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Jim Sykes – 2020 Don Meyer Award Winner

Coach Sykes has won 360 games at Morningside and recently he was awarded the Don Meyer Award as the NAIA Coach of the Year. It might seem bittersweet timing due to the National Tournament cancellation, especially after Morningside won big (44 point margin) in the opening round, however it is a well deserved honor for a man who has coached in more than 30 matchups with Briar Cliff. Here is a portion of River City Rivals dealing with Sykes’ thoughts on the series between the two Sioux City schools.

Is there a game or a moment that Sykes recalls most in the Briar Cliff-Morningside series? “The 2007–08 season, we started out 23-0, had seven seniors, and played a lot of guys. I don’t know if our starting five was that much better than everyone else, but we wore teams down. For five or six weeks we were ranked number one. January 12, 2008. We’re up at half, 39-33. BCU comes back to take the lead. We needed a three; we’re getting beat. Matt Johnson gets the ball on the corner, goes up for a three, but it’s knocked out of his hands, but he gets it back, and he’s going backward, into the student section, and he shoots it up and makes the three at the buzzer to go into OT. We beat them in the OT [93-81], but I’ll remember that shot for the rest of my life. Throw the records out the window, it’s just that kind of series! The key in this series, game after game, is experience and more experience. If you have young guys, you can tell them, but until they experience the crowds and intensity, ‘do they really know?’”

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Jennifer Galles Malsam — Morningside

Jennifer was at Morningside when I was and was a key fixture on the first Women’s teams. She is one of only a few people who have two sections in this book as she also became a pioneer in officiating in the Tri-State area. Her memories of her time in basketball, both as a player in the early years and as a 35 year+ official, is worth the read. Here is an excerpt of her player section.

I applied for an academic scholarship at Briar Cliff, and I didn’t get it, so I thought, ‘Well, I’m toast; I don’t know what I’m going to do now.’ My friend, Janet from Kingsley, got the scholarship, because we were going to go together. We were friends, and her brothers and sisters had gone to Briar Cliff, too. I just didn’t know what I was going to do, and then a Morningside recruiter was out at school, and the guidance counselor asked if I would talk to him, and I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ My brother had gone to Morningside because of football, but I just always thought I’m supposed to go to Briar Cliff.

This Morningside recruiter just said, “Are you in sports?” I said, “Yeah.” “Are you in activities?” I said, “Yeah.” “Do you get good grades?” “Yeah.” He said, “Well, I think Morningside can take care of you,” and I said, “Okay,” and I didn’t even know what he was offering. Well, it ended up being a very nice academic scholarship, and back then, we called them National Defense Loans. Then I think it became student direct loans, and I got work-study. I got a great package deal, but none of us ever talked about playing college sports or that the opportunity was there, so I just went into Allee gym and just started shooting baskets.

Then I heard that this team was going to be forming, and so I went for it, and that’s how we started. I played on the teams that were formed in the winter of 1971–72 through 1974–75. These very early teams were all volunteer players and coaches. No players were offered scholarships at that time. It was more of a club team situation, although there was a league formed with other colleges in the area. The first coaches that I remember were players from the men’s team, and I believe they were taking a coaching class at Morningside, and part of the credit for the class was based on their coaching the women’s team. I remember coaches Doug Nelson and Rick Weaver. I don’t know if coach Nelson continued to coach beyond Morningside, but I do know that coach Weaver became a very successful college coach, spending most of his career at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas.

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Leon Trimmingham; Briar Cliff

Another of the ‘greats’ that I was unable to connect with while researching River City Rivals was Leon Trimmingham. Now in retrospect, I should have used Facebook more extensively, (hey, I’m in my 60’s, give me a break), as we’ve messaged via FB recently. He is still solidly a Charger and has done quite well over the years, including his time in Australia’s NBL. Here’s a snippet of the book covering his time at BCU.

Briar Cliff hadn’t entered the picture yet when Leon turned down several NCAA D1 offers, most notably from the Georgia Bulldogs, to attend American University in nearby Puerto Rico. One of his assistant coaches there was Mario Butler, who filled him in on the BCU culture. After a prolonged decision-making process, Leon decided to head to Iowa. “Coach [Nacke] showed a lot of patience with me during that time.” He red-shirted his first year at Briar Cliff; he had played only two seasons of organized basketball up to that point in time. The next campaign, Leon came out blazing, averaging 16 points and nearly 8 rebounds a contest as a sophomore. He upped the points to 24.1 a night his junior year and accepted the first of his two Player of the Year Awards for NAIA District 15.

