By Gregg A. Sims
Washington Times Herald
Oakland City University head men’s basketball coach Dr. Mike Sandifar has a long and successful career.
He has a combined high school and college mark of 631-383 and is 427-234 at Oakland City in a career that covers 1987-1999 and 2003-2013.
He also knows a good thing when he sees it, and having some Daviess County talent playing for the Oaks is a very good thing.
Former North Daviess player Kendall Wittmer and Barr-Reeve’s Ethan Knepp have proved to be an important ingredient for a team that has won the opening two Christian College National Invitational Tournaments held at the Johnson Center on the Gibson County campus.
Both players completed junior seasons for the Oaks who finished with regular season records of 24-4 and 21-8 in the past two. Both have played similar roles, although Knepp’s playing time has been affected by a knee injury.
“When Kendall came to us we used to kid that he was a little skinny guy. But he is a hard-nosed competitor,” Sandifar said. “Pound-for-pound he is as tough a kid as we have got. He takes it right at the big guys. He plays hard - comes every day to practice to get better. One of our guards said that when Kendall has it, he just goes to the other end because he knows it is going to be a three.”
Wittmer hit 46 percent of his 3-pointers (62-135) and averaged 13.1 points per game, the third highest on the Oakland City team.
“Ethan tore his ACL in a very freak thing last year,” Sandifar said. “He was going in for a layup - no one was around him - a drill in practice - a stretching thing before practice, and he hollered when he went down. I first thought he had sprained an ankle, but he told me that he had done something to his knee. He was our leading scorer against the University of Evansville last year (15 points) and, and was our sixth man. He played in every game, and was a key factor when we were 21-8.”
Knepp averaged 3.7 per game in 20 of the 26 games played this year. He averaged 6.9 as a sophomore.
The tournament is played at Oakland City University, but is hosted by a committee from Gibson County¹s Tourism Bureau and Chamber of Commerce along with business interests from the area.
The Oaks defeated Ohio Mid-Western University the first year, 83-82, and topped Virginia University Lynchburg, 90-72.
“The tournament is much like the NCAA and NIT, with the exception that in involves Christian colleges,” Sandifar said. “Some may not have lost in conference tournaments and didn't qualify for other tournaments. Others decided to not play in other tournaments and play here if they got the invitation. We had two seven-footers in the tournament this year. There are eight teams and everyone gets three games.”
The Oaks graduate two players from this past season’s team, and are expecting to have several recruits in the fold before long for the new year.
Just as importantly, the Daviess County connection with Oakland City will have one more year as well.
“Kendall got 20 points for us in the championship game,” Sandifar said. “He had six 3-pointers. A tremendous shooter, Ethan has never totally come back from the injury, but he’s a very good basketball player that we are hoping that, after this spring and summer, will be to come back better. Just a great shooter.”