The Truman State University men’s basketball team headed into the GLVC Tournament with confidence and three first-team all-conference honorees — the first time in 62 years and only the third time in school history.
The GLVC announced redshirt senior forward Zach Fischer, redshirt sophomore guard Brodric Thomas and junior guard Jake Velky made the All-Conference team a week prior to the tournament.
In the GLVC, Velky, Fischer and Thomas rank in the top 10 in various statistical categories. Each has averaged at least 16 points a game this season, meaning Truman has the only trio in the GLVC with that distinction.
The three have more accomplishments to reflect the season’s success. Velky became the 29th member of Truman’s 1,000-point club this season, Fischer recorded double-double after double-double on his way to three GLVC Player of the Week honors and a James R. Spalding Sportsmanship award nomination, and Thomas was revealed to be part of the conference all-defensive team.
Being his first year suiting up for the Bulldogs, Thomas said it felt gratifying to be named to the first team coming to Truman as a transfer from Southwestern Community College.
Thomas said he couldn’t have had as much success without the encouragement of his teammates and coaches. He said having three players all with First-Team accolades says a lot about the team as a whole.
“More than just one person stands out on this team,” Thomas said. “And a big part of that is that there is not one person on the court that cares about scoring more than winning. We play for each other rather than ourselves, and that shows on the court.”
Thomas said the selflessness and trust he and his teammates have for one another is something not every team gets to experience and is a big part of the success it has had this season.
The GLVC tournament was in Edwardsville, Illinois, this year. The Bulldogs defeated Lewis University Friday 103-56. The semifinals against Drury University proved to be a close game as Truman won 68-67 on Velky’s last-second free throws. The ’Dogs fell to nationally-ranked Bellarmine University 75-61 in the championship game.
Despite losing the conference championship to Bellarmine, the Bulldogs still had hope of a spot in the national tournament. After losing to Bellarmine, the players huddled around a smartphone on the bus ride back to Kirksville that night, waiting to see whether they made the NCAA tournament.
Fischer said it was stressful waiting for the news, not knowing whether he had played his last game in a Truman uniform. Once Truman appeared on the screen, though, the whole bus started cheering so loudly they actually woke and startled Velky, leading him to think the bus had gotten into an accident.
The Bulldogs found out their opponents the nationally-ranked team that sent them home without a conference title — Bellarmine.
Fischer said he looks forward to the rematch and that he and the team are getting ready for the challenge preparing hard in practice this week.
Head coach Chris Foster said it’s tough to have to play a good team like Bellarmine again, but in terms of practice and preparation, it’s easier. The Bulldogs have already played the Knights twice this year, once in regular season play and again last weekend in the conference championship.
Foster said a main focus for the Bulldogs for this third matchup is discipline on the offensive end.
“They’re a very good defensive team,” Foster said. “They make it very hard to get good shots, so we have to be disciplined and move the ball well. And we’ve done that for stretches both times we’ve played them, but against a really good team like that, you have to do it for the full 40 minutes.”
The Bulldogs will tip off against Bellarmine for a third and final time this season at 1:30 p.m. Saturday inside the top-seeded Ferris State University’s Bulldogs’ Jim Wink Arena in Big Rapids, Michigan.
Watch the Truman vs. Bellarmine NCAA match live online courtesy of Ferris State University, tune into KRES for radio commentary, and follow the stats live courtesy of Ferris State University.