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A Magical Season: Men’s Basketball Captures National Title, Coach of the Year, and Player of the Year

Published on April 13, 2023

The John A. Logan College Men’s Basketball team captured the program’s first national title with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over defending champion Northwest Florida at the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchison, Kansas. The victory was the 31 straight win for the team under first-year head coach Tyler Smithpeters.

Sophomore Quimari Peterson was named tournament MVP, and Curt Lewis and Isaiah Stafford were named to the All-Tournament Team. Coach Smithpeters was named the Outstanding Coach. In his first year as a head coach, Smithpeters guided the Vols to a 33-2 record. In addition to his national coaching honor, he was named the GRAC and Region 24 Coach of the Year.

Smithpeters never doubted what his team could accomplish.

“These guys believed that they could win a championship, and throughout the season, they never lost that focus,” said Smithpeters. “No matter what situation they have been in, they have kept their composure and found a way to win. They deserve all the credit and have been a pleasure to coach.”

Center KJ Debrick carried the pain of losing last year in the tournament with him throughout the season, and his clutch play down the stretch in both the semifinal and championship games helped propel the Vols to victory. With less than a minute left, Debrick dove to the floor to save the ball from going out of bounds. The play resulted in Debrick scoring while getting fouled and making the ensuing free throw. The Vols held a three-point lead with seconds left as their defense held NW Florida to desperation three that missed the mark as the seconds ticked away.

The team was welcomed back to Carterville by over 200 supporters and police and fire department escorts. As Smithpeters and players mingled with fans, he told local media members that the moment with fans was what the whole season was about.

“This is what it is all about,” said Smithpeters. “Our players have connected with these fans all year, and they all deserve this the players, the fans, and the entire College.”

In April, the NJCAA announced awards for the 2022-23 basketball season. Smithpeters was named the Men’s Division 1 National Coach of the Year, and sophomore Curt Lewis was named the Men’s Division 1 Player of the Year. This marks the third time in four years that a John A. Logan College player has won the prestigious award. Current NBA player Jay Scrubb (2020), and Sean East (Mizzou) were the previous winners.

Athletic Director Greg Starrick said both Smithpeters and Lewis deserved the honors.

“Congratulations to Coach Smithpeters on this well-deserved honor. As a first-year head coach, his demeanor on and off the court and his relationship with his players was the recipe for success throughout this magical season,” said Starrick. “Curt Lewis has been a team leader since he stepped onto campus. He had clutch performances throughout the season when his team needed him most. But what I admired most about Curt was his willingness always to put the team first.  Winning a Championship was always more important to him than individual honors.”