DANVILLE, Michigan — Mott head coach Steve Schmidt, drenched from head to toe after an all-too-familiar post-national-title Gatorade baptism Saturday night, told a room full of newly-crowned champions how much he loved them.
“This has probably been the most enjoyable season in my coaching career,” Schmidt said, just minutes after winning his fourth National Coach of the Year award.
This iteration of Mott basketball is special; the others, well they were special too; but, what connects every player who has ever been coached by Schmidt is an unquenchable thirst for championships — and that comes directly from the hall of fame coach.
In the locker room after clinching the school’s fourth national title, I overheard one player say to another, “man, I’ve never been a part of anything like this.”
At this level, no player outside of Mott ever has. Mott now holds the division II junior college record for national championships (4) and national tournament victories (27). Only two other programs at any level of JUCO basketball have won four national titles.
Mott capped of an unbelievable 35-1 season with a 70-60 victory of Community College of Rhode Island Saturday night. The Bears won 35 games after replacing all five starters from last season.
Led by a trio of all-tournament performers (John Taylor, Ralph Eason and Darryl Marshall), Mott took a six-point advantage to the locker room. Mott started the second half on a 7-1 run and put Rhode Island’s star Desmond Williams on the bench with dehydration.
With Williams out of the game, Mott extended its lead to 13 points and coasted to the 70-60 victory. Once again, the dynamic duo of Ralph Eason and national tournament MVP John Taylor led Mott in nearly every category. Taylor scored 23 points with six assists. Eason added 22 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
As a program under Schmidt’s direction, Mott has gone to the national tournament eight out of the last 12 seasons. In those visits to Danville, Mott has never missed out on the final four. They have finished third once, runner-up three times and champions four times.
Mott owns this town.
— Ralph Eason capped off an unbelievable tournament run with style against Rhode Island. Eason had three dunks in transition to get the overwhelmingly Mott crowd on its feet. He also did the heavy lifting against Williams, whose older brother plays for the New Jersey Nets. He’s a serious player, but he ran into a serious defender in Eason. His numbers during this tournament are just sinful. Eason averaged 21 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals per game. He shot a staggering 68 percent from the floor.
— John Taylor finished the tournament with an average of 29 points per game. I’d be surprised if he didn’t become Schmidt’s fourth National Player of the Year (Jay Youngblood, Kevin Tiggs and Jeremie Simmons). When he graduates from Mott, he’ll have a number of opportunities to play at the next level.
— Mott’s sophomore point guard Darryl “Boo” Marshall was on his job the entire tournament. Boo had a grand total of two turnovers in four games and averaged nearly 30 minutes of floor time. Don’t be surprised if he played his way into a D-1 scholarship.
— Mott’s sophomore forward Walter Davis deserves a ton of credit for a season in which Mott depended on him too do the bulk of the work in the paint. At barely 6-4, Davis boxed well above his weight throughout the season; he stayed healthy and became a major difference-maker on the defensive end.