Moving on up: How IWU gets NCAA talent to go NAIA

Less than two weeks after winning the NAIA Division II National Championship, the Indiana Wesleyan University men’s basketball team registered another big victory.

Greg Tonagel hopped on an elliptical machine on a Friday morning. It was the only chance he had to talk in the midst of a busy time for the Wildcats head coach. If Tonagel had earned any rest by capturing the program’s first national title March 18 with a 78-68 win against Midland University, it was a privilege soon forfeited.

His team's season is over, but men's basketball coach Greg Tonagel has kept very busy.

His team’s season is over, but men’s basketball coach Greg Tonagel has kept very busy.

“It’s definitely been one of the busiest weeks of my life,” Tonagel said as he started pumping away on the machine. “But when my busyness looks like this I’ll welcome it any time when it’s centered around good news for our program and good news for our university.”

The latest good news came in the 5’10” form of Indiana University sophomore guard Jonny Marlin, who officially announced his transfer to IWU March 31.

The path to Marlin’s arrival began even before the former Indiana University Purdue Fort Wayne starter walked on to IU’s team in 2013.

“We recruited him out of high school and we told him that if he ever transferred to consider us,” Tonagel said as he pumped away on the elliptical. “He waited until the season was over, talked with his coach and pretty much had his mind made up where he was going to go based on that past relationship.”

Indiana University transfer Jonny Marlin is one of the latest in a string of recent Division I transfers. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletic Deparment)

Indiana University transfer Jonny Marlin is one of the latest in a string of recent Division I transfers. (Photo courtesy of IU Athletic Deparment)

Marlin isn’t the first NCAA athlete to make the switch to the pride of Marion, Ind. If recent trends are any indication, he won’t be the last.

IWU Athletic Director Mark DeMichael said these transfers happen “pretty regularly,” with a particularly noticeable increase during the last five years.

“It’s pretty common now where our coaches in all sports are recruiting athletes that are also being recruited by Division I schools,” DeMichael said. “Over the course of the recruiting process, our coaches are building relationships with Division I-caliber athletes and their families. That’s how we recruit, we recruit based on who we are as a university and building relationships.”

It’s these relationships which have parlayed into NCAA talents dawning a Wildcat jersey in several sports, headlined by names such as Claire Ray, Paige Smith, Tyrone Martin, men’s basketball star RJ Mahurin and even newfound women’s soccer coach Tim Strader.

Katrina Blackmon of the women’s basketball team started her college career at NCAA Division I school Wright State University, transferring to IWU in 2012.

“I wanted to go somewhere where basketball wasn’t seen as a job; I was looking for the love of the game,” Blackmon said, adding that life outside athletics is another reason she’s glad she came back to her Marion roots. “Coach is really involved, making sure that not only are we getting the best out of basketball but the best out of life and what’s to come after we’re done playing.”

If you ask DeMichael, he’ll tell you that’s IWU’s goal and a point of interest for potential NCAA transfers.

Katrina Blackmon (dribbling the ball) transferred from Wright State University in the fall of 2012, and helped IWU women's basketball to a national championship in 2013.

Katrina Blackmon (dribbling the ball) transferred from Wright State University in the fall of 2012, and helped IWU women’s basketball to a national championship in 2013.

“Not to make a blanket statement about Division I, but in a lot of cases you’re in a program where it’s purely about winning,” DeMichael said. “[Athletes] think back to what they were told by the coaches at Indiana Wesleyan and what [we have] to offer and the investment into the whole student-athlete spiritually, academically.”

That’s a mission all of IWU’s athletic department can get on board with. Even a busy coach who just won a national championship with a former NCAA player helping lead the way.

“What I’ve heard from our recruits and our players is that [we] offer them an elite experience,” Tonagel said, continuing his steady pedal. “That’s a combination of the people who are going to invest in your lives, but also a high level from the way we’re going to travel, house, the different places we’re going to go, the locker room.”

But even with the influx of Division I transfer athletes, don’t expect IWU’s recruiting focus to shift. DeMichael plans to keep pumping away at what’s been working for the Wildcats, taking the NCAA crossovers as added bonuses.

“Because our philosophy is about the mentoring and the growth spiritually, academically, athletically, that’s much more effective and you can do that much better when you have young people for four years,” DeMichael said. “High school student-athletes are always going to be the foundation of our recruiting focus.”

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Letter from the editor: Chapel isn’t about you

Read that title again. And then read it once more the next time you walk into the Chapel-Auditorium. Whether you think chapel attendance should be mandatory or voluntary or if you prefer traditional or modern worship, those details aren’t why you should go.

Chapel isn’t about singing songs you like or hearing messages that feel good to you. It’s not about agreeing with everything that’s said and done on stage and tweeting about what you don’t like. And it’s certainly not about doing homework during the service and standing up to leave during the benediction.

Quite simply, it’s about praising God.

One could also argue it’s about respect. No matter how you feel about any aspect of chapel, the concept as a whole is a matter of respect toward God and should be treated as such.

I’m not saying we should eliminate all discussions regarding chapel and how to make it better. However, those conversations should be constructive and not based solely on personal preferences. I understand and appreciate the desire to improve the chapel experience and I can think of at least three or four specific services that left many students, including myself, scratching our heads.

But I believe our God is intricate; the same One who brought us all to Indiana Wesleyan University for a specific purpose. Couldn’t this God who obviously plans far ahead use a chapel I thought was pointless to touch the life of someone who needed to hear it at that moment?

You bet.

