With chants of “Let’s go Rams!,” around 60 Wesleyan fans cheered on the men’s basketball team Wednesday afternoon as they stepped off the bus from Kansas City.
The celebration came less than 24 hours after the Rams won the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship on Tuesday night, beating Life University 86-76. The Rams last won the championship in 2006 under head coach Terry Waldrop, according to ramsports.net.
The party continued in the Sid W. Richardson Center for about an hour. There was free food, including hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled chicken, and the fans and players mingled. Head coach Brennen Shingleton held the trophy the team had won in one arm, and one of his children in the other.
Guard Ryan Harris, a junior criminal justice major, said it felt good to come back to Wesleyan and see how many people cared about the team.
“It feels great to be back here in front of everyone else, and to see all the support that we had all year, this is a great feeling,” he said. “Unbelievable feeling, man.”
Harris said he wasn’t too tired from the trip and thought the food was good; he described the reception party as “amazing.”
“I’m not really that tired, just a little physical tired,” he said. “The food – I had some Arby’s at like 11, so this is my first time eating since 11, so the food’s good. (The reception party’s) great, it’s an amazing experience right now.”
Harris said he really enjoyed the support but it’s vital to keep in my mind what’s important.
“I felt good, it’s the same thing as it always was, you just have the same approach to the game,” Harris said. “You see the fans and the stands and everything, but I can’t make that a priority, I gotta stay focused on what we have to do and that’s exactly what I did and the result came out as a win.”
Wesleyan alumni Brenton Flowers, who graduated in 2012 and is a Student Life staff member, said the organization decided to do the party to give the team a nice surprise.
“We found out the team was coming back and since this has been the 11th year since we won the championship, Student Life wanted to do something for the team,” he said. “So they decided to do this celebration at six. We cooked food and set up the tables. Got everybody together, got everybody out here to come celebrate team coming home with the championship.”
Flowers said the reception party was overall a success and that he had fun.
“It went very well, it was a really good turnout,” he said. “The team arrived, everybody got to cheer them while they got off the bus, and I really feel that’s special to them because even though they got here this late, people were willing to stay to welcome home for doing such a good job, so very, very successful. I had a lot of fun, it was a real good experience. And I hope (the basketball team) do it again, I hope they repeat it.”
Senior psychology major and student Life staff member Jessica Diaz said she didn’t learn about the reception until she read an email while coming late to a class.
“I got out of class really late, so once I got out of class, they told me, ‘We’re gonna celebreate our championship,’ and I came here and started doing things for setup,” Diaz said.
Diaz started really paying attention to the men’s basketball teams when they entered the NAIA championship. She described Wesleyan’s play in the tournament as “entertaining.”
“These past couple of games, since I knew they were getting in the champions, I actually tried keeping up with them,” she said. “They were actually kind of interesting, really close for some of them, but it was pretty good, it was very entertaining.”
Diaz said she’s ecstatic to be at Wesleyan during a year when the team brings home a title.
“I’m really excited, because I haven’t personally seen this, and I’ve been here four years,” Diaz said. “It’s really, really exciting to finally see something like this and get everybody together, students of all classes and all majors came out and support our athletes.”
Though a lot people talked among themselves, others grabbed a hot dog or two. The food tables always had a line that that twisted around the antechamber outside the gym, from the tables to the trophy case.
Senior education major Crystal Webb, who is the education representative for the Student Government Association, said she came out to the reception because she very proud of the team.
“I’m super excited about our boys’ basketball team winning the national championship, she said. “So, what a way to show your support by (coming out) for your team?”
Webb said she’s attended a good amount of Wesleyan’s games and she’s really happy that the team could put Wesleyan in the spotlight.
“I’ve actually been at most of the games, I’m very proud of our boys’ basketball team and our girls’ basketball team,” she said. “But especially for the boys’ basketball team just winning the nationals, that’s like a big thing – very excited. For them to put Texas Wesleyan on the map as far sports, I’m totally geeked about that.”
Fellow athletes from other teams came out to support the Rams, including Anthony Caston, a junior business major who is a wide receiver and corner back for the football team. He said he just came to show some support for his fellow Rams and that he had little doubt the team would win the championship.
“They need somebody to stand by them, and being a part of this school, and being a part of the football program, and being a part of the athletic program – it’s always good to come out and support your fellow athletes,” he said. “I came to a couple of the home games this year, I expected them to do good, I couldn’t pick out if they was gone win or not but I had a lot of faith in them based off what I seen.”