Temaine Wright and Connor Kuykendall, head coaches at Schreiner University for the women’s and men’s basketball programs, recently offered members of the Kerrville Rotary Club a preview of the coming hoops seasons during the group’s weekly luncheon meeting.
Glancing at the audience, Wright, head women’s basketball coach, said, “If you all had on basketball jerseys, I’d be a little more comfortable.”
Four years ago, when he took the position, Wright faced the prospect of rebuilding a losing women’s basketball program.
“The team held the NCAA record for the most consecutive games lost — 23 in all,” Wright said. “My plan was to bring in good people and set the foundation for the future.”
During Wright’s inaugural year, the women’s basketball team broke its own previous record for wins in a season by six games after joining the NCAA, set the record for conference wins in a season by three games and earned the program’s first postseason bid in the NCAA. The team made it to the championship round.
SOLID CORE OF RETURNING PLAYERS
This year, the Mountaineers boast a solid core of returning players.
“We have good seniors who work really hard — and they’re especially hard on the freshmen players,” Wright said.
Discussing the prospect of another post season bid, he said, “To get to a championship, we have to have patience. We have to get there healthy and together and to just enjoy the journey.”
The Mountaineers compete in NCAA Division III, which, Wright explained, means there are no athletic scholarships available for his players.
“They play for the love of the game,” he said.
Schreiner University participates in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, which also includes Austin College, Centenary College, Colorado College, University of Dallas, Southwestern University, Texas Lutheran University and Trinity University.
“These are all prestigious private schools, and we’re proud to be a part of this division,” Wright said.
He also is justifiably proud of heading up the the women’s basketball program at Schreiner.
‘NOT A LOT OF PERKS’
“The program is supported by tuition. For any ‘extras’ like trips and additional equipment, we have to do fundraising,” he said, adding, “There are not a lot of perks.”
The current playing roster has 16 women, who practice on the court more than 20 hours a week.
“And that doesn’t include weight training, studying and working on their own,” Wright said.
In addition, his players maintain a grade point average above 3.0.
“As a team, they take academics more seriously than the men,” Wright quipped.
To a question about recruitment, Wright said, “I recruit players anywhere I can find good ones — San Antonio, Houston, the Valley.” One member of the team is from Kerrville.
Asked about his budget for recruitment, he replied, “We make it work.”
Wright’s philosophy of the game — and life — is simple: “I want to help my athletes become better versions of themselves.”
Taking his place behind the podium, Kuykendall, head men’s basketball coach, acknowledged his colleague, saying, “Temaine did such a great job, maybe I should have spoken first.”
This will be Kuykendall’s third season as head hoops coach at Schreiner.
Referencing a 10-month coaching stint in North Dakota, the native of Midlothian admitted, “That was the only time I’ve been out of Texas.”
Discussing the men’s sports programs, Kuykendall reiterated that the only funding available to Schreiner student-athletes are academic scholarships.
“We also don’t have a football program, which is rare in Texas. But (as basketball coaches), we like it,” he said.
Regarding the high level of academic achievement among Schreiner athletes, Kuydendall said, “Of 205 student athletes, 133 had grade point averages of over 3.0, and only two were declared ineligible to play due to grades. Also, of the seniors finishing out their eligibility, 100 percent will graduate.”
Additionally, 14 Schreiner student-athletes on both men’s and women’s basketball teams were named to the SCAC Academic Honor Roll for the 2015-16 winter sports season.
Not surprisingly, Kuykendall served as academic advisor while an assistant coach at North Dakota State College of Science.
Last season, the Mountaineers finished 10-15, losing six conference games by just six points or fewer.
“We’re re-evaluating, but we’re very close to where we want to be,” Kuydendall said. “It’s going to be an exciting year.”
During Thanksgiving week, the Mountaineers will travel to Washington State to play Whitman College, ranked No. 9 in the division, and other schools in the pre-season Division III poll.
Asked if he schedules non-conference games, Kuykendall replied, “Yes, and I try to schedule the Top 12 teams in the nation.”
On a more serious note, he added, “Non-conference games are tough, but I like to play tough teams.”
Kuykendall described his greatest coaching challenge as recruiting.
“Kerrville and Schreiner University are great places to be, but many students don’t realize that. Getting people to visit the campus is the toughest part,” he said.
Kuykendall was asked if he required his players to watch the iconic basketball film, “Hoosiers.”
“No, I don’t,” he replied, “but if a basketball player hasn’t seen ‘Hoosiers,’ then there’s something wrong.”
The first home game for Schreiner’s women’s basketball team will take place at 2 p.m. Nov. 19, against Howard Payne University.
The first home game for the men will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 12, against Sul Ross University.