NORTH NEWTON, KAN.--After winning the 1999 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season championship in his first season, Thresher head coach Gary Chupp could have opted for a quick fix in building a basketball program at Bethel College. However, he decided to recruit young in rebuilding the Thresher men's basketball program and brought in 11 freshmen for the 1999-2000 season. Six players from that freshman class make up the nucleus of the team of Bethel's second KCAC championship team under Coach Chupp. The members of the Class of 2003 are Garry Albright, Inman; Brett Esau, Beatrice, Neb.; Frank Flores, San Antonio; Kevin Manning, Berryton, Kan.; Chez McGavock, Houston; and Jarod Powell, Spearville, Kan.
The 2003 senior class entered Bethel College with high hopes and dreams of playing for a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship. All six seniors on the Threshers' roster this season have been at Bethel for four years, and have experienced many joys as well as struggles on the court. They have seen teammates come and go, but have persevered and are now finally seeing the fruits of their commitment to staying and succeeding at Bethel College. Heading into the national tournament, they had compiled a record of 54-63 overall, 39-32 in the KCAC and have qualified for postseason play all four years. The one thing that has eluded them, however, has been a trip to Branson, Mo., and the NAIA Division II National Tournament. Until this season, that is when they clinched the regular season KCAC championship and an automatic berth to the tournament.
The Threshers clinched the championship with a come from behind 77-70 win at McPherson College on the final night of the regular season. They were tied with Bethany College going into the final game, and with a Bethany loss at Sterling the title was theirs, along with the trip to Branson.
"I can't say enough about this group of guys," said Bethel head coach Gary Chupp. "Our current senior class is my first recruiting class, and all six of these guys have been in our program for four years. One of our goals has always been to get to the National Tournament, and to accomplish this goal in their final season means a lot."
Jarod Powell #22, Spearville, Kan.
Jarod looked to have a bright future at Bethel College before he was bitten by the injury bug his freshman year at Bethel. He has been hampered by various ankle injuries through his career at Bethel, which have kept him from reaching his potential, yet he has remained upbeat and contributed to the team as a JV player for three seasons.
"I met with Jarod last spring and we mutually decided that because of his past injuries, he would not continue as a member of our team," said Chupp. "I then approached Jarod this fall and because of a lack of depth inside, I asked him if he would consider changing his mind. Being the unselfish player that he is, he decided to help the team out by playing. Jarod has provided valuable minutes for our varsity this season."
Jarod played in 25 games this season scoring 29 points and pulling down 26 rebounds before breaking his wrist in Bethel's quarterfinal playoff game with Kansas Wesleyan University. Jarod is the son of Curtis and Yolanda Powell, and is majoring in business and health management.
Kevin Manning #52, Berryton, Kan.
Kevin is another Thresher big man whose career was cut short by injury. Kevin has sat out this season after injuring his ankle 17 games into his junior season. The ankle never fully recovered and Manning underwent surgery this season to repair it.
"Kevin's career ending ankle injury absolutely breaks my heart," Chupp said. "He is by far the most improved player that I have ever coached, and I think that he would have been one of the better big men in the KCAC this season if not for the injury."
Prior to the injury, Kevin had played in 68 games for Bethel scoring 298 points, grabbing 217 rebounds, and recording 26 steals. His best season was in 2001 when he recorded 194 points, 124 rebounds, and 14 steals. Kevin is the son of Don and Sandy Manning, and is majoring in Business.
Garry Albright #35, Inman, Kan.
Garry Albright has been a team leader for Bethel on and off the court this season. He was one of two men's basketball players chosen to participate in a Champions of Character workshop prior to the start of this school year, and has been active in student senate, the residence life staff, and athlete's Christian fellowship on campus.
"Garry's shooting statistics were down this year, and yet he was on the floor around 35 minutes per game," said Chupp. "That is because he is an outstanding defensive player. I matched Albright up with the opposing team's best scorer every game, and he consistently held them well below their season average. That is a great luxury for a coach to have."
He has played in 116 games so far for Bethel scoring 1,086 points, grabbing 375 rebounds, and 75 steals. Despite struggling from the field this season, Garry has been one of Bethel's most consistent shooters over the past three seasons, and has been an outstanding defensive player for Bethel. Garry is the son of Bruce and Kim Albright, and is majoring in business. He has already accepted a job in Oklahoma and will begin work full time at the conclusion of the basketball season.
Brett Esau #23, Beatrice, Neb.
Brett has developed into one of Bethel's workhorses the last two seasons after playing for Bethel's junior varsity program his freshman year. Esau is a scrappy guard that can be seen working Bethel's motion offense for a break to the basket for that perfect feed from teammate Chez McGavock for an easy under the basket lay-up. During his career, he has also been one of the Threshers' most consistent free throw shooters, ranking in the KCAC top 10.
"Statistics do not measure the value that Brett brings to our team," Chupp said. "He does all of the little things that help a team be successful. Brett is one of our better defenders, and his constant movement offensively makes our motion offense very difficult to guard."
He has played in 81 games for the Threshers scoring 505 points, grabbing 191 rebounds, 93 steals, and handing out 199 assists. He is the son of Don and Jane Esau, and is majoring in business.
Frank Flores #42, San Antonio
Frank joined the Threshers in January of his freshman season. It didn't take long for the 6'4 player to make his impact felt on the Thresher program. Flores was also a member of the Champions of Character workshop this year, and has served as a co-captain for the team this year.
"Frank was named player of the year in the KCAC, and that award is well deserved," Chupp said. "When Frank is playing well, he brings an energy level that brings our entire team up a notch."
The 2003 KCAC Player of the Year has played in 100 games for Bethel scoring 1,370 points (13.70 ppg), grabbing 562 rebounds, and 216 steals. He has led the team in scoring 35 times in his career and has recorded five double-doubles. He was the KCAC's second leading scorer this season with 18.59 ppg, was fifth in field goal shooting, and 10th in rebounding. He is the son of Luis and Marie Flores, and is majoring in health management.
Chez McGavock #21, Houston
Known for his uncanny ability to see the court, Chez has dazzled Thresher fans throughout his career with no-look, thread the needle passes that set his teammates up for easy lay ins.
"Everyone enjoys watching Chez play because of his uncanny passing ability," said Chupp. "However, his contributions to our team go well beyond his passing. Chez is the smartest basketball player that I have ever coached. He knows exactly what I want done on the floor, and provides great leadership."
McGavock has played in 108 games for the Threshers scoring 582 points, grabbing 257 rebounds and 137 steals, and handing out 514 assists. He has led the team in assists the last three seasons and tied the record for assists in a game (13) twice this season. He set a new single season record for assists with 187 this year. Chez is the son of Carlisle and Laureen McGavock and is majoring in physics, with an engineering emphasis.