It was a sight that the Emory & Henry community was anticipating: blue and gold jerseys swarming the Salem Civic Center’s court during this year’s ODAC Men’s Basketball tournament. With the pieces in place, the Wasps took the ODAC tournament by storm, but eventually fell short in the championship game.
Whether they knew it or not, the Emory & Henry Men’s Basketball Team created a lot of buzz on campus during their ODAC Tournament run, but it wasn’t just the college who took notice of the Wasp squadron. Alumni and fans alike have witnessed the Wasp’s accomplishments, along with the dramatic shift in culture within the men’s basketball program.
Since the arrival of Men’s Basketball Head Coach David Willson in 2013, the program has seen drastic changes regarding winning games and the team’s personnel.
“We had to go through a lot of losing here, and it took guys with character to be able to handle that the right way before we could learn how to win,” said Willson.
In setting the foundation for the Wasp’s success, Willson knew he needed a group of guys who could create a culture of commitment and doing things right.
“The reason we’ve been able to grow is because we have the type of guys who have been willing to go through the hard part and to go through those stretches where we were really struggling and dealing with a lot of adversity. They handled that the right way, and through that process we’ve been able to establish a lot of positive things,” said Willson.
A lot of positive things is right. According to GoWasps.com, the E&H Men’s Basketball Team has bolstered their record every year since Willson’s arrival. Winning only four games his first year and five games his second, the Wasp’s success took a sharp turn entering Willson’s third year.
During Willson’s third year, the Wasp’s achieved a 16-12 record, and the team experienced what winning in the ODAC tournament felt like.
“I thought last year when we beat Guilford in the quarterfinal game our team almost exhaled a little bit. I almost felt like we were a little too happy. This year I didn’t feel that way. I felt like our team was locked in on getting ready for the next game because we really believed we were capable of winning a championship this year,” said Willson.
Although the Wasps fell to the Guilford Quakers in this year’s ODAC championship, the community surrounding the Wasps did not go unnoticed.
“Our players are a part of a community who cares about what they are doing. When you look at the crowds at the ODAC, there’s no question Emory & Henry had the best crowd of any school in the tournament. When you feel like you’re in an environment where what you’re doing matters, that gives you a lot of extra motivation each day to do what you’re doing,” said Willson.
E&H Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach Michael Wolf joined the staff in the summer of 2015, and he immediately felt the presence of support and enthusiasm behind E&H Men’s Basketball.
“I remember coming up with my parents after I had taken the job, and we went to eat at a restaurant in Abingdon. You see Emory & Henry jerseys up on the walls, pictures from old games, and you see all those people who grew up as Emory & Henry fans. These people are fired up when Emory & Henry is playing,” said Wolf.
The number of Emory & Henry fans that showed up to this year’s ODAC tournament displayed the true passion behind E&H men’s basketball.
“To see all those people out there supporting Emory & Henry was astounding,” said Wolf.
During this year’s tournament run, the Wasps grabbed the attention of many. Even with all the support and love for Emory & Henry basketball, it all trickles down to one thing.
– Andrew Davis