Carrying the torch at HSU

More news about: Hardin-Simmons
A double-double machine, Nathaniel Jack leads the Cowboys in points (17.7) and rebounds per game (10.6)
Photo by Larry Radloff,

Some players try to model their game after their favorite NBA star.

Not Hardin-Simmons' Nathaniel Jack.

The player he makes an effort to pattern his game after is a little bit closer to home and happens to be a former teammate as well. That would be assistant coach Derrick Jefferson, the only player in league history to earn a spot on the ASC all-tournament team four times.

"When I first got here I saw a lot of similarities in our games," said Jack, who has risen up to become a star in his own right for the Cowboys. "Derrick is a great mentor to me. I've become a better player because of what I've learned from him."

Jefferson said part of that learning process for Jack came from the one-on-one battles against each other in practice.

"When Nathaniel and I were teammates we would always go against each other," Jefferson said. "In the back of my head I knew Nathaniel would be a great player if he wanted to. He could do everything I could do. All Nathaniel needed was experience, which would only take time."

Jack is a senior forward in the midst of another stellar season. A year ago, he averaged 11.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, scoring in double figures 21 times and recording 16 double-doubles.

He's even better this season. The reigning MVP of the ASC tournament is torching opponents to the tune of 17.7 points per game and grabbing 10.6 rebounds per outing.

Jefferson isn't surprised Jack has lived up to his potential.

"One thing that makes Nathaniel a great player is his attitude and composure," Jefferson said. "The majority of guys go through an emotional roller coaster throughout the season, meaning they are intense or really focused for one opponent and then overlook another opponent. Nathaniel views every opponent the same. He's a guy that can't be rattled out of his comfort zone and has an attitude of doing anything and everything to get the win."

In addition to the strides he has made on the court, Jack believes his success is a credit to his knowledge of the game as well.

"I'd say my basketball IQ has gotten a lot better," Jack said. "I used to make the game harder than it had to be. I also feel like I've become a better rebounder."

Jack has been instrumental in helping the Cowboys shake off a slow start to the season. Once 6-4 after a crushing 66-65 loss to Texas Lutheran on Dec. 19 – a Zach Behr 3-pointer with 10 seconds left doomed the Cowboys -- Hardin-Simmons has been rolling right along.

Winners of seven consecutive games, the Cowboys find themselves at 13-4 overall and 7-1 in the ASC.

"We feel we are doing a good job as a team and that the pieces are in place to have a very successful season," Jack said. "If there is one thing we can work on getting better at, it's running our offense more efficiently. Sometimes we get too stagnant with it."

The Cowboys are putting up 87.1 points per outing and shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.

Jack has done his part to put Hardin-Simmons in a position to thrive, and so have the teammates around him. Ranking second on the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game, Christian O'Neal has stepped up in a big way.

Dashun Dixon (13.7), Caleb Spoon (12.1) and Duane Hopper (10.9) have all played key roles as well for the Cowboys.

"We have a lot of great players on this team. We don't just rely on one player to score for us," Jack said.

Jack certainly has the ability to carry a team if needed, as he is blessed with a knack for being a strong offensive player since his days at Mart High School in Texas.

A two-time all-state selection in high school, Jack played in 19 games as a freshman before taking his game to another level as a sophomore, scoring in double figures nine times that season. He hasn't looked back since, earning all-region honors a year ago.

"I didn't have too much trouble adjusting to being a scorer in college. I think the speed of the game was the biggest adjustment for me," Jacks said.

Not heavily recruited coming out of high school, Jack is happy with how things have worked out playing Division III basketball and is hopeful he can help lead the Cowboys on a run in March.

Hardin-Simmons tried to put one together a year ago after winning the ASC tournament crown with a 91-79 victory over Louisiana College. Jack was the MVP of the tourney.

The Cowboys won their NCAA tourney opener against Texas Lutheran, earning a 97-81 victory, but saw their season draw to a close in an 85-64 loss to second-ranked Benedictine.

