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College Sports

January 7, 2014

MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Grenadiers have their sights set on winning national title in 2013-14

IU Southeast ranked fourth in NAIA Division II with 9-3 mark

NEW ALBANY — When some basketball teams make their first Final Four appearance, it’s simply a blip on the radar screen. They had their nice season and then it’s back to normal.

However, for the IU Southeast men’s basketball team, it plans to make Final Four appearances and beyond the norm in New Albany.

Fresh off their 30-5 Final Four season of a year ago, the Grenadiers are currently 9-3 and ranked fourth in NAIA Division II. This year’s squad is even more powerful than last year’s team.

IU Southeast leads the nation in scoring at 97 points per game and is second in the country in field-goal and 3-point shooting percentage.

“We have lots of weapons this season,” Grenadier senior Cameron Mitchell said.

Mitchell was the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year last season and leads the Grenadiers in scoring again this year at 17 points per game.

“We’re lethal on the court offensively, but [IU Southeast coach Wiley Brown] reminds us that defense is the whole key,” Mitchell said. “He keeps us focused on what’s important.”

While the Grenadiers are known for their fast-paced offense, their defense has helped them sport the fourth-best margin of victory in the nation. They also shoot a high percentage thanks to being seventh in the country in steals, which results in numerous layups and dunks.

“Our team identity is our defense,” Brown said. “We know we’re talented offensively, but our main focus is on defense and especially our press. That’s who we are.”

Who Brown is can be summed up with one word: a winner.

Brown is in his seventh season at the IU Southeast helm and has won six straight KIAC Tournament titles while posting a remarkable 165-51 record. He led the Grenadiers to the Elite Eight in 2010 and then pushed the level of success a step further with last year’s Final Four.

For Brown, though, it’s always about getting better.

“We talk about it daily,” Brown said of what it takes to get back to the Final Four. “The desire that last year’s team had was off the charts. They just refused to lose and that’s what this team has to get. They set their own goals this season and every one of the guys said they want to win a national championship. We have the talent to do just that, and it’s my job to keep these guys focused.”

Senior point guard Kevin Mitchell leads the team in assists and 3-pointers and is second in scoring at 15 points per game. He said Brown does a good job of pushing the Grenadiers daily.

“He mentions last year’s Final Four a lot and reminds us what we need to do to get back there. But at the same time, he also keeps us focused on just getting better every day,” Kevin Mitchell said. “We have a lot of offensive talent this season, so he focuses more on the defensive end so at the end of the season we can hang a national title banner.”

Jeffersonville product Kegan Clark was a key cog on last year’s 30-win team. The senior is again at the center of IU Southeast this season, averaging 11 points and five rebounds per game.

“We have our core guys back and two more additions to the team so we’re just working hard every day,” Clark said. “We plan to get back to the national tournament and win the whole thing this time.”

Floyd Central graduate Jordan Thompson is another returnee from last year’s Final Four squad. Thompson said getting back to the Final Four is talked about every day. He said the goal of this year’s team is summed up by the last word they say after every practice.

“Every time we break it down at the end of practice, we break it down on ‘championship’ because that’s what we’re trying to accomplish this season,” Thompson said. “He’ll remind us of how hard we had to work last year and also how much more talented we are this season and that we can win it.”

One of the talented new faces added to this edition of Grenadiers is Christian Academy graduate Aaron Hayes. The shooting guard has seen action in all 12 games this season and is shooting near 50 percent from behind the arc. Hayes said the senior leadership on the team has helped him get acclimated to college basketball.

“The seniors talk to us young guys a lot,” Hayes said. “They talk about where we need to be at on the floor and what Coach Brown wants us to do. Coach has talked about how there are some really tough teams at the national level, and we need to remember that we need to take care of things in our conference first so we can get back there [to the national tournament].”

IU Southeast will be back in action tonight at Cincinnati Christian.

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