UPike was supposed to be on its way to Kansas City.
Who knows, maybe Kelly Wells was going to have a second magical run to the NAIA National Tournament Championship?
Game planning. Scouting. Going to the welcoming dinners.
Getting ready for a championship run in KC.
But instead, because of COVID-19 or the coronavirus, the Bears are left sitting at home wondering what if?
Maybe UPike can brighten its day by saying they’re one of 32 national champions this season.
But the Bears would’ve preferred to settle that on the court.
Now, UPike will just have to wonder what if?
“Obviously we all feel it’s unfortunate that the tournament isn’t going to go on,” Wells said. “At the end of the day it’s all about our students and it’s got to continue to be about our students. The decision has been and we’re not doctors, we coach ball and run sports teams, so we leave that in the hands of professionals and if that’s the best interest of what the sport needs and a community and a nation, that’s what we do. That’s not the way I wanted to end my career. It’s the last year of 32 teams going to the national tournament in Kansas City, so there is a lot of things that are coming to a close in that regard. It’s disappointing and not how I envisioned all of it to end, but it’s certainly in the best interest of our students.”
The Bears started the season ranked No. 2 in the country behind Georgetown.
UPike certainly looked to be the best or second best team in the country before injuries plagued the season.
Even with the injuries, the Bears finished the season with a 20-11 record.
The Bears earned an at-large bid to make it to the NAIA National Championship Tournament in Kansas City.
UPike was set to face Dalton State one of the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament. The Bears earned a No. 8 seed.
“We added another 20 win season to the tally which is good,” Wells said. “We had six more opportunities there and who knows how that could’ve went. We’re still finishing things on a positive note. Getting into the national tournament is a great honor. The seniors will have that with them to carry that forever. That’s eight straight trips now to the national tournament. Regardless of if it plays out or not, it’s an honor for them. Like we said before the well being of the students is the most important thing.”
Wells was going to make the trip to Kansas City even before he knew the Bears made the tournament because he was tabbed to coach one of the NAIA All-Star teams.
Wells announced that longtime assistant coach TIgh Compton would be taking over for him next season as the Bears’ head coach.
“Hopefully it’s not my last trip to Kansas City because we’re handing it off to some very capable people who are going to get me back to Kansas City several times,” Wells said. “We’re thankful for that. It is disappointing because it’s not how I envisioned my career to halt in that regard. But is there a perfect way? You don’t go out with a loss. We had hopes and possibilities that were there, but we don’t get a chance to realize them. I’m at peace with my career. We’ve had a great career. We’ve had success here and everywhere that I’ve been, so I’m at peace with it. I’m just moving on to the next stage of my life.”