A bunch of transplanted Stateliners are celebrating another national championship. The Graceland University men’s basketball team in Lamoni, Iowa won the NAIA National Championship Tuesday night in Kansas City.
They won it on a thrilling three-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to beat LSU Alexandria 83-80. Former Jefferson J-Hawk LT Davis assisted on the winning basket. He was named the MVP of the tournament. Davis and Graceland head coach Craig Doty were part of two NJCAA D-3 national championships at Rock Valley College. I spoke with both of them on the phone Wednesday afternoon to discuss this latest title. Here is how the interview went:
(Scott question) “You’ve been at the top of the mountain so many times in your career already. How does the view feel from the top of the NAIA mountain right now?
(Craig Doty, Graceland coach) “It was such a special run at Rock Valley College and going out to New York and playing in three consecutive national championship games and winning two of them. Just to be able to double down on that experience in Kansas City at the NAIA division one national tournament because there are so many guys that played for me or coached for me at Rock Valley College that are currently playing for me and were on this national championship team at Graceland or on my staff we’ve just been able to continue this family environment of caring for one another and being there for each other. Last night there was over six thousand 300 fans and as well as over 100,000 people tuning in on live stream. It was an insane environment. Anytime there’s a game winning shot for a national championship and the play makes SportsCenter top ten you know it’s pretty special.”
(Scott) I’m not surprised that you’ve won and won big at Graceland but to do what you’ve done in just two years that is stunning. How did you pull this off so quickly?
(Doty) “It was just continuity. I brought in transfers but they weren’t new players. When you bring in Dalton Payton and LT Davis and Alec Pena and Garrett Schweighauser these are individuals that I have a working relationship with, so we’re not starting from square one.
This has never been done at Graceland. They’ve never made a national tournament in the history of the program and that program has been around since 1950, so it’s a credit to our student athletes and the quality of kids that we have in the program and really a credit to the guys from the metro Rockford area that played for me at Rock Valley that trusted and believed in me and came out here and got the job done.”
(Scott) LT you’ve been a part of two national championship teams before. How thrilling is this one especially with the way you guys won it?
(LT Davis, Graceland guard) “This stuff happens only in movies and to actually live through it in real life it’s amazing! It came down to the last shot in overtime. Coach put the ball in my hands. Justin Harvey was wide open so I kicked it out to him and he knocked down the shot. It was the best feeling ever man. It’s amazing!”