‘Do The Work’: Hampden-Sydney beats Ferrum, keeps No. 1 spot
Published 9:23 am Thursday, January 4, 2024
HAMPDEN SYDNEY – The players who were here remember. So does the coaching staff. In the second round of last year’s NCAA Division III Tournament, the Hampden-Sydney Tigers lost 72-59 to Christopher Newport.
“It left a bitter taste in our mouth, to see a lot of our goals at the end of the year remain unachieved,” said Hampden-Sydney head coach Caleb Kimbrough. “It stung, not getting to achieve those goals. And so we focused on getting better.”
And that’s exactly what the Tigers did. Through Wednesday, their record this year stands at 11-1, 3-1 in Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) play. They own an 85-67 win over then-No. 1 John Carroll University on Dec. 19. Before that, on Nov. 8, they got payback of sorts for that NCAA elimination, handing preseason No. 1 Christopher Newport a 74-53 loss and knocking them out of the top five. Now Hampden-Sydney has claimed a crown of its own, being ranked No. 1 in the nation for this week’s Division III Top 25 poll. This is the first time the Tigers have been ranked No. 1 since Jan. 12, 2004.
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“We have a vision in our program to be the standard of Division III basketball,” Kimbrough said. “Now that doesn’t mean just to be the number one team at this point in the season. It means to be the standard, to be the best version of yourself every day. And that takes a commitment. We tell the guys when you do that, the results take care of themselves. We just have to stay dedicated to that work.”
Hard work pays off
That work has paid off in multiple ways for team members. Take Davidson Hubbad, for example. The 6’5 ft. forward was just named the United States Basketball Writers Association Division III Player of the Week, as well as the ODAC Player of the Week. He leads the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game, rebounding at 8 per game and is shooting 51% from the field.
“We’ve been lucky enough the past several years to have guys who continue to progress, so we haven’t had to adjust (our gameplan),” Kimbrough said.
The senior Hubbard is one of those players, who has grown up through the program. Now he’s turned into the focal point of a potent Tigers offense. During the game against JCU, he scored a career-high and game-high 31 points, adding 9 rebounds and three assists.
“Davidson Hubbard, he’s our go-to guy,” Kimbrough said. “He knows that, the guys know that, the other team knows that. And he still goes out and gives it all every night on both ends of the court.”
Kimbrough also pointed to Adam Brazil and Ryan Clements as players who developed through the years and have helped build the program. Clements averages 12 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists to fill up the stat sheet, but Kimbrough praised him for also having one of the highest basketball IQs on the team. He also referred to Brazil as the team’s “Swiss Army knife”, thanks to “his leadership, his ability to help his teammates and be a captain for us, along with his ability to score 20 points on any given night.”
But it’s not just about the starters. There’s a difference between a team that’s good for one season and a developing program. The program has players that may not start every game, but work hard on their skills so that when their number is called, each man is ready to step in and get the job done.
“Guys like Alex Elliott and Josiah Hardy, those are guys who can score a lot of points consistently, they are lock-down, physical defenders each and every night,” Kimbrough said. “I could go down the bench and talk about every single player. Everybody is here ready to go when it’s their time.”
A Hampden-Sydney challenge
The biggest key for Kimbrough, is that he and the rest of the coaching staff don’t want the team to get comfortable. That’s why Christopher Newport University was the first game in this year’s schedule, to challenge the team to overcome last year’s struggles. That’s why they also scheduled the then-No. 1 team in the nation as a nonconference opponent. Hampden-Sydney wants to keep more than just this No. 1 ranking. They want to be the standard. And that means never slowing down.
Hampden-Sydney is ranked No. 1 with 13 first-place votes, followed by Case Western Reserve, which had eight first-place votes. Fellow ODAC member Guilford College comes in at No. 3, while Calvin University is at No. 4 and Tufts University rounds out the Top Five.
“We’ve gotten better. Now we have to continue getting better,” Kimbrough said. “We pushed ourselves in preseason, we pushed ourselves in the non-conference schedule. Now it’s time to push ourselves in the ODAC. We have to make sure we’re not comfortable. We can’t let ourselves relax.”
What’s coming next?
After beating Ferrum 60-52 on Wednesday, Hampden-Sydney comes home this weekend to take on Washington and Lee. That’ll happen Saturday at 2 p.m. at Kirby Field House.