ODACcess Rapid Recap: Heard That? #2 Va. Wesleyan Bests #11 W&L to Reach ODAC Final

SALEM, Va. — According to Dave McHugh, host of Hoopsville, Virginia Wesleyan’s chances at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament hinged on making the finals of the ODAC Tournament. The second-seeded Marlins needed at least 21 wins on the year to have a plausible argument for at-large consideration, McHugh reasoned, and they needed to take care of business against Bridgewater and Washington and Lee, both teams quite a ways down the ODAC regular-season standings from VWC, to get to those 21 victories.

Well take care of business they did, as the Marlins followed up a quarterfinal win over the BC Eagles with a semifinal victory over the #11 W&L Generals, 74-60, at Salem Civic Center on Saturday night.


Of course, Va. Wesleyan would prefer not to have to wait until Monday to find out if they’re making the big tournament, and they can prevent that wait by cutting down the nets after tomorrow’s tussle with eighth-seeded Hampden-Sydney. The Tigers knocked off #5 EMU earlier Saturday to set up the championship matchup.

But tonight’s win, powered by Colby Heard’s double-double off the bench–23 points on 13 shots to go with 11 rebounds– and featuring important contributions from ODAC Player of the Year DJ Woodmore (23 points, 5-of-9 on three-point attempts, 7 rebounds) and Rookie of the Year Khory Moore (10 points–eight in the second half–and three steals), puts the Marlins firmly in the conversation for an at-large should the Tigers prevail tomorrow.

Heard said he loved coming off the bench. “When I come in, I have something of an advantage, because everybody’s kind of tired at that point, so I can just get up and down the floor easier.”


Generals’ senior big man Drew Kimberly had another solid game, chipping in a team-high 19 points and collecting seven rebounds, but unlike the team’s upset wins over Randolph and third-seeded Guilford, his squad was unable to outmatch the Marlins physically. VWC managed to pull down nine offensive boards and used quick hands, particularly from Moore, to accumulate 11 steals, which turned into 19 points by the end of the night.

“We wanted to dig down on Kimberly,” Woodmore told us. “He’s an all-conference player. We knew that he could be effective if he got open looks so we wanted to dig down on him, force him into some tough shots, force some turnovers, and just be active on defense.”

Kimberly was nostalgic after the game. “I loved [playing for W&L]. No regrets. It’s a long road, a lot of ups and downs. We were able to make it as far as I’ve ever made it this year, so I’m happy that we made it this far.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s final, Wesleyan won both meetings with the Tigers this season. Most recently, on February 12th, VWC overcame a 13-point second-half deficit to protect their home court.

“We always look forward to playing Hampden-Sydney, and I know they look forward to playing us each time,” said Woodmore. “We got fortunate to beat them two times this year…. We know we’re going to have to work hard on Khobi Williamson, he was a beast today, and we’re going to have to cling to their shooters a little bit.”

The second seed featuring the conference Player of the Year versus the giant-slayer which took down top-seeded Randolph-Macon: tomorrow’s final will be worth watching. See you then.


  • Final: #2 Va. Wesleyan Marlins 74, #11 Washington and Lee Generals 60
  • Player of the Game: Colby Heard (VWC) (23 points on 13 shots, 11 rebounds)

ODACcess Rapid Recap: #11 W&L Pulls Another Upset, Downs #3 Guilford

SALEM, Va. — We’ve told you about possibly the ODAC’s best story, Washington and Lee forward Jim Etling. We’ve told you about W&L’s surprising upset win over Randolph in the opening round of the ODAC Tournament. What’s left to say about the Generals’ even bigger upset, a 77-70 victory over #3 Guilford in Friday’s quarterfinals?

Not much. No General was particularly flashy in the win–Andrew Franz was his usual self, scoring points in bunches and finishing with 17 so quietly that barely anyone noticed, and ODAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Drew Kimberly paced all scorers with a neat 24 points on 17 shots–and although Guilford made it close several times late, the victor never seemed in much doubt to us, because the Generals were the superior squad.

There were a few moments that might’ve made a passionate W&L fan nervous, however. One such moment occurred at roughly the seven minute mark of the second half. A Trever Hyatt triple had just cut Guilford’s deficit to 5, the W&L fans behind us began to get anxious.

