Journey to Sioux Falls: OKWU Men’s Basketball First Nationals Appearance since 2014

written by: Alyssa Willetts

The 2017-18 basketball season was one to remember for the Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles as they appeared in the NAIA National Tournament for the first time since 2014. The OKWU men’s basketball team earned their spot in the tournament, after claiming their first ever KCAC Conference Tournament championship, in a stunning 84-64 victory over Southwestern College.

The NAIA DII Men’s Basketball Tournament kicked off in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Wednesday March 7th where Oklahoma Wesleyan faced off against Bethel College (Ind.). Although it was a cold and snowy day, the Eagles were on fire. Jake Feickert had a game-high of 24 points and went 5 for 7 from the 3 point line. Joshua Wilchcombe earned himself a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Isaak Rowe also earned a double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds. As the game went into overtime, head coach Donnie Bostwick said this to his team in the huddle, “We fought for forty, now let God fight through you in Overtime.” The Eagles advanced to the second round after an 83-75 overtime victory.

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In the second round of the national tournament, the No. 4 seed Eagles battled it out with No. 1 seed Indiana University East, falling short in double overtime with a final score of 82-77. While overtime can be exciting to watch for the fans, it tends to be stressful for the players and coaches experiencing it. Coach Bostwick takes full responsibility for the way things played out in the national tournament and humbly said, “We won the Bethel Game and had the IUE game won in the first OT. I made a mistake in the final 3 seconds, and it cost us the opportunity to advance to the Elite 8. It will be my motivation to get them back next season to finish the climb!”

Head coach Donnie Bostwick turned the program around once before when he took the head coaching job at OKWU back in 2007. That next season, OKWU won its first ever men’s basketball national championship. Looking back on all the successes the team has had this season, Coach Bostwick says, “It seems like an almost exact rerun of my first year at OKWU. We won 26 games, went to Sweet 16 and lost in OT. Why not believe God is going to do 2009 again next year, or even better!”

This season, the Eagles basketball team added ten new guys to the roster as Donnie Bostwick took over as head coach. Three of those men, Isaak Rowe, KJ Malveau, and Josh Wilchcombe, were regular starters and big game changers for the Eagles.

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Jake Feickert is a Junior and returner for the Eagles, so this was his first experience at the National Tournament. Some might be intimidated by the pressures of playoffs, but Jake was motivated by it. He said, “The faith that my teammates had in me, from telling me to keep shooting and continuing to give me the ball, just added to my confidence and made my job a lot easier.”

KJ Malveau led OKWU in scoring in that second-round game with 23 points total. Joshua Wilchcombe and Isaak Rowe both earned another double-double. With the loss, the Eagles ended their season with an overall record of 26-9.

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Both KJ Malveau and Isaak Rowe had standout games like that all season. Often times, people wonder what motivates star athlete’s most in their strong performances. KJ Malveau says his motivation is his great grandmother and all his loved ones that can no longer play themselves. Isaak Rowe has a similar motive: “The whole season I dedicated it to John Lee, one of my close friends. He passed away July 2017 on the basketball court because of a heart disease. [That] inspired me to literally play my heart out, even though the situation really hurt me.”

This season, the OKWU men’s basketball team played with a whole lot of heart, and that showed in all that they achieved as a team. Junior guard Jake Feickert said, “Making it to the tournament for the first time was a true blessing. It will be remembered for a lifetime.” KJ Malveau transferred to OKWU this year and said this about his first nationals experience, “Moving and playing in the NAIA league was truly a blessing. All the success we had this year was a memorable experience.”

On the big stage, one thing that even the NAIA announcers could not deny was Oklahoma Wesleyan’s love and boldness for God. Coach Donnie Bostwick carries his Bible with him during every game. He says, “I depend so much on God when coaching that I truly ask for God’s strength, courage, wisdom, and favor at that moment, and just enjoy every second God gives me.” This same attitude rubs off on his players. When asked how it feels to be named an NAIA DII basketball All-American, KJ Malveau said, “Being named an All-American was nothing but a blessing and gift from God. Without him, none of this success would be possible.” Isaak Rowe was also named an All-American.

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A big portion of the team will be seniors next year, and their main goal is to make it back to the NAIA national tournament and not leave until they win the championship. For now, it is offseason, and head coach Donnie Bostwick says this time of year is huge for recruiting and skill development. Each player has personal goals for themselves, and Jake Feickert laid his out perfectly: “My goal is to just continue to give God the glory through the way I play. At the end of the day, I play this game because God gave me the abilities.”

Coach Bostwick will continue to lead the team next year and has set this as his ultimate goal for them: “I want God to shine through our team in such a way that people are in awe of what God can do through a bunch of flawed, imperfect young men when they choose to seek and chase Him with all their heart.”

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