Hutchinson With the current Kansas University men's basketball squad preparing for its attempt at a national championship in a few weeks, one future KU player is beginning his quest for a national championship today.
Kansas signee Mario Little and his Chipola (Fla.) College team opens in the NJCAA Men's Division I National Basketball Championship at Hutchinson Sports Arena at 8:30 p.m. in what mostly likely will be a hostile environment.
The Indians, from Marianna, Fla., will face Seward County Community College, the school located in Liberal and winners of the Kansas regional.
"We're ready for any type of game," the 6-foot-6 forward from Chicago said. "We went to hostile environments and played against hostile crowds with teams ready to beat us every time we play. So we're ready for that."
Although Chipola has two players that will be playing D-I in the state of Kansas next year - Clevin Hannah, a 5-foot-11 point guard, signed with Wichita State during the early signing period - Little said he didn't anticipate a warm welcome for the team from the Sunshine State.
"We heard some fans are supposed to be coming out here - and it would be great for us - but it doesn't matter if we don't have any fans," Little said. "We know we're in Kansas and we're from Florida so we're ready for any type of environment."
After finishing runner-up last year to Midland (Texas) College and KU commit Tyrone Appleton, Little said the team would use that loss as motivation heading into the week.
"All the returnees from last year remember that game. We're not ever going to forget it," Little said. "That's going to be in the back of our minds every day while we're down here.
"It just needs to trickle down to the freshmen and the incoming sophomores that we're here last year. We're all hungry. We've been hungry all year."
With Midland failing to make the tournament this year, the Chipola squad is the favorite, which Little and Chipola coach Greg Heiar didn't shy away from admitting.
"I think we're the front-runners because of our national rankings," Heiar said. "We're the highest team out here that's ranked in the country and the polls are out there for a reason. But who knows. You could pick until you're blue in the face - just like the NCAA, you could pick the better team, but the better team doesn't always win these situations. You've got to do the things that are important in order to win the game."