Baby steps they may be, but Haskell Indian Nations University is making progress in men’s basketball.
Haskell hasn’t had a winning season since it became a four-year school at the turn of the century and joined the NAIA, but the Fightin’ Indians won a school-record 13 games last year and have added one more to that total this season.
“Last year we became competitive,” second-year HINU coach Ted Juneau said. “This year we’ve added a couple of more pieces to the puzzle.”
The most notable addition to the jigsaw has been Solomon Horsechief, a 6-foot-3 senior point guard who leads the Indians in scoring at 16.5 points a game.
Horsechief, who hails from Muskogee, Okla., spent two years at Redlands CC in Oklahoma before transferring to Pacific U., an NCAA Div. I school in Stockton, Calif.
At Pacific last season, Horsechief rode the bench, playing in just three games and scoring a grand total of two points. So he transferred to Haskell, where he has played a key role in the Tribe’s late-season surge.
Haskell has won eight of its last 10 games, and, says Juneau, “We hope we’re peaking. It’s important to play your best at the end of the season.”
No doubt the Tribe will have to be at its best when it meets Oklahoma Wesleyan in a Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal tonight on OWU’s home court in Bartlesville, Okla.
Haskell qualified for its first MCAC tourney by tying College of the Ozarks and Bellevue for second place in the league standings. The Indians drew the fourth seed, however, because of their overall record (14-16).
“We kind of crashed the party,” Juneau said. “The other three schools have been ranked all year (in NAIA Div. II).”
Haskell would have to shock OWU tonight, then knock off the Ozarks-Bellevue winner in Saturday’s championship game in order to advance to the NAIA Div. II Tournament.
“Quite honestly,” Juneau said, “I think we can win two games down there.”
Horsechief has been the catalyst in the Indians’ late surge, but he isn’t the whole show. Ben Carrywater, a 6-4 senior, averages 10.4 points and eight rebounds a game, and 6-5 sophomore D.J. Fish averages nearly double-figure scoring (9.5).
HINU’s other starters are 6-7 soph Daniel Brown and 5-11 Dominic Clichee.
“We play hard defense and like to run,” Juneau said, “so the keys for us are to shoot well and rebound.”