Tonight, we have the opportunity to honor five outstanding student-athletes on the men’s basketball team. I have had the pleasure to coach these five young men over the past four years. They exemplify all that is right with NCAA Division III athletics and the balance of excellence we strive for at the University of St. Thomas, on the court and in the classroom.
During their four years, they have been a part of four MIAC championships, bringing our streak to a record of eight consecutive regular-season titles. They also were part of the program in 2011 when we won the national championship. Over the past four years, our overall record is 98-15 with an MIAC record of 70-9, giving St. Thomas more wins than any other team in the country during that time. This season, we are 23-1 and ranked No. 1 in Division III.
But as impressive as their team and individual records are, these five seniors are even better people.
Will DeBerg came to St. Thomas as a star shooting guard from Edina High School. Will worked diligently his first two years, playing on the national title team as a reserve. As a junior, Will was named all-conference and developed a reputation as a long-range marksman. This year, he has emerged as a leader and captain. A gym rat who can be found in the AARC at all hours, Will is a business major with an entrepreneurial spirit, starting his own basketball camps in Edina.
Noah Kaiser attended Henry Sibley High School, where he helped lead his team to the state finals in 2008. He transferred to St. Thomas from St. John’s and earned court time for his unselfish play. Over the past four years, Noah has been a steadying influence, dazzling fans with his passing and leading the MIAC in field goal percentage in 2011-12. Noah is an accounting major who will graduate with honors this spring.
John Nance is a Cretin-Derham Hall graduate. After playing football for the University of Minnesota for a year, he transferred to St. Thomas. He did not play a lot his freshman year but came on strong as a sophomore and led us in scoring in the national championship victory over Wooster. Last year, John was named all-conference and he has emerged as one of the top defenders in Division III. A business management major, John’s infectious energy and smile make him a great teammate.
Drew Mathews attended Faribault Bethlehem Academy, where he was an honors student. Drew played two years of junior varsity and has been on the varsity the past two seasons. He had hip surgery last summer, and his dedication and devotion to rehabilitation and the team make him an outstanding teammate, leader and role model for our younger players. He is a finance major.
Tommy Hannon also is from Cretin-Derham Hall, where he played junior varsity basketball as a senior. A wonderful example of hope and work ethic, Tommy played junior varsity his freshman season and was a backup center as a sophomore before becoming our starting center as a junior, when he was named to the All-Final Four team in Salem, Va. A finance major who will graduate with honors, Tommy has battled injuries and adversity his entire career.
Each of these five seniors came to St. Thomas to challenge himself on and off the court. I have been inspired by and blessed to coach them the past four seasons. Their teammates and coaches will miss them, but we are grateful for their contributions to UST Basketball and we are excited to see what they do to better their world when they leave St. Thomas.
I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to another senior, Kellie Ring, the starting point guard on our women’s team. Kellie is from Somerset, Wis., and celebrated her “Senior Day” Saturday in our win over St. Benedict. She has started all 23 games this season. The day after her father’s funeral last month, Kellie led the Tommies to a 78-55 win over Augsburg with 14 points, seven rebounds and four steals – a truly inspirational performance. She is a biology major.
Let’s pack Schoenecker Arena tonight – 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13 – to cheer Will, Noah, John, Drew, Tommy and their teammates as we take on St. Olaf. Go Tommies!