“I can’t say thank you enough for each and every one of you guys,” Coach John Havens said expressing his gratitude to his players. “Obviously, your best basketball is ahead of you. I’m proud of you for taking care of business on and off the court. East Central and Texas Wesleyan are getting a couple of great players.”
Richland basketball had three players sign to four-year universities on April 30. First Team All-American Caleb Williams will be attending East Central University in Ada, Okla. Davon Berry and David Shepard will be attending Texas Wesleyan in Fort Worth.
Havens opened the ceremony with a word of thanks for the entire staff.
“We’re only as good as the players we have, and that goes for Coach Graham, in the work he’s done to recruit everyone,” Havens said.
Addressing the returning roster, Havens said, “and you guys, hopefully next year, this is where you’re at (referencing those sitting at the signing table). You’ve got to set the bar, got to set the tone all summer to get here.”
Talking to the signee’s, he said, “First off, thank you very much for everything you have done for our program, for myself. It speaks volumes and that’s why you are here today. Can’t wait to see where you go next and let’s see what happens.”
Graham pointed out all the hard work the athletes put in, setting a foundation for excellence moving forward.
“I will say one thing, and I think everyone on the team would agree, if you gave out a questionnaire and asked who the hardest playing guys were, I think there’s no questions that these guys would be in the conversation,” Graham said.
“It’s no coincidence at what they’re accomplishing now, because of the work that they put in and the dedication through 6 a.m. in the study halls and the film sessions and the things that no one wants to do. But you do it to achieve the bigger and better and so we’re extremely proud of you guys and thankful. We thought we had a pretty good thing going, but you guys have kind of raised the bar for that, and we’re thankful for the foundation that you guys have laid going forward,” he said.
The Thunderducks ended their season as district champions and won the third place game at the NJCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament. Havens challenged next year’s returning players to take a step forward from the end results of this year.
“Now the pressure is on you, freshman, to get back where these guys left off,” Havens said addressing his returning players.
As the signees go on to new adventures, they offered encouragement to the team.
“Make it back there. We set the bar pretty high. They just gotta go top it off. They’re going to win a ring next year. We came short. Their goal is to go win,” Berry said exuding confidence in the returning Richland roster.
“Continue to play hard. Play together and play for each other like we’ve always been doing. Be a family,” Shepard said reminding the players that it is about the team first.
Williams feels like they’ve set the path and encouraged his teammates to take it a step further.
“Even though we couldn’t, we set them up for where they need to be. All they need to do is win two more games,” he said.