 USCAA Division II National Championship, which will be determined February 25th.