Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tradition-rich Guilford returns to spotlight

A school with one of the Carolinas’ richest basketball traditions has found the national spotlight again.

Guilford - a small-college power in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s - makes its first NCAA Division III postseason appearance when it faces Manhattanville (N.Y.) Friday in Baltimore in the opening round of the national tournament.

The Quakers won the NAIA championship in 1973 - one of seven national tournament appearances the school made - and finished fourth in 1970. The ’73 team included players such as World B. Free (then known as Lloyd Free) and M.L. Carr. Free became a prolific scorer in the NBA and Carr played on two championship teams with the Boston Celtics.

Guilford - located in Greensboro - left the NAIA for Division III in 1991. It had been a member of the Carolinas Conference, one of the country’s most powerful small-college leagues that has since disbanded. Conference members Elon and High Point are Division I programs now, while Atlantic Christian (now Barton), Pfeiffer, Catawba, Lenoir-Rhyne and Mars Hill moved up to Division II and compete in the South Atlantic and Carolinas-Virginia Athletic conferences.

The Quakers went the other direction. Playing in Division III - with no athletic scholarships - they don’t get much attention around these parts any more and are the lone Carolinas school in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.

But under fourth-year coach Tom Palombo, Guilford (21-4) won the ODAC regular-season championship before being upset in the league tournament by Bridgewater (Va.).

The Quakers, led by center Ben Strong, the ODAC Player of the Year who averages 23.6 points and 11.1 rebounds, still received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The winner of today’s Guilford-Manhattanville will face the winner of the Johns Hopkins (Md.)-Villa Julie (Md.) game in a second-round game Saturday.

- David Scott


Anonymous said...

Guilford's doing great heading into the D3 sweet sixteen, but correction, they didn't win the ODAC regular season championship. That went to Virginia Wesleyan, which is also a darn good team.