Tigers on the prowl for their final ring

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – After gaining his 100th career win and securing the 2016 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) west division title, and being ranked 24th by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), head coach Donte Jackson and the Stillman Tigers look to continue their winning ways as they advance in the conference tournament.

“One, two, three, SC. Four, five, six, family,” say the Tigers for their pre-game tradition.

After 38 years as a member of the SIAC, Stillman is looking forward to their final men’s basketball tournament before it makes its transition to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) division.

“I plan on competing year in and year out in hopes of winning a conference championship,” said Jackson. “Unfortunately we’re going to have to move to the NAIA division at the discretion of our administration, but we still plan on playing hard and competing for a championship within that division.”

While Jackson remains optimistic, the Tigers’ starting guard and 2016 SIAC Player of the Year, Rodnerius Lewis, has a few doubts about the administrative decision. “I think the transition hinders my teammates because we have worked hard to build our program,” stated Lewis. “This transition from Division II to NAIA hinders the team from becoming better and it hinders them from advancing their career.”

From winning a championship to gaining a new coach, Stillman College has seen it all.

“With Coach Jackson coming in, he told us at the beginning of the season that we had a lot of expectations, and if everybody bought in, then we were going to continue to be great during our season,” said Lewis.

During the Tigers’ tenure with the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Stillman has reached major milestones within its men’s basketball program. Although its been 10 years since the Tigers have won the conference tournament title, they’re now ranked in the top 20 in several NCAA Division II men’s basketball categories.

One key leader on the team is Lewis. Throughout the season, Lewis has averaged a game-high 18.9 points a game and has continued to be effective on all sides on the ball.

“My team’s success has come from playing as a unit,” Lewis said. “I don’t think I’m better than any of my teammates. I just feel as if I put the ball in the hole during a much needed time in any given situation, we are able to win. We’re all equal.”
“I have to focus on bringing in a bunch of guys that want to be here,” said Coach Jackson, who has a major recruiting season ahead of him with seven seniors and seven juniors on his current roster.”I would advise the incoming recruits to focus on class first that’s what we’re in school for and put God first and your dreams will come true,” said Lewis.

Despite the upcoming transition, Jackson and his players remain dedicated to the pursuit of a championship for his final season with the SIAC.

“I’m super exited,” Jackson said about advancing in the tournament. “Last year was our first year all together. Unfortunately, Benedict upset us in the second round of last year’s tournament. This year the team wants to compete hard day in and day out. “The common bond is winning.”

As the season draws near and the Tigers continue advancing in the conference tournament, Stillman feels that its ready for the challenge to emerge as league champions.

“Every opponent is a challenge during this tournament,” Jackson said. “The reality of the tournament is that if you lose you go home.”
The Tigers, who earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament, defeated Tuskegee 73-57 in a quarterfinal game. Stillman will face No. 3 Lane on Friday, March 4 at 7:45 p.m. in the semifinals. The winner between the two will advance to the championship game set for Saturday, March 5 at 7 p.m.
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