Queens men’s basketball coach Bart Lundy mentions the phrase “boot camp,” and Shaun Willett rolls his eyes.
“That’s where it all started – in boot camp,” says Lundy, whose Royals (30-4) will face Point Loma (29-4) at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday in the NCAA Division II national quarterfinals in Evansville, Ind.
The Royals are among the final eight in Division II – quite an accomplishment for a program that lost most of the leading scorers off last season’s national semifinalist team. But Lundy says boot camp, and the hard work that followed, is the reason.
“I think we work harder than anyone else,” he says.
Willett, the Division II Southeast Region Player of the Year and Queens’ leading scorer and rebounder, says boot camp – the Royals’ preseason camp last fall – was tough. But he admits that it helped mold a team from a group of players that were nearly strangers to one another.
“We work together,” says the 6-foot-4 senior, who totaled 33 points and 13 rebounds in Queens’ 91-78 regional championship victory last week over Augusta. “My teammates picked me up in the first two games (of the regional). That’s how we work together.”
Lewis Diankulu, a 6-7 senior forward, adds, “It’s discipline, believing in us and our culture.”
Third-seeded Queens isn’t the tallest team in Division II and will have a size disadvantage at several positions against sixth-seeded Point Loma, a San Diego school that won the Western Regional. But the Royals never stop running. They average 89.1 points per game – ninth-best in Division II. They attack the basket and rank second nationally in free throws made and third in free throws attempted.
They never stop moving, and Lundy says that goes back to the hard work in preseason. After losing most of the key players off last year’s final-four club, Lundy admits he wasn’t sure what to expect this season. But he says the answer came when workouts began.
“That’s actually when I thought we might have something special here,” he says. “I could see that they were willing to put in the work, and that the talent was there.”
Most of the Royals’ victories last season were by wide margins. There were more close calls this season, and Lundy notes that “we had a thinner margin for error, at times.”
“This is a team that works hard and works together,” notes junior guard Daniel Carr, the hero of Queens’ regional semifinal victory over Catawba.
Lundy says reaching the Elite Eight is a proper reward for his club.
“Working as hard as these guys do, it’s nice to see them reach this point,” he says.
Scouting Point Loma: It’s actually Point Loma Nazarene University, and the Sea Lions are in the Elite Eight for the first time. In fact, this is the closest any team from the school has come to winning a Division 2 national title.
Daulton Hommes, a 6-8 senior guard, averaged 21.8 points a game and shot 47.3 percent from 3-point range this season. He will be difficult to defend. The Sea Lions are sixth nationally in rebounding margin (+10.0), while Queens is 11th (+7.1).
Quarterfinals schedule: No. 4 Nova Southeastern (29-3) vs. No. 5 St. Anselm (25-5), 1 p.m.; No. 1 Northwest Missouri State (35-0) vs. No. 8 Mercyhurst (28-7), 3:30; No. 2 West Texas A&M (34-3) vs. No. 7 Southern Indiana (25-8), 7 p.m.; No. 3 Queens (30-4) vs. No. 6 Point Loma (29-4), 9:30 p.m.
All games at the Ford Center, in Evansville, Ind.