It was a couple of weeks after IUPUC had started signing up players to compete on the university’s first men’s basketball team since 1987. Coach Quinton Moore had a gym, practice uniforms and balls.
He just didn’t have any players.
Moore arrived at the Foundation For Youth gymnasium in Columbus to find that the two players who signed up in October couldn’t make it that night. He was alone.
“I was walking around the gym thinking, ‘This has got to change,’” said Moore, a 2001 Columbus East graduate. “I walked around the gym floor for about 45 minutes, looking at the rafters. What did I get myself into?”
Ryan Hopkins, a 2009 Columbus North graduate, who is a junior at IUPUC, was the first player to sign up. He had come to practice every night until the time Moore was walking the floor alone.
At a glance
IUPUC men’s basketball
Opening game: 7 p.m. Friday at the FFY gymnasium, 405 Hope Ave., Columbus
Opponent: Franklin College
Head coach: Quinton Moore
Level: Club basketball
Did you know? This will be IUPUC’s first basketball season since it had a men’s program from 1984-87
“I rolled a four-wheeler,” Hopkins said. “I was out. And the other guy who had been showing up was transferring.”
Fortunately for the program, the word started getting around campus. The roster now has eight players, and Moore expects to add a few more.
“The hardest thing for me, especially, was that the university doesn’t have housing, so you don’t have kids who live on campus,” Moore said. “Everybody has different schedules, so it was hard for me to scratch players up. But now we have a very strong seven.” (The roster expanded by one at the end of the week.)
“Just about everyone played high school ball, and one guy played football at Eastern Michigan. We’re trying to get at least two more players because I believe in running.”
Moore would like to find a couple of more players in a hurry because the team begins its season at 7 p.m. Friday at the FFY gym against Franklin College.
“At this point, we want to have a formal student club that will build a reputation,” Vice Chancellor and Dean Marwan Wafa said. “Establishing a men’s basketball team at IUPUC is one of several ongoing efforts to provide students with an array of student life programming. This is the second of three teams for male and female student-athletes IUPUC has launched this year. The other two are cross-country and golf.”
Wafa said the main objective of the current team is to create excitement about the program among the students. The university will consider the feedback it gets from its student body and then determine whether to pursue expanding opportunities in the future and perhaps joining the NCAA or NAIA for intercollegiate sports.
“We will see how well we do,” Wafa said. “But there are other variables that we need to take into account. Are we ready for it or not?”
Joining the NCAA or NAIA would take a considerable investment. One important piece of the puzzle would be the construction of a campus center that would include a gymnasium, locker rooms and workout facilities. Wafa said a campus center is a high agenda item.
For now, though, putting together a team that can be competitive is the main focus.
“It has been a challenge,” said Sandra Miles, director of student affairs. “We had to find a coach able to do it within our financial constraints. But it seems to have come together, and they are very excited.”
Moore, who works as a volunteer, and his players all talked about the “opportunity” of coaching and playing basketball at the college level.
“The highest level I have coached would be high school-aged kids at the PAL level,” Moore said. “I’ve been coaching elementary kids. Then to this.”
A lifetime basketball fan, the 29-year-old Moore did not play basketball at Columbus East because he had to help with his two younger sisters. But his relative inexperience has not dimmed his enthusiasm.
“For me, it’s about the love of the sport,” Moore said. “I feel that taking this job is a lot more rewarding than not taking it. I love the challenge. And we have players who want to set the bar high for next year. We’re hungry.”
Hopkins, a 6-foot-3 wing, is just happy to get on the court again.
“Basketball always has been my favorite sport, but I thought I was done,” he said. “I only played my freshman year in high school so, yeah, I would like to make a statement here. I think we are going to be pretty good. We have the heart to want to play.”
Joey Smith is a 5-10 guard who played at Seymour Christian Academy in high school.
“Whenever IUPUC tries to do something, they do it right,” he said. “This is a higher level than we have played, but as long as we stay committed, we will do OK.”
Greg Kelley is a 6-5 forward who graduated from Columbus East in 2010.
“I wanted to see if everyone else was going to take this seriously,” he said. “I feel this is a great opportunity. I knew I was going to stay local as far as college went, so I didn’t think I was going to play again. I’ve missed basketball since high school.”
The roster also includes Devon Davis, a 6-5 center who played football at Eastern Michigan after graduating from Columbus East in 2009; Jim Clip, a 6-4 forward; Blake Davis, a 6-5 guard; Adam Idlewine, a 6-4 guard; and Cameron Oathout, a 6-5 center.
IUPUC last had a men’s basketball team from 1984-87. Moore said his team would like to play eight games this season and then expand the schedule.