Maryville College’s men’s basketball team defeated Piedmont College, 81-54, to cap off their season with the USA South West Division Championship.
Shortly before the season, the NCAA announced that there would not be a national tournament at the Division III level due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. After a preseason practice, head coach Raul Placeres brought his team to the half court line and set three new goals.
“I believe in dreams, I believe in writing down your dreams, and I believe in going out and executing your dreams,” Placeres’ said. “So, I told my guys that we would be regular season champions, that we would host the tournament and that we would win the conference tournament championship. We checked all three goals that were possible-there was literally nothing else that we could have accomplished this season.”
The Scots lived by many mantras, words, and phrases all year. At the beginning of the year five words were chosen, in hopes of giving this team an identity.
Everyone inside of the organization wanted to be hard workers, efficient, committed, humble, and unselfish. Placeres would constantly tell his guys that “it takes what it takes,” and it took a lot of sacrifice on the end of each and every individual.
“I love my team!” said sophomore guard Myles Rasnick. “We all wanted the best for each other, which is why I think we played so well together. The word that was voted on the most was unselfish, so that’s how we played. This helped us build a winning culture here and is definitely why we ended up becoming champions.”
Placeres also attributed this team’s success to many individuals. There are many people, who do not necessarily play in the game, that hold a pivotal role in a championship run. Assistant coach Jeff McCord and student assistants Kyle Creasy, David Nibayubahe, and Dom Holland all took care of the little things, both on and off the court, that go on within a game that most people are not aware of.
The players on the team who did not receive a lot of playing time take pride in providing the best scout look possible every day. The athletic administration staff did a fantastic job of handling the business side of everything, and the communications department excelled at promoting this basketball program. The custodians had a lot thrust on their plate once they were not only tasked with keeping the Cooper Athletic Center clean, but also keeping everything constantly sanitized.
“I’ve been blessed to win eight regular season and eight conference tournament championships as a player, an assistant coach, and now as a head coach,” Placeres said. “The one thing that always stands out to me is the ability for everyone to be a star in their role. From the assistants to the players to the people behind the scenes. If everyone accepts their role and wants to be a star in their role, then good things can happen.”
The Scot’s quest for a championship was fueled by consistent growth throughout the year. The growth of this team and each player was very evident. Growth was a word that Placeres mentioned in every pregame talk.
MC’s two regular season losses were to Piedmont College and LaGrange College. The Scots were able to win the USA South West Division Tournament No. 1 seed with an 88-81 victory over LaGrange College later in the year. The second game of the season was an 83-73 loss to Piedmont College. Yet, the Scots were able to rout the Piedmont Lions by 27 points in the championship game.
The Scots prided themselves on growing through and responding to each adverse situation that was sent their way. Anxiety was high throughout the year as each member of the team was tested weekly for COVID-19. The team had to quarantine twice due to COVID-19 protocols. Each player had to essentially give up their social lives and put themselves in a bubble in order to compete this year.
“This championship means a lot to me because it’s my first,” Rasnick said. “I came here to win championships and make life-long memories with my teammates, and this year definitely fulfilled that wish. All of the obstacles that we went through make this championship so much sweeter. While everyone was cutting down the nets, all of the memories of the hard workouts, quarantines, and Covid tests all flashed through my memory, and it made that moment so special. We struggled through so much this year, and it wasn’t always fun, but it was all worth it once we got to cut down those nets!”
The Scots ended the year having averaged 80 points per game while only allowing 67 points per game. Senior guard JR Sanders and Rasnick were named USA South 1st Team All-Conference selections. Sophomore center Felix Uadiale was named as a 2nd team All-Conference selection. Freshman center Brandon Jones earned All-Sportsmanship accolades from the USA South.
Placeres’ squad is expected to have everyone return next season except Jordan Griswould, a senior small forward. Griswould is leaving Maryville College, having won three championships in three years.
“I’m just really happy for our kids, and I felt a lot of joy for my guys,” Placeres said. “As a coach you are as good as your players, and we have some good players. When your higher character guys are your best players, great things happen. I enjoyed winning this trophy, but now I’m already thinking about next season. I’m really excited about the future of the program because we really do have some high-quality kids within this program.”