But then Kimberly made two buckets from underneath the basket, and when Kevin Gill picked Jake Hopkins’ pocket and drove the length of the floor himself, pushing the advantage back to double-digits, the Generals looked they could defeat anyone. Kimberly capped off the run with another contested shot in the paint to make put Washington and Lee up 13 once more, 65-52.

The Quakers made a few important baskets and kept things close thereafter, but never managed to get closer than within 4 from that point forward.

But Guilford made WLU earn it at the end. The Quakers switched to a full-court press with about two minutes left, and it was very effective, causing two jump balls and a WLU timeout in quick succession. But Generals Coach Hutchinson must have figured out the optimal strategy to break it: spring Kleinlein down the court on the inbounds. After embracing that strategy, his team started to break the press, hit their free-throws down the stretch, and came away with yet another upset win. Their path gets no easier from here: they will play #2 Va. Wesleyan tomorrow in the second semifinal. For now, though, they can rest on yet another upset victory.

  • Final: #11 Washington and Lee 77, #3 Guilford 70
  • Player of the Game: Drew Kimberly (W&L) (24 points on 17 shots, 8 rebounds)

ODACcess: A February Free-for-All (Washington & Lee @ Randolph)

LYNCHBURG, Va. — Forget Christmas. This is the most wonderful time of the year–conference tournament time!

Conference tournaments are great because everything resets. Not completely, of course–the regular season matters, as it sets seeding for the tournament, gives some teams byes, and in some conferences (though not the ODAC), a few teams at the bottom of the standings see their seasons end before the tourney begins. Those caveats aside, the beauty of conference tournaments is that any team, no matter how poorly they’ve played or how soundly they’ve been defeated in the regular season, can make a run, win a few games, and obtain the ultimate prize: a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

In the ODAC, the top four teams receive byes into the quarterfinals, while teams ranked fifth through twelfth duke it out at campus sites in the first round. Making the quarters in the ODAC is particularly exciting, as it is the only Division III conference to have its tournament at a neutral site–and not just any neutral site, but the Salem Civic Center, home of the NCAA Final Four in just over a month. It was against that backdrop that ODACcess returned to the first ODAC gym we visited this year, the RAD Center at Randolph College, for a first round game between the sixth-seeded hometown WildCats and the #11 Generals of Washington and Lee.


This one should not have been close. Randolph had won 10 of its 11 matchups against W&L all-time, including both this year. In their second regular-season matchup, just six days prior to this game, the WildCats sunk a school-record 17 three-pointers en route to an 80-57 walloping of the Generals. However, as the nice Randolph fans we met at the Texas Inn (aside: which is fantastic, try the Cheesy Western) after the game so astutely noted, it’s simply very difficult to beat a team three times in one season. In particular, Washington and Lee came prepared to guard the perimeter, and it paid off in the first half.


This is usually the part where we’d either discuss the first half (to give the reader a sense of the early action) or describe the arena and its environs (to give the reader a sense of the atmosphere). But the latter description seems redundant, as we’ve done that before. As for describing the action, well, let’s just say it’s not worth your time. Neither team played poorly in the half–to the contrary, both teams played solid defense, and their respective offenses did an admirable job poking small holes in those defenses to get the ball into the paint or find the occasional open shooter beyond the arc–but Lady Luck smiled on neither side early in the night. In stark contrast to the 41 first-half points the WildCats posted in their most recent matchup with the Generals, the teams combined to shoot just 32% (19-for-59) in the opening frame, and RC limped to a 25-23 edge at the break.

But lest you think this game was a dud, the action really picked up early in the second. Evan Horn opened the frame with a layup, sparking an 11-6 run giving Randolph its largest lead of the night at seven, 36-29. Not content to let this one get away, W&L responded with 13 of the next 16 points to tie the game for the first time in a long time, and Andy Kleinlein capped off the spurt with a triple to give the Generals a 42-39 advantage with under 12 minutes to go. Kleinlein was a breath of fresh air off the bench for Washington and Lee, knocking down 4-of-5 three-point attempts on the night. Two of those treys came in the ensuing six minutes, as he and teammate Andrew Franz combined for 12 of the Generals’ 14 points during that period–important points indeed, as Randolph’s Mike Ehilegbu and Eddie Jason were mounting a strong charge at the time.


