Rio Grande Sports Information
RIO GRANDE, Ohio - The University of Rio Grande men's basketball team is the recipient of the 2017 Buffalo Funds Five-Star Champions of Character Team Award for Division II Men's Basketball from the NAIA.
The announcement was made by NAIA officials following the conclusion of the DII national championship game on Tuesday night in Point Lookout, Mo.
The Buffalo Funds Five-Star Champions of Character Team Awards are presented at the end of the season for each of the NAIA's 23 championship sports.
Teams that receive this prestigious award demonstrate in every day decisions integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. The institutions and athletic programs which are recognized strive for excellence in and out of competition and are part of communities throughout the country dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics.
"I felt really good about what we were doing off-the-court with this group in our community service projects, our involvement with Rio Elementary and the Champions of Character Classic and what we do with Nations of Coaches through our character coach, Chris Wallis, coming in every Friday and meeting with the guys," said Rio Grande head coach Ken French. "It's a pretty prestigious award and we're honored to have our program recognized for how we're trying to develop young men."
The RedStorm's resume included various reading and craft projects with students at Rio Grande Elementary School, volunteering time to work with rec league programs in the local community and the 3rd Annual Champions of Character Classic, where the entire Rio Elementary student body is transported to the Newt Oliver Arena for lunch, a RedStorm basketball game and the chance to spend time with players afterward before heading back to school.
"This award means a lot," said senior forward Corey Cruse. "We take pride in being close as a team and doing things together off the court. It's definitely the closest team that I've been on in my sports career. It's not just all of us hanging out together off the court, but it's how we act together. We have high-character guys who treat people the right way, but who also know how to have fun at the same time."
French also pointed toward the addition of Wallis to his coaching staff, in conjunction with Nation of Coaches, as a key factor in receiving the honor.
Nations of Coaches was founded in 2005 by long-time basketball coach Jim Haney - now Executive Director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches - who dreamed of launching a ministry dedicated to college basketball coaches to help them deal with the everyday pressure to produce and win.
NOC's mission is to strive to see coaches, their families and all those whome they influence powerfully impacted for the glory of God.
"We spend Friday mornings with coach Wallis reading scripture and discussing how we can use the verses to better ourselves and those around us. I think it's been very beneficial and it shows in our actions," said junior guard Devon Price. "Our team had a major jump in its (grade point average) since last school year and I think it's because of the guys who are now inside the program. Our culture and chemistry was evident in how we turned our season around. If not for a group of high-character and selfless individuals, I don't think any of that would've been possible."
"We had a couple of guys who organized a Bible study group here on campus," French added. "There are a lot of little things that add up toward winning this award. Every team, every year goes through adversity, but that's not what this award is about. It's about what you're trying to do, your outreach and the development of the student-athletes in your program. I feel like we're doing a pretty good job with that. I'm very proud of our guys."