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Jackson Lamb – Briar Cliff senior 2019-20

When I started the research for River City Rivals, I knew that Briar Cliff had three really good ‘guards/wings’ in Erich Erdman, Jay Wolfe and Jackson Lamb. What I didn’t know at the time, was how they would compare to the greats of Charger lore. Well, two plus years later, I think we all know how that turned out, and in Jackson’s case, is still turning out. Erich (1,881 points) is 7th all-time in scoring at BCU and Jay (1,804) is 9th, forming a sandwich around Reggie Grenald. Jackson began this season in 27th position with 1,201 points, but at his current average of 25 ppg, projects to 1.951 career points with a 30-game campaign. That would place him just in front of Eddie Warren, in 5th place.

Because Lamb isn’t mentioned much in R.C.R., I wanted to add this announcement from the NAIA since the Liston is such an important award. Maybe 5 or 10 years from now, if there is an updated version of R.C.R., there’ll be more of this tremendous trio.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has announced that Jackson Lamb of Briar Cliff University is the 2019 recipient of the Emil S. Liston Award. Lamb is a member of the Briar Cliff men’s basketball team.

Presented by Daktronics, the Emil S. Liston award recognizes both academic and athletic excellence by junior student-athletes in men’s and women’s basketball. The scholarship is named in honor of the NAIA’s first executive secretary who was also a prime mover behind the men’s basketball tournament. This award has been presented annually since 1950 to one junior men’s and one junior women’s basketball student-athlete. Each student is awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

Jackson Lamb, from Greenfield, Iowa, has been an outstanding student-athlete on the Briar Cliff University men’s basketball team. His dedication to his team has led them to two quarterfinal appearances during his time in the Chargers’ program. He has received numerous athletic honors, including NAIA All-American Honorable Mention, First Team All-Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC), as well as contributing as a freshman to a GPAC championship. He encourages his teammates and inspires them to perform to the best of their abilities.

Lamb is the ultimate competitor and always pushes himself to be the best he can be and pushes his teammates to be the same. His dedication, work ethic, and consistency has transferred to the classroom where he is a biology, pre-med major earning a 3.9 cumulative GPA. Lamb is the ultimate competitor on the court and is active on campus, in the community, and at his church. He is an all-around outstanding player and person

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1967, the first time they played

While the men’s series has been well documented since the original varsity contest on the night of December 18, 1973, records of an earlier meeting were discovered in a search of the Briar Cliff archives. It describes the “inaugural” meeting between the BCU and MC men’s programs, a game that occurred nearly six years earlier than the official contest. The fledging BCU men’s program needed as much court time as possible, considering they were mostly freshmen with just a sprinkling of transfers. Add to that, they played as an independent: scheduling could be a nightmare.

Morningside would play just freshmen in the game, therefore, it never shows in that college’s record books. But it was a historic evening nonetheless. Dave Holub, who scored 14 for the Chiefs that night, remembers “as freshmen, we were ineligible to play for the varsity. We played our games before the varsity and no one ever came to watch us. This night, though, we go on court to warm up, and we said, ‘Hey, we have a crowd today.’ Now, it’s not a packed Allee, but its noticeably more than we usually saw for our games. I remember watching as about a half dozen nuns made their way up the stands. We knew this was the first-ever matchup with Briar Cliff; there was something in the air that night.”

The Chargers had traveled across town to Allee that evening with several players who would ring up time in the record books. Besides Ron Schultz, who would score 1,353 points in his career, there was 1,307-point scorer Jim Hinrich, the first Charger to score 40 points in a game, and Ray Wingert, a transfer from Wayne State, who had over 500 points and 500 rebounds in his two-year career. Though they would become the first wave of Charger greats, they were still in their team’s infancy. Morningside responded with Mike White, Dave Holub, Lance Larson, and Chuck George, who piled up a game-leading 32 points in the 87-80 Chief victory. George, who left Morningside and served in Vietnam, came back to join the Chargers program for one year in 1974–75 but did not play in the second varsity contest between the two schools. As one of his former teammates said, “Chuck came back a different man after Vietnam.” It was a different era then. As Dave Holub recalls, “We always seemed to end the regular season with a game against Iowa State Teachers College, now UNI [University of Northern Iowa]. We were driving back from Cedar Falls listening to the radio for the draft numbers; not the NBA draft, the Vietnam draft numbers. Of course, Lance Larson was 365, but I had 48, and I think Mike White had a similar number.”

