Many parts, one body
While most basketball teams are filled with similar players with common backgrounds and playstyles, the story is a little different for the Pioneers. Rallying behind Head Coach Jon Lewis, these players from all over the globe come together to create a formidable foe. For players like Jovana Jovovic, Whitney Moia and Alisha Washington, the journey to get to MidAmerica looked significantly different.
Jovovic began her journey to MNU from Serbia after reaching out to her fellow Serbian Assistant Coach Martina Mihailovic. Jovovic started her collegiate career at a community college in McCook, Neb., with the goal of eventually reaching MNU.
"Serbia is not that big and is known as a basketball country. Pretty much all of the coaches there know each other. Jovana reached out to me through one of my coaching associates asking me for help. She'd always wanted to come here to continue her education and basketball career," Mihailovic said.
Alisha Washington, a first-year transfer from Texas, is currently one of the leading scorers for the Pioneers, despite recovering from two ACL tears. Washington said she values involving her teammates in all aspects of the game and was quick to accredit her comfort on the court to her teammates’ support.
"They welcomed me with open arms. Everyone was friendly. Nobody cared about status and we just emphasized working together," said Washington.
One of the things the players stress is the fact that there are no captains on the team. This unorthodox style of team management may at first seem peculiar, but the team’s record seems to suggest otherwise. Coach Lewis said that the decision to have no captains is just one facet of the high standards of dedication and training that encompasses all aspects of the players’ lives.
"Everyone is a captain of something and everybody has a role. The roles are defined by those who are willing to put on the work hat and the work boots,” Lewis said. “We value trust and we want everyone to feel comfortable to talk and communicate. It may be an informal philosophy but I just personally believe that all the players should feel empowered in some form."
One of the ways the team has been able to stay focused and come together is through its circle metaphor. The circle represents the players, coaches and team being on the same page with a central emphasis on trust and God.
"It's a big circle between us, the coaches and God. We have to put God first and trust in Him because if it wasn’t for Him, we wouldn’t be playing this sport,” Washington said. “Then we have to go by the coaches' rules and what they tell us to do. Then it's the team. At the end of the day, we will be the ones on the court, so we have to come together, trust in each other and give it all we've got."
With one national title already in the books, senior Tristin Wicks said it is very apparent that the team is hungry for another championship and that staying together is one of its primary concerns.
"No matter what the circumstances, we want to strive to be great. If we settle for 'good,' then we will never achieve what we want to achieve," Wicks said.
In assent, Jovovic said the main goal is to win the conference and then focus on the another national title.
"I have really high expectations for the team this year; we really seem good. We have been playing good and the chemistry is great. I really expect a lot from every one of us," Jovovic said.
Christian Stewart- More by this author
Christian Stewart is a student at MidAmerica Nazarene University and a reporter for The Trailblazer.