The result of all this was a tight contest to the wire. When yeoman-like big Jim Etling kissed a layup off the glass and through the hoop with 3:17 left, the scoreboard read 58-58. Neither team recorded a point in the next 1:30, and when Horn drained two free-throws at the 1:53 mark, giving Randolph the lead once more, the crowd hooted and hollered as though a win was eminent. But Kleinlein and Etling had other ideas.

Etling was just 1-for-6 on three-point attempts at that point, but like any good stretch 4–I can’t be the only one reminded of Spencer Hawes when watching his game–he saved his long-range best for last. Catching a swift pass from Kleinlein on the wing, Etling drilled his second trey of the evening, putting the Generals in front 61-60. Not to be outdone, Kleinlein pushed the advantage to four, 64-60, with his final triple of the game at the 0:31 mark. Corey Brown pulled the Cats within two with 8 ticks on the clock, but Etling was as cool as ice from the line thereafter, sinking both freebies to seal the upset win for Washington and Lee. The Generals advance to Salem, where third-seeded Guilford awaits in Friday’s quarterfinals.

As for the WildCats, despite Coach Clay Nunley’s consoling words after the game, this defeat must be disappointing. They clearly had the talent to beat–or crush, as it were–the Generals on any given night. In that context, failing to get past the first round has to hurt.

But Randolph also has plenty to build on next year. Seniors Ehilegbu and Dylan Shiflett graduate in a few months, but Horn and Jason and the rest of the team’s core returns. Plus, guard Zach Desgain–a serious threat on both ends of the floor who has been absent from the Cats for most of the season with an ankle injury–should be back on the court by November. Sure, the team made the NCAA Tournament last year, but that was on the back of ODAC Player of the Year and Jostens Trophy winner Colton Hunt, who graduated after the 2012-13 campaign. With Hunt and Desgain missing, 15 conference wins and a six seed in the tourney isn’t all that bad.


  • Final: #11 Washington and Lee Generals 66, #7 Randolph WildCats 62
  • Player of the Game: Andy Kleinlein (W&L) (14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, 4-of-5 on 3PA)
  • Relive the game from our seats: check out our photos on Flikr and our @ODACcess livestream on Storify
  • Mileage Tracker: 2944 miles
  • Next Stop: ODAC Tournament Quarterfinals, Salem Civic Center (Salem, Va.), February 28

ODACcess: A big man who does the little things (Lynchburg @ Washington and Lee)

“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
― Edward Everett Hale

LEXINGTON, Va. — Fans often develop powerful feelings towards their favorite athletes, particularly when those athletes exhibit qualities we wish to emulate. But to emotionally invest in an athlete is to open oneself to heartbreak if that athlete crashes down to earth. For example, while the passage of time has allowed us to become detached baseball observers and somewhat rationally debate the Hall of Fame candidacies of McGwire, Bonds, Clemens, and so forth, for those of us who idolized these players in their steroid-fueled primes it is hard to forget how crushed we felt when we learned they had cheated. Even more disheartening is the disgraced athlete who inspired us. Lance Armstrong gave hope to millions afflicted with cancer, but rather than standing as a symbol of triumphant victory over a terrible illness, today Armstrong is shorthand for modern-day, Greek-tragedy-level hubris.

In light of these scandals, it is reasonable (though unfortunate) that many of us have built an emotional firewall between ourselves and narratives about athletes overcoming adversity. We have been burned one too many times. When one encounters a truly inspiring athlete, then, the challenge to one’s carefully-developed emotional cynicism can be uncomfortable–at least at first.

This is the story of Washington and Lee captain Jim Etling. By the numbers, the 6-foot-7 junior is a pedestrian backup forward: 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in 14.7 minutes per game off the bench. His ODAC-leading 94.3% clip on free-throw attempts raises an eyebrow, particularly for a relative big man, but other than that Etling’s statistical output is unremarkable. The fact that he gets on the court at all should be remarkable, though, because Etling, who was not recruited out of high school and proved himself enough on the practice squad to make the team as a freshman, has epilepsy.


Now, we don’t want to oversell this. Etling himself played it down in his postgame interview, focusing more on his approach to balancing athletics with the rigorous academics at Washington and Lee than on the extra effort he has to take to manage his health. And at least some research has indicated that, rather than causing epileptic seizures as once assumed, contact sports may actually decrease seizure frequency for those at risk. However, the importance of Jim Etling to his team shines through in the words of Generals head coach Adam Hutchinson.

