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Athletics Department - News

Tigers quietly build a powerhouse

March 5, 2008

Posted on Wed, Mar. 05, 2008

The secret is out on Benedict, again the class of the SIAC as postseason begins

By CHRIS DEARING - Special to The State

The best-kept secret in the state could be the success of Benedict men's basketball.

For the fourth time in the past five years and the third year in a row, the Tigers captured the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season title and march into today's conference tournament as the No. 1 seed.

Benedict (23-4, 20-2) has a bye in the first round and will play the winner of Kentucky State-Albany State at the Fair Park Arena in Birmingham, Ala., on Thursday.

So what makes Benedict so successful even though they play in the shadows of the state's major colleges?

The answers varied.

Freshman forward Michael Holmes, a Cincinnati native, said the motivation comes from the lack of respect the team gets from outsiders.

"The lack of coverage motivates us," Holmes said recently. "We know we can play with some of the teams that get a lot of coverage. That actually makes us hungry so when we step on the court, we already have a chip on our shoulders."

Coach Fred Watson was quick to give credit to the school administration and to the players he is able to find each year.

"The administration has given us what we need to be successful," Watson said. "Plus we have been able to find a good group of guys that want to win. Most of them come from successful programs, so that just translates into what we're trying to do."

What they are doing is turning into the most dominant program in the SIAC. They have controlled the regular season since Watson took over in 2003, and he has led them to one conference tournament championship.

Like most Division II schools, Watson has a limited recruiting budget, so he has to find different ways to attract players.

One example is leading scorer Charles Gibbs. The junior guard from Ridge View enrolled at Benedict after graduating high school but dropped out soon after. He was working at a local hospital and playing in as many summer league games as he could when he happened to play against Watson.

After seeing up-close what Gibbs could do on the floor, Watson turned on his recruiting tools and persuaded Gibbs to give college another try.

"I don't look for prototypical-type players," Watson said. "I just want somebody that can play and fit into the system that we run. I know how I like to play and I try and find guys that fit into that system."

Gibbs was happy for the second chance.

"I left before coach Watson got here, so I didn't even know him until I played against him," Gibbs said. "Once he approached me and asked about playing for him, I jumped at the opportunity."

Watson has a keen-eye for talent. It should be expected since Watson led the Tigers in scoring four years in a row and guided Benedict to four consecutive SIAC titles during the 1990's.

You won't find any high school All-Americans on the Tigers' roster, but it stocked full of guys that play hard each possession.

"We don't look for the guys that put up big numbers in high school because the truth of the matter is we're not going to get those guys anyway," Watson said. "I try to find someone that has the ability to play on the college level. Then I trust myself that I can get them ready to become a productive D-II caliber player."

Source: The State Newspaper

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