Grenadier Basketball and The Road to The Championship

Bailey Sanders, Staff Writer

Since making the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics final four in 2013, the Grenadiers have experienced numerous injuries. Now, with a healthy group, head coach Wiley Brown has the current team off to a great start and is looking forward to the closing stretch of the season.

The last three seasons have been filled with ups and downs for the Grenadiers. In 2013, IU Southeast made their first final four appearance with a team that Brown described as a team that played Grenadier basketball.

“Grenadier basketball is a style that plays fast, presses and likes to shoot from the perimeter”  Brown said. “This has become the team’s identity at IU Southeast over the years.”

“I didn’t think we were the best team that year,” Brown said about the 2013 team. “But at the end, we were playing as one of the best four teams.”

He preaches this to his teams each year. “We just want to make the National Tournament and having an opportunity to win the championship” Brown said. This is a  lesson he learned from his former coach at Louisville University, Denny Crum.

Demetrius Stanton, junior guard, works on his ball handling during practice.

For the next two seasons, the Grenadiers were forced to play a different style due to injuries. Demetrius Stanton, junior point guard, experienced a knee injury that ended his season. The injury occurred in the sixth game of the year in Nov. 2014.

“I tore my ACL in my left knee while driving to the basket and I actually got the foul but my teammate shot the foul shots for me.” Stanton said. “I felt a pop in the back of my knee as it hyperextended on me.”

This, along with a few other injuries, forced players to play out of their normal position.

“We continued to play hard and we knew things were going to turn around in the end” Brown said.

The Grenadiers totaled 17 wins in those two seasons, failing to make the NAIA National tournament both years.

This season has been much different for the Grenadiers.

With a record of 16-4 and 10-1 in the River States Conference, the Grenadiers are at the top of the West Division of the conference. This will be the tenth conference championship since 2004 for IU Southeast.

However, this will be the first since the conference was changed from the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to the River States Conference.

Many players have stepped up to make the turn-around possible. Coach Brown praised the comeback of Demetrius Stanton.

“This guy’s been through a lot and has come back full speed and help leading this team.” Brown said.

The recovery started right away for Stanton and was expected to last six to eight months. After only four months,he was back playing pickup games in the area.

“I have to give a huge shout out to my grandparents” Stanton said.  “For helping me through my injury and the process, they stayed on top of me with my therapy sessions.”

The Grenadiers during a game against IU East.

Stanton is averaging 13 points per game for the Grenadiers this season.

Coach Brown also mentioned the play of Joe Jackson, a junior forward.

“Joe Jackson, that kid can really play,”  he said.

Jackson, who is listed at 6’7, averages 2.5 blocks per game, which is fourth in NAIA. He also has 53 total blocks, fifth in the NAIA. He averages nearly nine points and six rebounds per game. IU Southeast, as a team, is second in the nation in blocks per game.

The addition of freshmen guards Jamie Johnson and Joe Ferree have also been key for the Grenadiers.

“Joe Feree can really stroke the ball, he is a really smart player.” Brown said.

The Grenadiers have set their goals high for the rest of the season.

“Absolutely aiming for championships; the sky’s the limit for this team,” Brown said. “The conference has gotten a lot better since we won those nine in a row. We got a team for it right now.”

Stanton mentioned the unselfishness of this year’s team as being a key to their success.

“This year we really play as a team and everybody wants the next guy to do well.” Stanton said.

Coach Brown’s focus is on the team’s defense to be able to continue their success for the rest of the season.

“We can score but a lot of other teams out there can score. We have to play defense to give ourselves a chance.” Brown said.

According to the NAIA official stats, IU Southeast currently ranks seventh in the nation in scoring defense per game, allowing 69.21 points. IU Southeast also ranks first in defensive field goal percentage this season.

“We just need to continue to do what we do,” Brown said “We will press, run up and down, open it up with threes. If we can’t hit threes we will throw it down low and play inside-out. It is a fun style of basketball.”

Joe Jackson, junior forward, goes up for a dunk.

The Grenadiers have two senior forwards on the team, Rob Sawyer and Tyler Landry. Sawyer is in his second season at IU Southeast. Landry in his first season with the Grenadiers and transferred from Bellarmine University.

“We have two seniors. I’d like for them to go out and just have a chance to win a championship,” Brown said. “At the national tournament you get to see a lot of good teams that we haven’t played or seen. I am hoping we will get there.”

The Grenadiers will finish the season with seven RCC games, five of those being on their home court. The River States Conference tournament will begin on Feb. 22.