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Rolando Frazer

Probably no single player’s name is associated more with Briar Cliff men’s basketball than Rolando’s. Immediately, everyone in the Siouxland area knows you are talking about Rolando Frazer (1977–81), the first three-time All-American at BCU. Described by various teammates and foes alike as slender, quick, a leaper, super-quick, dynamic, he came to Sioux City and led the Chargers to a 101-17 mark in his four seasons. As teammate Mark Grace stated, “When Rolando came off the bench, instead of starting his freshman year, opponents were shocked by his talent and would ask us why he wasn’t starting.” Even though he was surrounded by great players during his career (Eddie Warren, Grace, Mario Butler, Tito Malcolm, Reggie Grenald, etc.), Rolando was always the focal point of Briar Cliff’s offense and their opponents’ game plans.

I talked with Frazer by phone in February 2018. His home is in Puerto Rico, and after Hurricane Maria swept through the island in September of 2017, it took until December for his house to receive power again. However, he had nothing but happy thoughts when we talked about his time at Briar Cliff. “My experience was really good; Ray and his family treated me nice. I got to play ball all over the country. I have good memories of Briar Cliff.” He also has a warm spot for the man who connected us, Patrick Noonan, Rolando’s roommate for all four years. “Pete and his whole family treated me like I was part of their family. He is the godfather to one of my daughters.” The three daughters are a tremendous source of pride to Frazer. “All three have their masters’ degrees, and one will make me a grandfather soon.” Rolando Frazer, a grandfather? To those of us lucky enough to have seen him in his prime, it’s a difficult thing to imagine. But then, he’s not necessarily out of his prime yet. “I will be 60 this year [2018], and I and Tito [Malcolm] are going to Queens, New York, for a Masters [basketball] tournament. Tito is 62 now.”

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Kate Lokken; new Hall of Famer

Kate is going into Morningside’s M Club Hall of Fame this week. While Jason Siemon and Mark Mohl, (both going into the HOF with Kate), have entries in River City Rivals also, it is this quote from Coach Jamie Sale about Kate and his early Mustang teams that reflects the special relationship between player and coach, especially when they’re thrown together due to a coaching change.

“Kate Lokken, by my second year at Morningside, was the only holdover left. We had Kate and then a couple of sophomores and then all freshman, so we were a really young team. Kate was an awesome player; that one kid that kind of toughed it out, got through it.

We knew that we really needed her, and she was a great leader. She was one of the main reasons this program turned around. Some other kids get a lot of the credit, but Kate was really the first one that really changed our program. A competitive kid but quiet at the same time.”

Whether you’re attending Briar Cliff’s Homecoming or Morningside’s this weekend, River City Rivals will be available at both schools’ campus bookstores.

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Amy Wilhelm and Cheryl Dreckman in a Classic

Amy Wilhelm and Cheryl Dreckman may have been their individual schools’ best of all time, but both teams were loaded with talent in the 1986–87 season. Morningside was coming off their first 20-win season and a trip to the NAIA nationals. Briar Cliff had broken a four-year spell of losing campaigns the season prior by playing .500 ball (13-13) in Cindy Kiser’s first year as head coach. As the team’s met on Wednesday the fourth at Allee, much was on the line. Although Morningside (13-7 overall) led the IO-KOTA with a 6-0 record, it was Briar Cliff (19-3, 4-2) that had the  number 16 national ranking at the time. The Lady Chargers needed a win to get within a game with three to go. A Lady Chiefs’ victory would ensure they’d share the title at worst. Though Morningside had won the last 11 against their rivals, only one of the most recent four had been a comfortable win, and this night, leading rebounder Paula Hunter was sitting in the stands, a victim of the “mumps.”

Once again, Terry Hersom of the SC Journal had a front-row seat for the action. He would be told by Wilhelm after the game, regarding Hunter’s absence, “We still had the same game plan; get the ball inside. Unfortunately, we didn’t do a very good job of that.” It really wouldn’t matter, though, as Wilhelm would score 43 points, one short of her then school record, on 16 of 25 from the field and 11 of 12 from the line. Briar Cliff won the battle of the boards, 45 to 33, but 24 turnovers kept the BCU offense at a disadvantage in the second half after trailing by just one at the break. Dreckman had a solid line for the night—22 points, seven rebounds, and four assists—but she had been “held in check for much of the game by Morningside’s Val Uken.” Rhonda Kujawa and Beth Sibenaller both scored 25 for the Chargers, but Morningside came out of halftime on fire, hitting 12 of their first 16 shots to outscore BCU 24-8. Even with Dreckman’s late-game streak—she scored 14 of her 22 points in the final six minutes—Morningside never let their rivals closer than eight points down the stretch, winning the shoot-out 105-93. Hersom quoted Wilhelm on the rivalry after the win: “Briar Cliff is the biggest game on our schedule every year, and this is the biggest one yet.”

