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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

New Kings of the Court

After enduring years of challenges, college hoops are seeing stability and success

It’s an understatement to say things have changed since Evansville Living’s November/December 2018 cover story, “Kings of the Court.” Three of the four coaches profiled are gone, one in a swift, highly publicized fall from grace. University of Evansville men’s basketball continued to struggle under his successor, and some criticized the University of Southern Indiana’s move to NCAA Division I athletics in 2022.

In short, this heralded new wave of hardwood success did not materialize.

But in the season and a half since advancing to DI under 1995 DII championship alum Stan Gouard, the USI’s men’s team has held its own. The Screaming Eagles finished 16-17 and advanced to the OVC tournament at Ford Center in their debut DI season, and they strive for better results moving forward. The one holdover from that 2019 feature story, Rick Stein, continues to be a steady hand at the wheel of USI’s women’s basketball program into his 23rd season.

The Aces, meanwhile, are shining under second-year men’s head coach and Evansville native David Ragland. After a dismal debut season, the Aces kicked off 2023-24 with a six-game winning streak and, as of this writing, are 10-2. Women’s head coach Robyn Scherr-Wells’ contract was extended in June 2023 after the team posted its best record in six seasons. Wins have been sparse so far this year, but the Purple Aces are inching toward solid ground.

Most importantly, the teams have steady leadership and growing confidence. Are Gouard, Ragland, Scherr-Wells, and Stein the new kings of the court? Time will tell, but they are moving their programs in the right direction. Read more in Gordon Engelhardt’s “Sports Town” feature story.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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