Golden Eagles men’s basketball to celebrate first conference championship
March 24, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) When the buzzer signaled the game’s end on Feb. 20, La Sierra University’s Golden Eagles men’s basketball team exploded into cheers, whooping it up in their contender’s gymnasium. They had just nailed the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference championship against sister school Walla Walla University, 92-82, and could head home knowing their team would bring the university its first conference banner.
“We were jumping and shouting because we actually struggled through that whole game. We fought through it and ended up winning,” said guard Daveon Woods, a 6’3” transfer from California Baptist University in Riverside. “They were within single digits late in the game and we somehow pulled away.”
Woods, who averaged 14.8 points a game this season, held the added recognition of being named PCAC’s Most Valuable Player. “It actually means a lot,” Woods said. “I’m very honored. I’ve never won anything of this magnitude. I’m just honored and blessed.”
La Sierra’s Miles Robbins, a 6’2” transfer from the University of Idaho and the team’s shooting guard/point guard, was named to the First Team All Conference. He averaged 14 points a game. La Sierra’s 6’10” center, Conner Madden, made Second Team All Conference in rebounding. The Golden Eagles also won the categories of scoring and steals and assists, and placed second in the team defense category.
“It should be something etched in our history books,” said Golden Eagles Head Coach Derek Robbins. “We have been blessed this year with what we‘ve accomplished. I believe La Sierra has one of the hottest sports programs.” Indeed the team doubled its wins this year for a total of 14 as the university’s athletics program enters the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics after withdrawing from the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III.
On May 12 at 7 p.m., La Sierra’s athletics department will hold a ceremony on campus honoring the team for its top-notch performances. The Pacific Coast Athletic Conference includes seven Christian colleges and universities from around the West Coast. Of conference games, La Sierra won 10 and lost two and achieved an overall season record of 14 wins, 15 losses.
“This championship means a lot to our athletics program, and to La Sierra University,” said La Sierra’s Athletic Director Javier Krumm. “Our hard work is paying off.”
“People are getting to know La Sierra University, not just men’s basketball but other sports and La Sierra programs too,” he said. “There will be a big impact for La Sierra University if next year we can reach NAIA play-offs.”
The Golden Eagles showed how much they had improved throughout the season with their last game against Chapman University on Feb. 22. Chapman is an NCAA Div. III team, ranked 12th in the nation. Earlier in the month, La Sierra lost to Chapman by 22 points. On Feb. 22, the Golden Eagles lost 56-61 after leading at half time by 12.
“That was the best competitive ‘x-and-o’ game we had to play, where we had to physically respond to the game of basketball,” said Robbins.
Martin Woods, father of La Sierra’s Daveon Woods attended the Chapman game and was impressed with what he saw. “That shows the growth of that team. It shows the coaching staff did a great job,” said Woods. “I saw the talent they have and it was just a matter of piecing it all together.” An experienced ball player and coach, Martin Woods recently completed his fourth season as head coach of the successful girls’ basketball team at Centennial High School in Corona. Under his leadership, the Huskies played their way to three California Interscholastic Federation playoffs.
Daveon Woods began playing with the Golden Eagles last summer. Martin Woods watched his son’s up and down performance over the season and observed the hard work that ultimately landed Daveon the MVP award. “You can’t go from the valley to the top of the hill on one year, and it’s all because of his hard work and Coach Robbins,” Woods said. “I was so impressed with what kind of basketball player he became.”
Prior to college, Daveon Woods was a member of the Centennial High School Huskies team that won the 2007 California Interscholastic Federation championship. Basketball has been a big part of his life and will comprise a large part of his future—he plans to switch majors from English to liberal studies and in the footsteps of his father become a high school teacher and a basketball coach.
While pressing for wins on the court, the team, which functions much like a family, says Robbins, works toward academic achievement and incorporates spirituality into their activities. The team holds prayer before its various activities, often led by team forward Joe Paea. “We pray before we do anything for God’s guidance in our program,“ said Robbins. “We feel it, we believe it, we know it.”
Both men’s and women’s basketball teams at La Sierra retained all their players; non were lost due to a lack of academic units as often happens in varsity sports. NAIA regulations require student athletes to complete 36 units by the end of their freshman year. NAIA also affords La Sierra greater flexibility in offering special study halls and tutors for athletes than it had under NCAA. La Sierra’s athletic department keeps tabs on players’ academic performance through grade check forms filled out by professors biweekly. Athletes are also required to attend several hours of study hall weekly, whether in or out of playing season. La Sierra’s Learning Support and Testing Center helps student athletes keep up by offering tutoring and other services.
On Jan. 29, during a break between men’s and women’s basketball games, the athletic department recognized Tammy Green, director of La Sierra’s Learning Support and Testing Center for her work with the players. Green and her staff arrange tutors for students and provide proctor tests for those who need to take exams before leaving for an away game.
The Golden Eagles prepare for competition through regular, two-hour practice sessions three or four times a week and by analyzing opponents’ game videos. Robbins’ team-building strategy includes recruiting players with strong academics, emphasizing a dedication to God, family and education, and pushing the team to higher levels of performance on the court. Toward achieving the latter goal, the coach this season lined up matches with the University of California, Riverside and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Both universities are members of NCAA Division I, the tough, top-level ranks of varsity sports. While the Golden Eagles lost heavily in each game, the players gained valuable experience and La Sierra gained visibility on sports television channel ESPN. “You can’t teach a player how to be a Division I player unless they compete against a Division I player,” said Robbins.
In preparation for next year’s ball season, Robbins plans to begin a physical fitness and training program for the players. Some players will attend an acceleration camp in Montclair where they will build endurance by participating in such exercises as running on treadmills, running uphill and sprinting.
The attraction of success
Heading into next year, the Golden Eagle’s men’s basketball team is full with 15 players and another 15 on a junior varsity squad headed by volunteer assistant coach and La Sierra University staffer Frank Estell. The junior varsity team will serve as a feeder to the varsity team and will compete in 10 games next season.
As the Golden Eagles won games this year and the school entered provisional status with the NAIA, the team attracted attention. Coach Robbins says he receives an average of 10 to 12 e-mails a day from students, coaches and recruiters all interested in La Sierra’s basketball program. “We’re getting kids saying ‘I want to go to La Sierra,’” Robbins said.
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University