By Wynton Thomason
LOGOS SPORTS EDITOR
This season, the University of the Incarnate Word basketball team achieved many accolades in their first season as a member of transitioning into Division I athletics.
In this first season of conference play, the Cardinals placed fifth respectively out of 14. They had an overall record of 21-6 (9-5) with only one of those losses coming at home. They beat two of the four teams that finished higher than them. UIW also only lost by two points on the road to undefeated Southland Conference champion Stephen F. Austin, which made the national bracket.
In smaller Division I conferences such as Southland, whoever wins the conference tournament automatically has a place in “March Madness.” The Cardinals were ineligible for the conference championship due to NCAA rules permitting classification-transitioning schools from having a chance to win it. UIW won’t be eligible until the 2017-18 season.
Despite the fact UIW had no chance of breaking into one of the biggest events in America this year, this did not stop the men from playing like they had something to prove as the new kids on the block. They murdered almost all of the opponents who dared to step on the floors of Alice McDermott Convocation Center. The team also had five- and seven-game winning streaks as well as 16 double-digit wins.
This Cardinals season was a celebration, a celebration not just for new beginnings, but a celebration of a new culture, brought on by a mix of younger players and older players who held leadership roles.
Junior business major Denzel Livingston, a 6-4 forward from Houston, had a breakout season this year, averaging 20.3 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. He also went on to score a university record 548 points this season. Along with his 38 blocks, 68 steals and 102 assists to dominate on the court for the Cardinals, this led to two honors of distinction from Southland Conference officials. First, he was named to the All-Southland Conference Second Team, then, thanks to all the blocks and steals he accumulated, he was named to the All-Defensive Team.
“It is a great honor,” said Livingston. “It shows that hard work truly pays off.”
Even before the season, former star Cardinal point guard Len’Dale Brown said, “Denzel will make a major impact this year.”
In addition to Livingston, two other Cardinals also received honors for their play as well. Sophomore business administration major Kyle Hittle, a 6-4 small guard from New Braunfels, and 6-8 power forward Anthony Horton, a senior international business major from League City, Texas, were named to College Sports Madness’s All-Southland Conference fourth team. Livingston, who was also named to the collegehoopsdaily.com-first team, was named to CSM’s second team.
UIW only had only two seniors on its roster. This means the Cardinals could come back next year with even more dominance on the home floor and being more prepared for the competition that awaits them next winter when they step back out on the court.
“We’ll have to work hard in the off season to have momentum going into next year,” Livingston said.