Donnie Bostwick isn’t one of the best college basketball players in the country by accident.
Veteran Oklahoma Men’s Team Skipper Wesleyan University has shown a knack for sensing a year in advance how he needs to shape his squad in order to keep up with the future trend of the competition.
Two years ago, he decided he needed to build a bigger, more physical team in order to compete in the changing landscape of the NAIA.
As a result, the Eagles won an NAIA regional title and nearly reached Elite Eight.
Bostwick then decided to strengthen this year’s mix with more speed and physique and a tighter defense.
So far, so good.
The Eagles burst in with an 8-0 record in the first 22 days of the season, including six wins with double-digit points.
Opening of the season:OKWU Eagle hoopsters get off to a good start
Opponents averaged just 53.4 points per game and only managed a third of their shots.
I would say that’s exactly what we were hoping for, Bostwick said of the 8-0 start. When you set a schedule, it was definitely something I was hoping for.
The Eagles haven’t played a bunch of Howdy Doodys.
They have twice defeated regional / national powers such as John Brown (Ark.), MidAmerica Nazarene, Missouri Valley and Evangel.
They also roughed up two Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference opponents, Tabor (Kan.) And Saint Mary (Kan.) By a total margin of 32 points.
Until last weekend, Bostwick’s career record with the OKWU was 231-47 in over nine seasons.
OKWU has qualified every full season of its tenure (2007-2011, 2017-present) for the NAIA playoff game.
On the previous eight trips to the NAIA-II / NAIA tournaments during the Bostwick era, OKWU qualified seven times in the second round, competed twice in the Final Four and won the national title once (2009).
And, that’s right at OKWU.
During his six seasons (2011-17) at the Southwestern Assemblies of God (Texas), Bostwick compiled a cumulative score of 152-51 and one appearance in the NAIA-I National Finals.
His entire career record, according to the numbers available, is 383-97 in over 14 seasons, which includes qualifying for a first-round appearance in NAIA / NAIA-I / NAIA-II in at least 13 different campaigns.
Bostwick and this year’s Eagles team still have around 80% of their schedule to play, so their fate is far from decided.
But, Bostwick feels optimistic about the style of his 2021-22 squad.
In the last two years we weren’t very good defensively, he said.
In recent years with losses to Indiana Wesleyan and Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State, the latter of which took place in the NAIA Sweet 16, Bostwick said he perceived the defensive physique and speed needed for the Eagles to succeed at the elite level of the NAIA.
He and his coaches have worked hard over the past few months to restructure the Eagles and get returning players to embrace the change.
We have been working hard in the offseason, said Bostwick. It was truly a team effort to make this all happen.
As a result, OKWU was among the best national leaders for the least points allowed per game and the lowest percentage of field goal allowed by the opponent.
Last year we weren’t that high, Bostwick said. This is something that we pushed to try to change.
A side effect so far is that the Eagles haven’t been as explosive offensively as they have in recent seasons.
But, OKWU amassed 89 points in their road victory last Saturday at Saint Mary, their first 80-point outing in November.
A major impact of Bostwick on the game has been his addiction to a deep rotation of two different groups of five players. He often made wholesale substitutions several times per game to throw opposing teams off balance.
But, success is news from yesterday. The Eagles will have to come out in every game and try to prove it again.
I would say the key is to try to keep our focus on improving and not give up. Just stay hungry and try to push yourself individually, Bostwick said.
When it comes to offensive production, balance has been the key word.
Six Eagles average 7.5-11.8 points per game Jaden Lietzke (11.8), Brandon Bird (10.5), Dylan Phillip (8.4), Derrick Talton Jr. (8.4), Lense Ramey (8.0) and Kaleb Stokes (7.5).
The Eagles are shooting over 46 percent from the field, but have yet to compose three-pointers (30 percent) as strongly as in recent seasons.
The OKWU’s focus on defense is an event in turnovers, opponents giving the ball 20.5 times per game, compared to the Eagles’ 13.5 average.
The Eagles close their November schedule with a game Saturday in Avila (Mo.) and return home Monday to welcome Bethany (Kan.) At 8 p.m. ET.
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