Sunday, August 12, 2007

Whelliston helps us think big

It is no secret around Davidson men's basketball circles that next year could be a season for the ages. Not only will the Wildcats feature an exciting lineup that returns every scholarship player from a team last year that ranked nationally in scoring, they will get the chance to play against the nation's most storied basketball programs: UCLA, UNC, Duke and NC State.

For Davidson, though, this tough schedule does not appear out of the blue as a result of last year's "miraculous season." In fact, the Wildcats have been leading the rest of the Southern Conference in the last decade in terms of OOC strength of schedule.

As Kyle Whelliston points out in his most recent feature on, Davidson has a real opportunity this year to not only challenge teams from the ACC, they have the opportunity to beat them and prove that last season was no fluke.

"Our players realize that what was accomplished last year is in the past," said Coach McKillop in the article. "They have responded to that by showing me a work ethic that has been extraordinary."

Throughout the article's entirety, Whelliston seems to make it very clear that he believes that Davidson's talent, schedule and pre-season buzz could have them heading for realities beyond the imagination of the "leafy" little NC town. The writer goes so far as to invoke the L-word, something that Bob McKillop has earnestly avoided in his tenure at Davidson.

"What Lefty and his players accomplished was one of the truly great stories in college basketball history," McKillop says. "There were 11,600 people every home game at the Charlotte Arena, there were NBA draft picks with Dick Snyder and Fred Hetzel. There are a significant, very significant number of steps to take before we can even be mentioned in the same breath as the glory days."

But at the risk of calling out Coach McKillop and taking Lefty off of a pedestal, the last half-decade of Davidson basketball has begun to recreate the glory years in some ways, and even surpass it in others.

With last year's NCAA tournament appearance, the Wildcats made it to the postseason for the third time in as many years. That had not happened since 1970 in Davidson history and has always been a rarity for the Southern Conference. Bob McKillop has graduated all of his players and most of the recent classes, including last year's walk-on Lamar Hull, have played professional basketball post-Davidson. It is certainly too early to start counting our eggs with Stephen Curry, but he did help Davidson set two new attendance records last season and propelled the U.S. U-19 team to the World Championship finals. And did I mention that Bob McKillop is the winningest coach in Davidson and Southern Conference history?

It is true that Driesell accomplished something very special in his day. But McKillop is accomplishing something almost equally special in this current state of college basketball where many coaches argue that the NCAA Tournament should include up to 128 teams. Driesell made Davidson into a brand back when that word had more to do with livestock and hot metal objects.

McKillop has never publicly sought out such things for Davidson as Driesell once did, but he definitely knows the type of image he is creating with the 2007-2008 schedule. If he isn't careful, he will have to deal with many more Driesell comparisons in the near future. But maybe that isn't such a bad thing after all.

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