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Another excerpt from RCR – Tom Betz

Tom was one of my very first interviews and provided more than significant help in contacting other former players and coaches. You’ll get real enjoyment from his remembrances and stories about the series: this is just a taste. 

Few people who have played in the Briar Cliff-Morningside series have as much connection to both sides as Tom Betz has. A former Bishop Heelan graduate, Betz was close to heading to BCU. “I went to every Briar Cliff game growing up, and the two biggest rivals were Northwestern and Morningside. Playing at SC Heelan, the natural progression would have been to go to BCU, but things didn’t work out and I ended up at Morningside. No regrets!” Speaking of Bishop Heelan High, Betz went back to his roots and was the head boys’ basketball coach there from 2001 through 2015. His teams went 264-83 (76 percent), won three state titles, and finished runner-up twice. In 2016, Betz was elected to the IHSAA Hall of Fame. He’s now director of advancement at Bishop Heelan.

Tom’s toughest opponent in the series? “Hands down, Fernando Pinillo, probably the most underrated BCU player, just tough as nails. Also, Amado Martinez, BCU post man. Now we’re friends, but back then we had some battles underneath the basket. It’s never been a cutthroat rivalry. After the games in the late ’80s you could find players from both teams at dance clubs. It’s a tough rivalry but once it’s over, you were okay, there weren’t any off the court issues. My son, Jared, says the teams don’t hang out today like we used to. We played twice a year, but being in the same league now, there’s more on the line. The BCU 50th reunion a few years ago was like a reunion for me, too.” So well thought of is Betz that even as a Morningsider, he was the Master of Ceremony for Briar Cliff’s 50th Anniversary of Men’s Basketball, held in 2016.

 “One game Mario Galvez—it’s a tight game, I was a freshman, on the bench watching. They threw a long pass to Galvez. As he goes up for the ball, over the out of bounds line, he catches it, turns, and shoots it over the backboard; all net! That’s when you knew how great he was. I’d like to forget that shot, but it’s the best I’ve ever seen in the series.” How did Betz think Briar Cliff could have fit into the NCC when he played? “They would have been very competitive, when they had the talent in the Panamanians they could definitely play with the NCC teams.”

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Another excerpt from River City Rivals; Mark Grace

Mark Grace played for one of the best Bishop Heelan High teams of all-time before heading to Briar Cliff where he helped lead BCU to its first National Tournament in Kansas City. He still lives in NW Iowa and I was fortunate enough to meet him for an interview. Here’s part of his remembrances of the 1970’s.

Morningside was “a good team to measure yourself against. I think they got us my freshman year. They were just so good. We were good, but we were a year or so away still. I think we won all the games my junior and senior years. I just, you know, I pumped for the first game at the auditorium. I know Morningside had a really good team my freshman year with Dave Schlesser, Doug Schultz from Le Mars, yeah. He was a good player. And Doug Marx! If you ask who I remember playing against the most, it was Marx.” When I mentioned Marx had said he liked Grace’s game and that they “battled,” Mark responded, “Oh, yeah, it was fun. They were just a good team.”

Mark’s senior season was the first time the Chargers won 20 games, finishing 25-4. The Chargers only four losses were to Kearney State (now UNK), which finished second in the NAIA Championships, Northwestern, and Loras, (both regular season losses were avenged in the District 15 playoffs), and a one-point loss in the second round in KC to Winston Salem. “We had a great underclass. Rolando was our sixth man off the bench, and he was the best player on the team. I know there were some games the other guys would ask, ‘That guy doesn’t start?’ We would just say, ‘No, he’s our secret weapon.’ Rolando could jump, really smooth, really smooth, and could almost like, just hang there, you know? He just always could get open and make good shots. I tell you what, the guy today that reminds me a little bit of Rolando is Kevin Durant.”

Mark had good memories of Ray Nacke, too. “I remember old Ray, though, and I can still picture him to this day. He’d be, whoever it was, say it was ‘John’ refereeing the game that night; Ray would say, ‘Blankity-blank, John, you’ll never ref another game for me again.’ He would say that every day! ‘John, you’re never going to ref.’ And then Ray would always, after the game or during the game, he would always say comments to Ron [Schultz], and Ron would write them down, and then at our next practice, he would go over them. You know, bless Ray, but sometimes it was funny. He’d say, ‘Mark, why did you not get that rebound?’ or he would say something crazy, you know, ‘Why’d you shoot that way?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t even know what you’re talking about, Coach.’ Ray always had funny stories. I mean, he didn’t mean them funny, they just came across funny. Yeah, he was fun.”