“The NAIA really boasts a strong tradition of basketball, so it does feel good for this program to jump into the top 25 and to be considered on the national scene,” TC men’s head coach Matt Cross said.
In the preseason, the Lady Tornadoes were ranked 29th in the nation. TC (11-0) has gotten off to an impressive start to the season. Lagmay’s team defeated Faulkner who was ranked 14th in the preseason and Cumberland, who was ranked 7th preseason. The Lady Tornadoes also upset Division I Samford, 50-49 in an exhibition game on Nov.14.
“The NAIA is a very prestigious association,” TC women’s head coach Romeo Lagmay said. “At one point it was more prestigious than the NCAA, so in the basketball world everyone knows how prestigious the NAIA is. To have the ranking 13, we are thankful and proud. We are trying to build on that; everybody wants to be No.1, but who is willing to work and sacrifice things to get it? My girls are excited. They see the rankings as well, they know what’s at stake. You have the ranking; you have an undefeated season, so there is pressure just more than winning. They have these tremendous goals themselves. What’s really more at stake is the seniors. We’ve had a talk about making it work for you. Capitalize on your opportunities and seize them. They know that this is their last go around, so they really want to make this worthwhile and create the fond memories of being successful here. It is a big deal to our seniors- going out with a bang. In practice, game reports, and film break downs everything has a sense of urgency. That is the difference between this team and a lot of teams that I had in the past. The sense of urgency to get it done and taking it one game at a time. Forget about the past and future and focus on the task at hand.”
The men’s team has gotten off to one of their best starts in program history. The Tornadoes went 13-2 in the first half of the season, which includes nine road wins. Cross said he senses that this year’s team is focused on trying to position themselves to earn a spot in the NAIA tournament.
“These guys just seem hungry to win and be in position to win a championship and get to Kansas City,” Cross said. “It is really a neat deal when you make the national tournament on the NAIA level. We knew that we needed to be in position to get an at-large bid, so we wanted to put a schedule together that was very difficult and if we were able to do what we did, go 12-3, 13-2 or 14-1, to put our self in position to impress the voters to be in this position to be ranked.”
The sixth-year head coach said his team makes his job as head coach an enjoyable.
“We had our film meeting today and the first thing that came out of my mouth was, ‘I know I am your head coach, but I am a big fan. I am a big fan of you and I am your No. 1 critic as well, but I am a big fan. You are entertaining to the point of keeping the fundamentals at hand. Playing basketball how I am teaching in practice and they are carrying it over in games.’ They love playing both ends of the court: defense and offense. There is always room for improvement and there are some things that we want to work on. We want to be perfect in every aspect of the game; we know we can’t be, but that’s what we strive for. What’s good about this team is that they are fans of one another. They are unselfish; we had a locker room talk yesterday and they said every game day is going to be a birthday for someone. That’s how we approached it, if one player is not doing well the other one is going to do well. Everyone is compensating for one another and everyone is playing for one another. It makes my job easier and it makes me work harder and it is worth my while when I do scouting reports, do the film break down and prepare my practice plans. It is that more enjoyable, because they actually appreciate it.”
Cross said being ranked 11th serves as motivation for his players and it helps them stay focused to the task at hand.
“I think for a coach for yourself and for your players you have to have lofty goals,” Cross said. “If you have lofty goals it never becomes boring, so they get excited about it. They do pay attention to rankings; it actually gives them more motivation and inspiration in practice and want to do the little things in preparation. So it actually does help from a preparation standpoint and motivation standpoint for the players. It makes it a little easier to get them motivated when they seem themselves in that position.”