The loss has served as motivation for this season.

"Coach preached to us that we have to get stronger because they were stronger than us all the way around last year," Jack said. "We've worked hard and we're confident we can make a run, but we have to take it one game at a time. We can't get too far ahead of ourselves."

Perfect day for Obukwelu

Emeka Obukwelu was perfect from the field and the free-throw line as he helped Texas-Tyler take down Ozarks 89-67 Saturday in ASC action.

Hitting all eight of his shots from the floor and draining all four of his free throws, the freshman scored 20 points and is shooting a team-best 59 percent from the field.

Melvin Anthony also had a big day, scoring 15 points, which marks the 12th time in 19 games this season that he has scored in double figures. Anthony leads the team in scoring at 14.5 points per outing.

As for Obukwelu, who helped the Patriots improve to 10-6 overall and 6-4 in the conference, he is averaging 6.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Saturday's game marks the fourth time he has scored in double figures this year, with his 20 points being the most he has scored in a game this season.

DeCoud shines for Dallas

Michelle DeCoud turned in a performance those who witnessed will never forget, scoring a
career-best 34 points and also grabbing 15 rebounds as she helped Dallas snap a four-game losing streak with a 72-64 win over Centenary Saturday.

In recording her eighth double-double of the year, DeCoud made a career-high 13 shots from the field and also reached the 500-rebound mark for her career. Her effort also helped the Crusaders match their win total from a season ago. Dallas pushes itself over the .500 mark with its latest win, improving to 8-7. The Crusaders are 1-4 in SCAC play.

DeCoud has led Dallas in scoring in its last two games and is averaging 15.4 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. She has been the team's leading rebounder in all but four games this season.

Warriors on a roll

Hendrix stretched its win streak to three games Sunday with a 64-62 win over Centre.

The Warriors handed the Colonels their first SAA loss of the season while improving to 7-8 overall and to 3-2 in the conference. Hendrix committed a season-low six turnovers in the win as it continues its turnaround after a tough start to the season in which it lost four of its first five games.

Bryce Parker led the way with 12 points and Travis Garrett finished with 11 points and five rebounds.

Parker is an example of the depth the Warriors have on their team as he is averaging only 4.8 points per game. Parker has knocked down 16 3-pointers.

Garrett ranks fourth on the team in scoring, putting up 8.7 points per outing. A threat from the outside, Garrett has made 20 3-pointers and is also averaging 3.4 rebounds per game.

Eagles grind out first UAA win

Emory used two free throws by Ashley Oldshue with 30 seconds remaining to help seal the deal on a 74-71 win over Chicago in UAA action. The Eagles are 10-4 overall and 1-2 in the conference.

Shellie Kaniut played an instrumental role in the comeback win for Emory, which trailed 34-33 at halftime and 58-52 heading into the fourth quarter.

Kaniut lit up the scoreboard for 20 points, scoring half her points from the free-throw line, as she came through with her 10th double-digit scoring performance of the season. It's the third time this year Kaniut has scored 20 or more points.

Oldshue, meanwhile, not only sunk two clutch free throws to secure the win, but she recorded her double-double of the season. Oldshue poured in 19 points and also pulled down 10 rebounds. She scored eight of her team's final nine points in the win.

Eight wins and counting

Guilford's win streak reached eight games Saturday as it rallied for a 64-48 win over Bridgewater in ODAC action.

The streak is the longest since the 2013-14 season and the Quakers made it to that mark by overcoming a 13-point deficit. At 13-2 overall, the Quakers are off to their best start since the 2012-13 season. They are 6-0 in the conference.

Carson Long poured in 15 of his 23 points in the second half to help lead the Quakers. He leads the team in scoring this season, putting up 14.9 points per game.

Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 15 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for and wrote the book Perfect Run as No. 1 about the 2009 Division II men's basketball champions University of Findlay. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.