Jeff Reed: Red Wolves Basketball Team Continues Season


red wolves basketball wnit

Jeff Reed Author PageTonight in El Paso, the Arkansas State Red Wolves basketball team’s season continues.

Yes, the Red Wolves are in the post-season. But it just isn’t who a lot in the A-StateNation thought it would be.

Coach Brian Boyer’s team turned in a sterling season, finishing strong down the stretch and clinching the school’s first conference championship since the school moved its women’s athletic programs to the NCAA back in the 1980s.

And in the finals of the Sun Belt Conference tournament last week, the Red Wolves were within seconds of making the NCAA field for the first time.

So now, tonight, they sit in El Paso, waiting for their WNIT meeting with the Miners. A-State has won five of the six meetings between the schools, but that has little to do with tonight. The winner gets a meeting with a pair of California schools in the second round.

The 22-11 Red Wolves basketball team (and for the record I despise men’s and women’s team using the same mascot almost as much as I do football teams being allowed to use players with duplicate numbers!) made a big turnaround and with their best player Aundrea Gamble, the Sun Belt player of the Year. She is a sophomore, so expect the next couple of seasons to be just as good.

“Brian is about to get really good,’’ John Brady told a visitor to campus a year ago about the women’s head basketball coach. “He has the best player in the league sitting out.”

Seems he was right.

For Brady’s team, which finished fourth in the league, there were higher expectations. He broke the norm, something a lot of coaches don’t do, when he took three senior transfers and built his team around them.

They finished 19-13, but faltered down the stretch, losing three of their final four in regular season when they had leads late in each game.

What looked like a promising season never quite materialized although Kirk Van Slyke and Melvin Johnson III, two of those senior transfers, both earned all-conference recognition.

But the numbers do tell us this, it is the first back-to-back 19-win seasons at ASU in a long time and Brady’s program has put together the school’s best 4-year run (total victories) since Nelson Catalina was averaging 20 victories a season back in the late 1980s and early 90s.

Next year, Brady’s team will be mostly starting over. The Red Wolves signed seven players, all but one from junior college.  But the coach said following the season-ending defeat to Georgia State in the SBC semifinals, he expects to be in the top three in the league next season.

For Boyer’s team, they lose a couple of valuable inside seniors, but a good core returns along with a quality transfer sitting out.

They look built for a nice run.

But then again, they aren’t quite finished with this season yet.

Here is the Women’s NIT Complete Bracket

2014 WNIT Bracket