This archived article was written by: Nathan Davis
The College of Eastern Utah men’s basketball team recently wrapped up its best season in years, making it to the Scenic West Athletic Conference championship game. The Eagles fell to Salt Lake Community College, who went on to become National Junior College Athletic Association champions.
SLCC won its first NJCAA championship in impressive fashion against Midland College. SLCC was staring at the wrong end of a 16-point lead in the second half, and it looked like Midland was going to win its second title in three years.
But the Bruins had other plans. They mounted a crowd-pleasing comeback, which included a 27-3 run and won the game 67-60 to capture the school’s third national championship.
The Eagles’ season was capped off by reaching the SWAC final for only the fourth time in the school’s history. The Eagles spent most of the season in the NJCAA Top 25, and finished the year with a 25-7 record, including a 14-game winning streak.
Coach Chris Craig said of the tourney loss to SLCC, “Obviously we’re capable of beating them … but they were the better team on that night.” CEU split the four-game- season series with SLCC winning two games. Craig said that after beating them twice in the regular season, losing in the tourney “hurts even more … it still doesn’t sit very well in my stomach knowing we were that close.”
Though only in his second year as head coach, Craig is happy at CEU,”CEU is a good place for basketball, the community loves basketball … when you win, they show up and support you, when you lose, no one really likes to come … our support was great this year.”
He emphasized the importance of having good guys on the team, not just good players, saying, “Basketball is a weird game. This year, we had a group of guys that really worked their butts off. Two years ago we probably had more talent, but we had some bad character guys and some guys who weren’t willing to work hard.”
Craig has not had anyone commit to CEU for next season and said that the character of his team is a major factor in how well they will perform. “Even if we get some very good players, we still won’t know until next year, most of the time it’s the intangible things that determines how good you are. How tough the team is, how much they want to work, as opposed to how talented they are.”
His summer plans are first, getting the returning players ready for the year saying, “The players that are here are the most important to me.” Then he has to schedule games for next season and continue recruiting players for next year.
CEU will lose sophomores Mike Scott, Darington Hobson, Stephen Franklin, Chandler Pearson, Aaron England, Phillip Thomas and Chris Bradley. As of press time, Scott is heading to Texas Christian University, Franklin has committed to Colorado State University, England will be at Utah State University and Thomas is headed north to University of Idaho.