It didn’t take long for Hendrix to show off its new Wellness and Athletics Center to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference as it hosted the men and women’s conference basketball tournament Feb. 29-March 2, just months after the facility opened. The WAC drew rave reviews from coaches and administrators in attendance, and provided a home-court spark during the men’s opening-round 67-58 upset victory over Oglethorpe.
Intermixed within three days of basketball action, Hendrix and the SCAC collected hundreds of pounds of canned food for the First United Methodist Church Food Pantry in Conway. Canned food was collected from fans in lieu of an admission charge.
The women’s team lost a heartbreaking, overtime game to Oglethorpe in the opening round, and the men narrowly fell to eventual tournament champions Millsaps in the semifinals, but the mood at the WAC wasn’t all gloomy. Both teams will return all of their players next season – including some of the conference’s top performers – and Hendrix will again host the SCAC tournament in February of ’09.
Hendrix College junior Andrew King from Granbury, Texas (Jesuit College Preparatory), was selected to the SCAC’s first team as voted by conference coaches. Sophomore Christina Byler of Little Rock (Pulaski Academy) was selected by women’s coaches as the Newcomer of the Year in the conference and to the SCAC’s second team.
Sophomore guard Cal Rose of Blytheville was an honorable mention selection and was voted to the SCAC All-Tournament team following the conference tournament. Samantha Clark of Little Rock (Lutheran High School) was also selected as an honorable mention.
King led the SCAC in both scoring (18.6 ppg) and rebounding (10.8 rpg) becoming just the third player in SCAC history to accomplish the feat and first since Oglethorpe’s Russ Churchwell in 2003-04. King cracked the league’s top 10 list for career rebounds during the SCAC Tournament. A two-time SCAC Player-of-the-Week selection this season, King is the first Hendrix men’s player to earn back-to-back All-SCAC First Team honors since Jason Rhodes (1994-95 and 1995-96).
Rose was the 13th highest scorer in the league with 13.6 points per game. He was the third-best free throw shooter in the conference based on percentage (83.9 percent) and finished third in three-point field goals made per game at 2.6.
“Andrew and Cal were both instrumental in the success of our team this year, and we’re looking forward to what we can accomplish next year with our entire team returning,” Hendrix Coach Dan Priest said. “Andrew was unstoppable at times inside for us and Cal always seemed to come up with a clutch three-pointer when we needed it. The awards they received represent a total team effort, however – Andrew and Cal would be the first to acknowledge that they would not have received these honors without the hard work of their teammates.”
Byler, a sophomore academically but a first-year player on the court, led all SCAC newcomers in both scoring (19.1 points per game) and rebounding (7.0 rebounds per game) during the regular season, and her scoring average was tops for the entire conference. It marks the first time a first-year player has led the league in scoring since Jennifer Warren averaged 22.9 points a game for Trinity in 1994-95. She also leads the league in free throw percentage (88.0 percent) and her 168 made free throws is already the third-most free throws made in a single SCAC season.
“Christina had a tremendously successful first season as a Hendrix Warrior,” Hendrix women’s Coach Chris Hitchcock said. “We are proud of her accomplishments on the floor and hope that her continued work will help our team toward more success. Her offensive capabilities and her strong work ethic will make her one of the best players in the nation as her career at Hendrix continues.”
Clark, a junior, started all 26 of Hendrix’s games this season, averaging a team-high 33.3 minutes and collecting nearly 10 points per game.
“Samantha’s honor is well deserved,” Hitchcock said. “She worked hard to improve her game in the off-season last summer and it certainly paid off as she consistently gave us great effort and positive contributions. Sam is not the most talented basketball player but her athleticism and determination along with her desire to improve and win shined on the court during the season. Sam is a model student-athlete and we are proud that she is representing Hendrix.”