The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly basketball team will have their hands full during the 2006-07 season, as they test their skills against the defending national champion and other top 20 programs in their quest for their own national championship.
"Once again, I believe we will have one of the best junior college schedules in America," Grizzly Basketball Head Coach Brian Ostermann said. "Our fans are going to see some of the best junior college teams in the country during the season. We have an experienced group of players and some outstanding freshmen to meet that challenge, so I believe our team will be fun to watch right from the start."
Highlighting the season will be a visit by the defending National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I champions, the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Lions, in the season-opening Ozarks Medical Center Tip-Off Tournament Nov. 2-4 at the West Plains Civic Center. The Lions and the Grizzlies will square off the final night of that event at 7 p.m. Other teams competing include Technical Career Institute from New York and Gulf Coast Community College, Panama City, Fla.
"Opening weekend we face the defending national champions. It doesn't get much better than that," Ostermann said. The Grizzlies showed they could play with the champions last season when they defeated the Lions in this same tournament. The loss knocked the Lions from their preseason No. 1 ranking.
"Our schedule also includes games against traditional powers Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Independence (Kan.) Community College, Southeastern Community College in Iowa, and we host Seminole State College from Oklahoma, Ellsworth Community College of Iowa and national power Northwest Mississippi Community College in our Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic/Dr. Rick Walker Southern Missouri Orthopaedic Clinic New Year's Classic Jan. 4-6. And, of course, all of our Region 16 rivals come to town."
Northeastern Oklahoma will be one of the marquee teams at the Hot Country KDY 102.5 Grizzly Classic Tournament Nov. 9-11 at the Civic Center. Other competitors in the tournament will be Mid-America Nazarene University's JV squad from Olathe, Kan., and Penn Valley Community College, a perennial Division II powerhouse from Kansas City. A visit from Clark College of Vancouver, Wash., a member of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC), on Nov. 16 will complete the Grizzlies' seven-game home stand to start the season.
They will then travel to Pensacola, Fla., for the Pensacola Junior College Thanksgiving Tournament Nov. 23-25 and continue their road trip Dec. 1-2 at the Indian Hills Community College Classic in Ottumwa, Iowa. The Grizzlies will return to West Plains for a Dec. 5 contest against Neosho County (Kan.) Community College and to host the Grizzly "Ultra" Challenge Tournament Dec. 7-9. Featured teams in this tournament include Southwest Baptist University JV, Independence (Kan.) Community College, and Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. The tournament will mark the return of West Plains High School Zizzer basketball standout Kyle Cooper, who is a scholarship player with the Fort Scott team.
The Grizzlies will finish the first half of their season with a trip to Indiana Dec. 16 to play national power Vincennes University.
After hosting the Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic/Dr. Rick Walker Southern Missouri Orthopaedic Clinic New Year's Classic, the Grizzlies will visit defending Region 16 Champion Mineral Area College Jan. 13 in Park Hills; host Southeastern Community College of Burlington, Iowa, Jan. 15; travel to Poplar Bluff for a contest with Region 16 arch rival Three Rivers Community College Jan. 20; and host Region 16 rivals State Fair Community College and Mineral Area College Jan. 23 and 30, respectively.
Action continues Feb. 3 with a visit by Moberly Area Community College to the Civic Center in a Region 16 contest. Other home games that month will be against Three Rivers Feb. 10, and Crowley's Ridge College of Paragould, Ark., Feb. 19. Road games on the schedule include Southeastern Community College Feb. 5, State Fair Feb. 15 and Moberly Feb. 24, which will end the regular season.
"I would like to thank all those businesses that have already signed on to sponsor our games, including Ozarks Medical Center, Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic, Southern Missouri Orthopaedic Clinic and Dr. Rick Walker, CenturyTel, Garnett Wood, Air Evac Lifeteam, Great Rivers Distributing, Faith Enterprises and Hot Country KDY," Ostermann said. "We could not bring in teams of this caliber and host home games without the support of our sponsors. We do have a few games still available for sponsorship for 2006-07, so please call the Grizzly basketball office at 417-255-7993 if you are interested in continuing to bring great basketball to our area."
The best way to guarantee seeing next season's action is by joining the Grizzly Booster Club, Ostermann said, adding the club is currently in the midst of its annual membership drive.
"I would like to encourage everyone to get their booster club memberships now. Booster club members get first pick at reserved seats, among other incentives, for these great games," he said. "Our program would not exist without the generous support of our booster club membership. Booster memberships are our primary funding source for athletic scholarships."
For more information on how to become a member of the Grizzly Booster Club, contact Grizzly Booster Club membership chairman Paul Childers at 417-255-2265 or Missouri State-West Plains Dean of Student Services and Athletic Director Dr. Herb Lunday at 417-255-7255.
For more information about the Grizzly Basketball program, visit the Web site at http://www.wp.missouristate.edu/Grizzly/....