MOUNT VERNON — Some times teams come together at the right and can make a tournament run. Other times, teams have it from the start.
The latter is what happened for the University of Findlay men’s basketball team this season. Findlay capped off an undefeated 36-0 season by winning the NCAA Division National Title last weekend.
Mount Vernon native Nick Coon, a junior on the team after red-shirting his freshman season, was along for the ride and experienced it firsthand. For Coon, this is a dream come true.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is the daily day-to-day grind of playing 36 games can wear on you,” said Coon. “For our team to come together each and every time we were presented a challenge is an amazing accomplishment. I don’t think it has even set in for any of us, especially myself.”
The Oilers went 27-0 in the regular season, including a 14-0 conference mark. They then went 3-0 to win the conference tournament before entering the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
“This year, we got through our conference — the GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) — pretty easy,” said Coon. “We only had a few close games that we won by single digits, so coming into the tournament, we weren’t as battle tested as some of the other teams may have been. The Midwest Regional is very tough to get out of, as we’ve learned over the years, but it seemed like every challenge we faced, we were able to rise to the occasion and get over the hurdle.”
While Coon may not have played a pivotal role for Findlay this season, he did his part. Coon appeared in 30 games, scoring 47 points, dishing out 26 assists and picking up 11 steals. It is players like him that aided the Oilers’ starting five.
“For any team to be successful, guys have to know what their roles are,” said Coon. “Early in the season, our backup senior point guard Aaron Laflin went down with a broken ankle, so I was forced to step up and play those 10 to 12 games he missed. I played pretty good minutes in a backup role to our starting point guard, but then he came back, and we all had to adjust to that. It just seemed like we had different guys that were able to step up each and every time they were called upon. I think the main thing was guys knew their roles and knew how to play within themselves. We were a pretty mature team.”
This is Findlay’s first national title. The Oilers, who averaged nearly 20 more points per game than its competition, were ranked No. 1 every week of the season, and were the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Even still, without the national title, they would have been like any other team.
“The national title is what gets you the glory, so to speak, but from a player’s perspective, going to practice every day and going through the 36 games of the season, that is even more special,” said Coon. “It is such a grind, something we haven’t had sink in yet. It probably won’t be until we are older that we realize how much we really did accomplish.”
Coon said the team really didn’t feel much pressure this season. Even when the wins began to mount, the team kept its cool.
“We were a pretty loose team; we all got along and joked with each other,” Coon said. “We kept it light around practice. We didn’t feel as much pressure as people might think. We just looked at it from game to game, and just wanted to win that next game. We just ended up winning them all.”
The Oilers proved this season that practice makes perfect. It took a total team effort for Findlay to accomplish its dream.
“This was a lot of fun,” said Coon. “It was nice to get some playing time, but even when I didn’t, I still had a hand in it by just being there for my teammates. We come to practice every day to push each other. It isn’t just about the starting five or one guy; it takes all 13 guys on our team, and they all had a hand in this along with our outstanding coaching staff.”
Coon isn’t ready to hang up his sneakers just yet. He plans on returning to Findlay next season for his final year of eligibility. He is also on schedule to graduate with a double major of Pure Mathematics and Adolescent-Young Adult Mathematics.
“I plan to go into teaching,” said Coon. “I would like to one day become a coach and see where that takes me.”