January 31, 2013
Categories: General News, Athletics News
Tuesday afternoon marked an important step forward for the Tabor College Lady Bluejays basketball program. After receiving votes for the last two weeks, the Lady Jays have finally broken into the NAIA DII Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 National Poll.
In the seventh poll of the season Tabor is ranked 25th. This is the first ranking for the team in the national poll since the 2006-2007 season when the program made its last appearance at the national tournament.
At the end of last season, when the Lady Jays finished the year with a 7-21 overall record, few would have thought the current Lady Jays team would compete at the top of the conference the following year. Perhaps even fewer believed they would be ranked nationally.
The foundation for this marked turnaround would be set long before the first practice of this season. In truth, it was set prior to the beginning of the 2011-12 season when Head Coach Shawn Reed and his staff met for their first meeting.
The biggest question on the agenda was, ‘What is it going to take to turn this program around?’ The answer they found was simple: work. Relentless work in all areas of the program. And with that mindset they began moving forward.
Most of the work concentrated on two fronts. First came developing and working with the current group of players. This effort led to creating a solid core of returning players. The core of returning players with experience in the conference was an important factor when practice began this season.
Second, the Lady Jays coaching staff focused a huge amount of their efforts on the recruiting front. This piece of the strategy proved to be the most taxing in duration and effort as Coach Reed and his staff continued to recruit through the late summer months before the 2012-2013 school year.
The staff traveled thousands of miles and heard over 50 scholarship declines before assembling a class of 11 new players. The class of 11 had a mix of six freshmen and five transfer students.
“It took a lot of time to find players that were willing to buy into a monumental rebuilding effort,” Reed said. “But we were honest about the work that would have to be done and that there were no guarantees. That process produced a filter that attracted student-athletes interested in accepting a challenge of turning around a program.”
The next task came in blending the 11 newcomers with the 14 returners and convincing the entire group what the potential could be.
“I kept telling our team early in the year that we were gonna be really good this year but honestly I don’t think very many of them believed me.” Reed said. “The pain of going 7-21 the previous season left doubts in the minds of the returners and our new players didn’t know what to think because everything was so new.”
The Lady Jays did not start the year on fire. The combination of trying to create chemistry with a new team and a tough pre-conference schedule led the Lady Jays to a 3-5 record. Once conference play began, the Lady Jays started getting into their current groove and have improved to an 11-1 KCAC record and 15-7 overall record.
From the beginning of the season the team had a goal to be competitive in conference, but being number one in the standings and ranked nationally may not have been in the front of their minds. The entire Lady Bluejays team has invested a great amount of work to be in their current position. The realization and impact of their position has brought a spark to the time of season that can be draining, both mentally and physically.
“Are we excited to be nationally ranked? Absolutely.” Reed said. “But that has not been one of our goals this season. We have other goals we are striving to reach and hopefully we can keep our focus on those things that have been driving us all year.”
The most exciting piece of the Lady Jays’ present position is the possibilities that still lie ahead of the Lady Jays. Finishing strong in regular season play, competing in the conference tournament and a possible national tournament bid float around in the consciousness of the team.
Despite the distractions that come with the myriad of possibilities left in this season, the Lady Jays try to remain focused on the work they have remaining in the conference regular season. Once the Lady Jays have finished that task, they will be ready to set their sights on finishing their goals for this season.