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Austin-Area Products Help Lead UMHB to NCAA Title Game
Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT
Not a single team from Texas made this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament. The Division I men's basketball tournament.
The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, in Belton, not only made the big dance - but Sunday, the Crusaders are playing for the Division III national title.
"What college basketball coach, or college football coach for that matter, doesn't think about winning a national championship," questioned UHMB head men's basketball coach Ken DeWeese. "If there are any, they need to find a good insurance job."
Unlike a good neighbor, the championships have not been there for DeWeese. But after more than 40 years coaching basketball, the Crusaders' bench boss has reached his first national title game.
"We're going to enjoy where we are," said DeWeese.
A pair of Austin-area products have helped the Cru get to the championship. Roommates Brian Todd and Thomas Orr might share a living space, but their paths to UMHB could not be more opposite.
"He's here and that's all that matters now," said Todd.
Todd, a senior wing who averages more than ten points a game, enrolled at UMHB out of Pflugerville High. He's played in 116 games in four years. Orr, also a senior, who's played with or against Brian since middle school, chose to go the junior college route out of Hutto.
"I could see how they could probably have a negative impression from how I acted and the way I handled situations poorly," admitted Orr.
After one year stints at Panola and State Fair colleges, Orr was again being recruited by coach DeWeese, a man he turned down twice before.
"We recruited him out of high school," recalled DeWeese. "I wanted Thomas in my program because I knew what he could do. I just knew he wasn't doing it."
"Sacrifices had to be made," said Orr. "My ego: I just threw it out the window."
The third time was the charm as Orr was bound for Belton. Two seasons later, he's now the UMHB's leading scorer. He's helped the team immensely, but he's helped himself even more.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Thomas Orr and the way he's handled himself in a very adverse situation," said DeWeese.
"When I got here coach DeWeese really taught me how to handle adversity," said Orr. "He really helped me mature as a basketball player and as a man."
Orr could either grow up or give up his dream of playing big-time basketball. Thanks to a third chance at UMHB, the Crusaders are enjoying a once in a lifetime shot at a national title.
"We're going to finish out together," said Todd. "His journey is complete now. He's been here for two years and we're at a national championship now. That's a good feeling and a good way to end it."
UMHB faces Amherst Sunday in the Division III national championship. The game will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network. Tip-off is set for 11:30am.
By Adam Winkler