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Prairie Stars men’s basketball breaks into national ranking

January 26, 2006

SPRINGFIELD – Four years ago, the University of Illinois at Springfield took a chance on a local sports icon to help build a program to a national level. 

Today, the gamble paid off as for the first time in its four-year history, the University of Illinois at Springfield men’s basketball team is ranked.   The Prairie Stars received 97 votes to catapult them into the 21st spot in today’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I National Top 25 Poll.

“It is quite an honor for our student-athletes,” said Head Coach Kevin Gamble.  “The team has worked very hard and they deserve it.  As coaches, we are pleased and happy for their success.”

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Four years ago, that success was a far-off goal as Gamble was introduced as the new UIS men’s basketball coach. 

“I think we’ll be competitive. We’re going to struggle our first few years…,” said Gamble at his inaugural press conference.  “But you know me.  I think it is a challenge that I’m ready for.” 

The Prairie Stars opened the first season of competition in the fall of 2002, compiling a 13-20 overall record, and upsetting a few nationally ranked teams along the way. 

In 2003, UIS joined the American Midwest Conference and the Prairie Stars were 12-16 overall and 5-7 in conference play.

Last year, the Prairie Stars did indeed struggle on the court, finishing with an 8-22 overall record and a 4-8 in the conference.

This year the Prairie Stars men’s basketball team has ventured into uncharted territory.  They are the only undefeated team in the American Midwest Conference (3-0).  One of those wins was in Lebanon, Illinois, against the Bearcats of McKendree College, marking the first time the Prairie Stars have come home with a victory from their court.  Overall, the Prairie Stars are 11-8 on the season, the first time they have been over the .500 mark at this point of the year.

“As long as we continue to play our style of basketball at the level I know we can play at,” said Gamble, “we will continue to enjoy this kind of success.  Our team goal is to win the conference and have a chance to play in the national tournament.”

(Some information provided by Hal Pilger and The State Journal-Register, dated Thursday, March 28, 2002.)

 

    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs – 21 bachelor’s, 20 master’s, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.
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