By: Lucas Packer
It is not often that you get an opportunity to sit back and watch history being made, but that's exactly what we have seen here at IU South Bend since May of 2010. What happened in May of 2010, you ask? It was then that Chad Tapp was named the ninth head coach of the men's basketball program. Since then, it has been a tale of trials, tribulations, defections, perseverance, belief and finally, success. It has been a process, not borne overnight but developed and nurtured over the course of time, with steady hands guiding its' growth toward competiveness, then respectability, and now a place at the table of the conference's best as the Titans finished third in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) this year. Year one of the Tapp regime saw just 11 victories against 20 losses, but among the embers of defeat players were being forged, and Alanzo Bass, Steven Heatherly and Kyle Heatherly were building towards something better. The next year, the Titans won 16 games, good for the second best record in school history, but they wanted more.
It all came together for the Titans in 2012-13, leading to record-breaking results along the way. They finished with a 20-12 overall record, including 17-8 in the CCAC. The journey started in early fall with a team meeting. "In October we sat down as a team to list our goals for this season," said Coach Tapp. "As a team the guys set the goal of breaking the school record for wins in a season, making it to the national tournament, finishing the season with a high team GPA, and having a basketball program the University could be proud of and want to support. We fell one game short of being able to clinch a bid to the national tournament, but certainly all the other goals were accomplished." By year's end, they had stamped their name on the best single season in school history by becoming the first twenty-win squad ever, including defeating the highest ranked opponent in school history with a conquest over then-#14 St. Xavier University, which served as an announcement to the rest of the CCAC that they were for real. Their 17 conference wins was also good enough for a new single season school record. They also set the program mark for wins over a three-year span, just for good measure. Tapp, after just his third year, is already the third most-winning coach in the annals of IU South Bend men's basketball.
Much of this years' success was due to the squad's three seniors, the last guys still left standing from that first 11-win season. "I'm happy for and proud of what these guys were able to accomplish this year, especially this group of seniors," said Coach Tapp. "They were here in the beginning and when others didn't believe we could be successful or want to be a part of the direction we were going, they stayed the course, persevered, and are the foundation for future success here at IU South Bend." Each of these seniors left their mark on the Titans program. Alanzo Bass, a two-time All-CCAC selection, finishes his career #7 on the Titans all-time assists list and #4 on the all-time steals list, with three of the top ten single season steal marks to his credit. Steven Heatherly, the team's leading scorer (13.6 ppg) and an All-CCAC selection this year, joined the 1,000-point club this season, finishing his career with 1,170, and leaves at #5 on the school's all-time three-pointers made list and #10 all-time in steals. Kyle Heatherly, a one-time All-CCAC selection, joined his brother Steve in the 1,000-point club, finishing his time at IU South Bend with 1,162. The legacy of these guys will only truly be realized in the future, as it remains to be seen how the new crop of Titans will carry on with the foundation they have laid, but there is no doubt that they were integral in the re-positioning of the men's program as one to respect, even amongst the conference's best teams.
Next year's edition of Titan basketball will look much different than this year's squad, that we can be sure of. Other than that, a lot is up in the air. "As we start to think about next year, we have already added some guys to our roster that will help us in areas of need," said Coach Tapp, "But most importantly we will be searching for leadership and a better collective work ethic in our returnees. We will be searching for guys that will take ownership of the program, do what the team needs and asks of them, as well as commit to the standards we have in place. We have some guys I feel like will step up to the challenge, but we need more for us to be able to build on this season." Austin Fox looks like the obvious choice to step into a leadership role for the Titans moving forward. After joining this year's team in January, he came on to average 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game on 52% shooting and is a guy that could challenge for conference player of the year honors in the CCAC next year if he can stay focused and engaged. Riley Stichter played very well as a freshman, proving to be a hard-nosed worker with a high motor, but will need to add some weight over the off-season to better deal with the rigors of the conference schedule. Mark White spent the season in Coach Tapp's point guard boot camp and has shown great potential at that spot. He may need to add a little weight too, along with becoming more consistent in his play, but as one of the hardest workers on this Titan team all indications are that he will do just that. Spencer Allman is one of the new additions to the IU South Bend team that could make waves next year. Allman, a transfer from IU Southeast, is a lights out shooter and will help spread the floor for next year's squad. There are still some needs to be addressed, especially in the post, where Joe Godfread is the lone true big man returning, but overall the team appears to be in good shape moving forward.
With all that in mind, Coach Tapp sees things as he always does, in the big picture as part of the overall process of building this program. That is how he has gotten them this far and he doesn't plan on deviating from that process, nor should we want him to. Along with the three departing seniors, he has helped turn this program around. The only question now is whether the young guys will take it personally enough to continue that progress. It is said that the hardest part of success is sustaining it, but for now we can all sit back, exhale and truly honor the results put forward by this year's team, arguably the best team ever at IU South Bend, and bask in the knowledge that we have all had the opportunity to watch history in the making.