03/11/05 — MOC basketball: Best is yet to come

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MOC basketball: Best is yet to come

By Neil Fuller
Published in Sports on March 11, 2005 2:09 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Bill Clingan has seen and experienced a lot during his 15 seasons coaching the men's basketball team at Mount Olive College.

From the NAIA days to NCAA Division II status, Clingan can claim his fair share of success. But this season tops everything to date.

The No. 14-ranked Trojans carry a school-record 26 wins, a share of the regular-season Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference title and a No. 2 seed into their matchup against seventh-seeded Millersville (Pa.) University in the NCAA Division II East Regional on Saturday at Misenheimer.

Just don't ask Clingan -- the 2004-05 CVAC coach of the year -- if this is Mount Olive's greatest season ever. At least not yet.

"I think we've had an outstanding season -- not a great season -- but a very outstanding season thus far," Clingan said after leading his team through practice Wednesday evening at College Hall. "My only goal is for the guys to get their first NCAA (regional) victory. These young men have worked hard, and they deserve that."

Clingan produced three All-CVAC players (Elton Coffield, Sharome Holloway and Maurice Horton) and guided the Trojans to their highest-ever national ranking at No. 13 en route to winning the conference's top coaching honor.

True to his modest manner, Clingan deflects the importance of the award -- while also dishing out credit to his team.

"Those things don't mean as much to me as they did in my younger years," said Clingan, who competed for both Texas Western (now UTEP) and Northeastern (Okla.) State during his playing days. "What really matters to me is that (CVAC co-champions) banner we'll be hanging up and bringing the program up to the level it's gotten to.

"Those kind of honors pad your ego a little bit, but you realize it's only possible because of what the team has done. It was the effort of a lot of people."

The Trojans are 0-1 in regional play since moving up to the NCAA Division II level in 1995-96. That loss came one season ago at the hands of Alderson-Broaddus (W. Va.) in the same gym where Mount Olive will oppose Millersville.

Mount Olive is shooting 50.8 percent from the field on the season and averages 86.6 points per game.

But more than the impressive stats, it's the wide range of players -- from the post to the perimeter -- that has helped the Trojans earn back-to-back NCAA bids.

Phoenix native Holloway, a 6-foot-8 center and one of three Mount Olive seniors, was the third-leading rebounder in the CVAC this season with 7.2 boards per game. He also owns a team-leading 43 blocks.

So how does such a talented big man from the Arizona desert end up at Mount Olive? It's simple, Clingan says.

"I've always enjoyed recruiting," he explained. "I like marketing and marketing research. I think that's carried over to recruiting. Recruiting is a lot of networking. You don't network if you don't know a lot of people."

Clingan obviously knows people all over the world. The Mount Olive roster contains players from not just the U.S., but Brazil (Plinio Broering) and Cameroon (Moise Tchankeu), also.

Now they all share one common goal: a trip to Grand Forks, N.D., for the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.

"I'd gladly give up anything I've achieved personally for a trip to the Elite Eight," Clingan said.

It helps when even the coach is the ultimate team player.