Pioneers get early start to NAIA Tournament 03-14-2006

By Wayland Baptist University

KANSAS CITY - The Wayland Baptist University Pioneer basketball team opens play at the NAIA Division I Men´s Basketball Championship Tournament bright and early Wednesday, taking on Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) at 9 a.m. in Municipal Auditorium (8:45 a.m., KVOP 1090-AM).

The winner will face the winner of Mountain State University (W.Va.)-Southwest Assemblies University (Texas) at 8 p.m. on Friday.

Mountain State has knocked the Pioneers out of three previous tournaments.

Coach Todd Thurman´s Pioneers received the tournament´s 16th seed, while the Tigers of Olivet Nazarene are unseeded.

WBU began the year ranked 29th and finished the year 17th in the final NAIA Top 25 Poll. Olivet Nazarene was ranked 28th in the NAIA preseason poll and finished 15th.

ONU won the Chicago Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) regular season with an 11-1 record. The Tigers completed the regular season 21-10 overall, while WBU was 19-10 overall. Both teams lost in the semifinal round of their conference tournaments.

Wayland Baptist is making its 13th appearance in the NAIA Division I National Tournament and fourth in five years. The Tigers are making their first trip to the NAIA National Tournament since the 2002-2003 season, when they reached the Elite Eight.

The Tigers have faced a team from the SAC in each of their last two national tournament appearances. In 2002, the Tigers lost 89-69 to Oklahoma Baptist in the NAIA Elite Eight. In 2003, Olivet defeated John Brown University (Ark.), 83-78 in the NAIA Sweet 16.

The Pioneers are led by Kendall Webb, a 5-10 junior guard who is averaging 19 points per game. Webb was a Sooner Athletic First-Team All-Conference selection and has hit a team-leading 73 three-point shots.

Also averaging double figures is 6-2 senior forward Clifton Clarida, who is averaging 14 points. He was a SAC Third-Team All-Conference choice and drained 51 three-pointers.

DeJuan Davis, a 6-3 senior guard, was an SAC Honorable Mention selection. Davis has hit 55 three-point shots and is averaging 11.5 points.

Olivet had three players named to the First Team CCAC All-Conference team, led by forward Stan Chismark. The 6-5 junior is the Tigers´ scoring leader, averaging 14.7 points a game. He put in a team-high 53 three-pointers and was second on the team in rebounds (6.4 a game) and assists (3.2).

The other first team honorees were 6-0 senior guard Zach Birkey and 6-7 sophomore forward Phil French. Birkey is the team´s assist leader, handing out 4.4 a game, while French comes off the bench to contribute 11 points and 5.3 boards.

The teams had one common opponent during the 2005-06 season. The Pioneers lost to 3rd-ranked Robert Morris College, 95-92 in overtime during the first game of the Plainview Lions Classic back in December. ONU swept Robert Morris, a fellow CCAC member, during the season by scores of 89-88 and 81-78.

This will not be the first time that Olivet Nazarene and Wayland Baptist have met at the NAIA National Tournament. The schools met in the first round in 1992, with Olivet winning 82-65. It was Olivet´s first-ever victory at the national tournament.

The 1984-85 Pioneers, coached by Mark Adams - now at Howard Junior College in Big Spring - advanced to the national finals, losing to Fort Hays, Kan., 82-80 in overtime. Posted to MyPlainview: MARCH 14, 2006 14:57 CST