Oklahoma City takes advantage of second chances for back-to-back NAIA titles Print
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Wednesday, 26 March 2008 14:20
NCAAB Headline News


 OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -Second chances abound in NAIA basketball, and no team has made more of its opportunities lately than Oklahoma City University.
With a roster populated by transfers from other colleges, the Stars rolled back into town Wednesday to celebrate their second straight national championship amid talk of starting the school's second basketball dynasty in two decades.
``It's the greatest feeling. I've never had a feeling like this,'' said Ollie Bailey, a 6-foot-7 transfer from Rutgers who was the NAIA player of the year. ``We worked so hard during the summer as a team, and we deserve this. We're the best team in the country.''
y after leaving his previous job with NCAA violations pending.
Bailey had seen his playing time and production cut in half over the past two seasons at Rutgers, where he earned recognition on the Big East all-rookie team after averaging 9.7 points and 4.4 rebounds as a freshman. He signed on to join the reigning NAIA champs, and then led them this season with 18.9 points and 8.1 rebounds, picking up 13 double-doubles along the way.
``He wasn't playing as much as he thought he should, and after watching him this year, I have to tend to agree with him,'' Harper said. ``The only thing we ask is that you do the right things, go to class, be on time, work hard.
``I don't think you can win and be successful with guys that won't do it the right way, and these kids all do it the right way.''
It's hardly uncommon for former major college players to shine at the NAIA level. Joining Bailey on the All-America team are players from Missouri, Wyoming and Illinois-Chicago. Harper brought in four recruits from NCAA Division I schools before last year's title run, and Bailey was one of two such transfers for the Stars before this year.
And he'll likely need reinforcements if Oklahoma City wants to three-peat. Bailey, Gray and Willie Irick - the team's three leading scorers - have all completed their college careers.
``I know Coach Harper will bring in some top recruits. We've got some good players on our team already,'' said Bailey, holding the stone block trophy recognizing him as the NAIA's top player. ``They could go three in a row, you never know.''
Harper said he didn't even make it off the court following Oklahoma City's 75-72 championship game win against Mountain State (W.Va.) on Tuesday night before university President Tom McDaniel raised the question of a third straight title.
Tennessee State (1957-59) and Kentucky State (1970-72) are the only NAIA teams to win three straight national championships. Oklahoma City, which lost on a buzzer-beater with 2 seconds left in 2006, became the first team since Kentucky State to even make the title game three years in a row.
``We want to enjoy this one,'' said Harper, who made six straight championship games at Kentucky Wesleyan, winning the 1999 and 2001 titles. ``We feel like the guys we're recruiting are the guys that can help us get back there. One thing we said was, `They're going to play the championship game next year, so why not try to get back there and play in it again?'''
A few dozen fans, faculty and staff members came out to cheer the team bus as it pulled back into the parking lot at Abe Lemons Arena. Players hosted the national championship trophy - the school's sixth, all coming since 1991 - and then got congratulated individually by the line of fans.
Oklahoma City also won back-to-back titles in 1991 and 1992 to start a run of four titles in a six-year span under longtime coach Win Case.
``Back-to-back, man. We're like Florida when they made back-to-back,'' Bailey said. ``It's a great feeling.''
 

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