When ODACcess interviewed Hutchinson after the game, we began with the standard questions asked of a coach following a close loss. His replies were equally standard; for instance, he talked about how his team’s desire to win caused a few mistakes down the stretch, and how he was proud of them for really caring whether they win or lose. His answers were calm, professional, and measured. When we asked the coach what Etling means to the team, however, his dispassionate demeanor changed.

Hutchinson paused for several seconds to find the right words. “Jim’s one of those teammates that affects your heart when you watch him compete,” he began, in a slow but subtly passionate tone evidencing the truth, the real emotion, behind his words.

“He inspires me with his commitment to his teammates, with his work ethic, with his mental toughness. And you know, there’s a lot of guys who, when things are going right for them, or even right for the team, they’re–yeah, you want them with you. Jim’s a guy you want with you when stuff’s going wrong.”


As he continued Hutchinson’s body language became more expressive and his voice quickened, exuding a fervent earnestness. “He really believes in playing the game the right way. He is committed to doing it, and he does it. He does it without waver. First practice of the year, last practice of the year. Last minute of a game, first minute of a game. Jim Etling’s the same guy. He’s going to box out, he’s going to rebound, he’s going to communicate, take charges, et cetera.”

“Honestly, I think everybody on our team is probably well-served modeling themselves after Jim.” He smiled, pausing for effect. “And that includes our coaching staff.”

The coach made no mention of Etling’s condition. And for good reason: when a player–when a person–works so hard and contributes so many intangibles absent from the score sheet, while simultaneously being so unselfish, none of the background stuff should matter.

With under 15 seconds to play and the Generals trailing by six, Patrick O’Connor drove into the lane, drawing Lynchburg defenders into the paint before kicking it out to an open Etling beyond the arc. Etling–4-for-23 on three-point attempts entering the contest–swished his second trey of the afternoon on his second try. The Hornets were already in the double bonus, and so barring a quick steal or consecutive missed free-throws his shot wouldn’t end up affecting who won (and it didn’t). But you would never have known that from his teammates’ reactions. The bench rose in unison and the players on the court enthusiastically slapped high fives with Etling as he was subbed out. In a way, this result is more befitting of our story than a Hollywood ending where the challenged underdog comes out on top, because from what we can gather, for Etling the goal is process–methodical, intense, yeoman-like process–not just outcome.

Jim Etling will never be a professional basketball player, but he will be an example for those who value dedication over making excuses, even when the excuse would be perfectly understandable. In short, he is a role model, stats and cynicism be damned.


  • Final: Lynchburg Hornets 71 (11-4, 4-2 ODAC), Washington & Lee Generals 66 (5-10, 2-4)
  • Player of the Game: Drew Kimberly (W&L) (18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks)
  • Relive the game from our seats: check out our @ODACcess livetweets on Storify and our photos on Flikr
  • Mileage Tracker: 1363 miles
  • Next Stop: Washington and Lee at Roanoke, January 25

Welcome to ODACcess

“With me poetry has been not a purpose, but a passion.” ~ E.A. Poe

rmc-hassell-480x400 With all due respect to our friend Edgar, sometimes passion is a purpose. What, for example, is the purpose of Division III athletics? At the risk of overgeneralizing, it seems to us that to a significant degree its purpose must be to enable athletes passionate about their craft to pursue their love for the game. We mean no disrespect to those for whom college athletics is a means to an end, a vehicle for a scholarship-endowed education or a chance at greater glories at the professional level. But it cannot be disputed that those incentives do not exist at the D3 level. With few exceptions, we think a D3hoopster suits up on game night because he or she is truly passionate about the game of basketball.

College basketball is our passion, too. Though neither of us played college ball (or at any level after we could grow facial hair), we are as wild for our teams as fans can be. We are also students of the game, voracious consumers of basketball minutiae, committed road-trippers, and lovers of hoops wherever it is played, by whoever is playing it.

