Senior forward Sam Lorenzen said it meant everything to him that the Rams were going to play in the NAIA national men’s basketball tournament.
“We agreed the first time we met that we wanted a chance to win a national championship,” Lorenzen said.
And then the season ended in what he calls a weird way: The tournament was cancelled last week due to COVID-19. The Rams had been scheduled to play Carroll College on Thursday in Kansas City, according to ramsports.net.
“We found out the season was ending just about 30 minutes after we finished a two-hour practice, preparing to play the team we found out we were going to be playing,” Lorenzen said. “So, for it to end so quick, it hurt and I felt bad for my team for what we had all been through.”
Despite the Rams not being able to play in the NAIA tournament, the team still made an impressive turnaround with an overall record of 21-9, compared to last season’s 14-16, according to ramsports.net.
Head coach Brennen Shingleton wrote in an email that he is handling the situation well but didn’t anticipate being away from his team right now.
“I am extremely disappointed, but I understand, and I would never want to put any of my guys in any danger in order to play a game,” he wrote.“I just wasn’t ready for it to be over. It has provided me time that I didn’t expect to have, so with all this I’m trying to reevaluate some things and make sure that we use this opportunity correctly and maximize it.”
There were rumors among athletes that the NAIA would allow players one more year to play given the circumstances, and Shingleton confirmed this.
“It is true,” Shingleton wrote. “They are working out the details now, but that is just for spring athletes (baseball, softball, golf etc). Basketball is considered a winter sport; they have not come to a decision in our sport.”
According to ramsports.net, the NAIA will grant any full-time student spring athlete will be granted an additional two semesters worth of time to play.
Lorenzen said he didn’t know if he could get another year to play but, if he got the chance to play again, he would.
“I would take full advantage of that and embrace the opportunity,” Lorenzen said. “This game has done so much for me, so to be given another shot at what we wanted to accomplish would be such a blessing.”
Shingleton wrote that he is very proud of the team and enjoyed seeing their growth.
“They were just great guys that showed up and represented their families and this university well,” Shingleton wrote. “We had our challenges, but we never backed down or quit. (The) guys really matured this year and now they understand and should value opportunities when they have them.”
Senior forward Shaun Rost said he was surprised that the NAIA nationals were cancelled.
“The fact that the tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 was disappointing,” Rost said. “I am just trying to stay safe from the virus at the moment and do my part to stop it’s spread.”
Rost said he is hopeful about his future and the future of the team.
“I think the team is set up to have a great season next year as they have a high amount of returning members,” Rost said. “It was a shock, but it was out of my control, so I am just moving forward with my future.”