Chapel is always a hot-button issue, and with good reason. On a campus representing many majors, socioeconomic statuses and (believe it or not) ethnic backgrounds, chapel is one of only a few experiences nearly all IWU students have in common. All the more reason we should treat it with the respect and courtesy it deserves, along with the students, staff and faculty who work hard to make it happen.

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NCAA D-I’s Strader to coach IWU women’s soccer team

Not many people would trade the sunny skies and nearby beaches of California for the ever-changing weather of Marion, Ind. Especially coming out of a winter when Hoosiers often endured sub-zero temperatures while parts of the Golden State enjoyed 90-degree highs in February.

But it’s a change Indiana Wesleyan University’s new head women’s soccer coach Tim Strader welcomes.

“It was an opportunity to come home,” said Strader, an Indiana native who spent his recent years coaching soccer in California and Arizona. “My wife and I love the Midwest values. That’s somewhere we’d like to settle down.”

Strader’s latest role was an assistant coaching position at NCAA Division I school Cal State University Northridge. The Matadors won the Big West Tournament and played in the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament in 2013 with Strader on the sideline.

And now, Strader looks to continue his success in the NAIA at IWU.

“For me, it’s not about the level, obviously I’ve loved my time at in Division I, but the constraints of not being able to share your faith is something that’s important to me,” Strader said. “There were opportunities to continue on the Division I path, but I knew that God opened this door and this is where my wife and I were supposed to go.”

Sharing his faith and building relationships is a theme IWU’s newest Wildcat wants to establish with his team. But he’s not waiting until he officially arrives in Marion this summer. Strader has already started calling his future players to get to know them.

Players like center midfielder Jordan Harris (so).

“It was really good to be able to talk to him,” said Harris, who got a phone call from Strader during spring break. “I gained more respect for him, saw more about who he was and what he was about. He also expressed interest in getting to know me, which I thought was huge.”

But Harris said the process of getting a new coach has its difficulties in any situation.

“When you’re under the authority of a coach, you have to get used to the way they work, kind of like in a classroom setting,” Harris said. “All that completely changes when you get a new coach. So it’s kind of like re-learning things all over again.”

As for Strader, the new coach said he’ll transition IWU’s program into a West Coast, zone defense team that’s “very organized.”

“We’re gonna want to put the ball on the ground and go through teams,” Strader said. “Give us some time and [you’ll] see a good product on the field.”

IWU’s squad won’t wait to be a cohesive unit off the field. Strader said he hopes to start success by forming personal bonds with the players immediately, and that means being intentional about communicating now.

That opportunity to build faith-based relationships is the main reason Strader chose to make the 2,100-mile move from California to Indiana Wesleyan.

“At the Division I level, you’re kind of constrained at a public university from having that interaction with your student-athletes,” Strader said. “Whether it’s a hardship on the field or off the field, my firm belief that everything goes back to your relationship with Christ, and being able to help kids through their faith is ultimately what led me to Indiana Wesleyan.”

As for dealing with the change in weather, Strader may still have some things to get used to.

“He said something about having to get a jacket,” Harris said. She promptly corrected him: “Yeah, you gotta get a coat.”

Posted in Sports, Women's AthleticsComments (1)

Haughey’s spirit key in Wildcat title run

By the time Garvin Haughey (sr) reached the court it was already decided. Only 4.2 seconds remained in  his Indiana Wesleyan University Wildcats’ 78-68 victory against Midland University in the NAIA DII Men’s Basketball National Championship Finals. Game over.

Referees had to tell the Wildcat bench, led by Haughey (in red), to calm down several times during the championship game.

Referees had to tell the Wildcat bench, led by Haughey (in red), to calm down several times during the championship game.

Yet Haughey’s quick entrance carried a significant amount of meaning to it.

Not only because the game marked Haughey’s last as a collegiate basketball player. Not only because of the uproarious applause Wildcat fans and players presented to him as he trotted towards the scorer’s table to check in. Not only because Wildcat fans consistently chanted for him to be inserted into the game during the season. But because IWU head coach Greg Tonagel believes this 6-foot-3 senior was a vital part of the Wildcats’ championship team and he wanted to let him get playing time.

“He’s had a huge impact on this program and without him, we wouldn’t have won a national championship, and that says a lot about a kid who didn’t play,” Tonagel said. “It meant everything to get him in.”

Haughey was already contributing to the game in his own way at his spot near the end of the literal and metaphorical Wildcat bench. He spent most of Tuesday night shouting encouragement to his teammates and being one of the first to welcome players back to the sideline during timeouts. That energy spilled onto the court and helped fuel the win.

“It’s always a goal to have the refs tell you to sit down, but the refs started coming up to us at the beginning of games in this tournament telling us to sit down so it was definitely a plus there,” Haughey said. “There was definitely a little bit of extra enthusiasm.”

Haughey rarely played during his four years at IWU, but played a big part in the team's success.

Haughey rarely played during his four years at IWU, but played a big part in the team’s success.

But that’s just part of his mentality as a player. Haughey was the last player off the court during warm-ups right before the last game of the season tipped off. He was also the first one out of the locker room at halftime, leading his team back onto the court for IWU’s final push to a title.

The fact that he also had the chance to play in every tournament contest was, as he put it, “a nice little cherry on top.”

“To touch the court in all five games, I can’t put it into words,” Haughey said after the game while sporting his national championship t-shirt. “A lot of people put success into this national championship, but seeing the growth in my teammates means a whole lot more than this.”

These qualities are just one of the traits that caused Tonagel to pay Haughey a lofty compliment: “Garvin will go down as the greatest leader to ever wear a Wildcat uniform.”

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