In that vein, today we welcome you to The ODACcess Project. For the next few months, we will be traveling to every arena in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, witnessing in person the play of every men’s basketball team in the league. We — Sidney Helfer and Dominic Pody, for those scoring at home — have no connection to the teams we will be following. Rather, we embark solely because of our passion. Our purpose is to document in these pages what we see and hear on our journey.

odac-logoMost of the news coverage that surrounds D3 sports — to the extent that it exists outside of this website — is dry, factual recitation. More Joe Friday than Hunter S. Thompson. Informative game recaps are perfectly valid journalism, of course, but knowledge that Player X scored Y points and grabbed Z rebounds doesn’t tell the whole story of the game. We promise to tell that whole story, to give you the “access” explicated in our name. We will take you to the campuses, inside the arenas, and even into the student sections if we can. These communities are the lifeblood of D3 hoops, and that is what we want to tap.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you already understand the pulse of D3 hoops. We get that. We are neither here to evangelize D3 athletics (though we certainly wouldn’t mind changing some skeptical minds) nor to patronize it. Our goal is simply to describe the experience of being there. We want to fill the gap that exists somewhere between beat writer, wire reporter, and diehard fan, and give national exposure to these teams and players that are often familiar only to locals, or to the coaches and ADs who live and breathe the game.

And although this project is about the players, people, and passions constituting D3 basketball, please indulge us for a moment as we introduce ourselves.

Sidney: My introduction to the world of Division III athletics happened mostly by accident. My parents both attended Beloit College, but growing up 650 miles from their alma mater, it was difficult to be passionate about them. Once at age 8 I was brought along to a college reunion and found myself attending Beloit’s homecoming football game against Monmouth College (they lost). That was the extent of my experience until I left to attend college myself. I’d developed passion for sports generally along the way, although my love of college basketball was still in its nascent stages.  My decision to attend the College of Wooster was not impacted by their status as a high-achieving D3 program. However, once there, the success of the basketball team, the comparable lack of success of their football counterparts, and the intimacy of the collegiate community, instilled in me a love of the sport, the team, the school, and the town that embraced it so wholeheartedly. Soon I found myself making road trips to Springfield, to Delaware, to Oberlin to follow the Scots, players whom I knew and respected as students and peers as well as athletes. And with the passion came a share of heartbreak, as my Scots kept falling a few buckets short of the ultimate goal: a championship in Salem. But no matter how the season ended, no matter how many games they won, we all went back to being students and members of our little community. Therein lies the magic of Division III basketball: the passion these athletes play with, and the community of their fellow students that forms behind them. Even though I’ve left campus, I still want to be part of that kind of community, and through this project I can be there and hopefully bring you along as well.

Dominic: Unlike Sidney, I come into this project as an outsider to the world of D3 sports. I do have two experiences that led me here, however. For a little while after graduating college, I worked as a copywriter in the newsroom of small national sports wire service. As many sportswriters will tell you, the thrill of being paid to cover sports is incredible, at least at first. But despite writing about some wonderful moments — covering both Lehigh-Duke and Norfolk State-Missouri on the day both 15-seeds shocked the NCAA tournament is particularly memorable — the joy waned with each boring game story. Writing that player X scored Y points and grabbed Z rebounds is just as unsatisfying as reading it. What I truly enjoyed during and after that time was my time with The Mid-Majority, a site for fans of Division I’s perpetual underdogs to congregate and discuss fandom from the perspective of an extreme monetary disadvantage vis-à-vis the big dogs. TMM will sadly close its doors at the conclusion of this college basketball season, but one of its core tenets, if not its central message, will live on: sports are better when you’re there. That is the key reason I’ll get behind the wheel to drive to our first game this Friday.

So now that you know a little about us and our philosophy, it’s time for the important question: what do we have on tap for the year? Well as far as teams go, we’ll be covering three of the country’s top-25 programs: Hampden-Sydney, Randolph-Macon, and Virginia Wesleyan. Two of these teams—H-SC and R-MC—share an historic rivalry, which we will explore in detail; the other is a former national champion and perennial contender. We’ll also visit 2012-13 NCAA Tournament squad Randolph College, who will be taking on a surprise Division I Tournament team in Liberty on Friday. There may be a surprise team or two, who knows. Whether we’re visiting these teams or others, we’ll do a little live-tweeting during the games, so give us a follow if you’re into that sort of thing. Eventually, we would like to take you behind-the-scenes, talking to coaches and players about their experiences in-game and out. What else? Only time will tell. This is, in part, an experiment for both of us. We hope you’ll join us for the ride.

See you Friday.