Over the past four years, the Mount Vernon Nazarene College men's basketball team has gone from being respectable to being one of the elite programs in NAIA Division II. The Cougars have posted a 100-27 record over the past four seasons, and the team has reached the 20-win mark in four consecutive years for the first time in the program's 32-year history. MVNC has also earned two trips to the NAIA Division II national tournament, and the Cougars have their sights set on a third straight trip this season.
The key to MVNC's success during this span has been the play of the three seniors on this year's squad: J.D. Burke, Kyle Gerhart, and Adam Stevens. These three players have combined to start in 238 games during their careers, and they have provided the leadership that has taken the team to the next level.
Burke, a 6-foot guard from Mount Vernon, Ohio, has played in 100 games in his career and made 17 starts this season. The former Mount Vernon High School product is averaging 4.2 points and 2.5 rebounds per game this year. Earlier this season, he was selected to the Cougar Homecoming Classic All-Tournament Team.
"J.D. is a great example of hard work and determination," said head coach Scott Flemming. "He came to us as a walk-on his freshman year, and he has steadily improved each season. His defensive skills have many times landed him the assignment of guarding the opponent's top scorer. He has a great attitude, and he is recognized as an outstanding role model for our local community."
Gerhart, a 5-foot-10 guard from Bucyrus, Ohio, has developed into one of the best point guards in the NAIA during his career. He currently leads the American Mideast Conference in assists per game (5.6), and he ranks second in MVNC history with 599 career assists. The former Wynford High School standout is averaging 8.3 points per game this year while shooting 80.5 percent from the free throw line (66-of-82). Earlier this season, he was selected to the Taylor University All-Tournament Team. He is also currently tied for seventh place on the school's career steals list with 178.
"Kyle has definitely made an impact on our program," Flemming said. "His abilities have been a great fit for our style of play. His great assists have led us to many victories and contributed to the accomplishments of our top scorers. I have also seen him grow on and off the court over his four years."
Stevens, a 6-foot-6 forward from Mount Vernon, Ohio, has developed into one of the best all-around players in MVNC history. He currently leads the team in scoring (18.2 points per game) and rebounding (9.0 rebounds per game), and he is also third on the team with 107 assists. He has been the AMC Player of the Week twice this season, and he has also been selected to two All-Tournament teams.
For his career, the former Mount Vernon High School star ranks high in several of the school's categories. He is first in rebounds (1,072), most games started (127), and most consecutive games started (127). He ranks second in blocked shots (123), third in points (1,906) and field goals made (752), seventh in assists (391) and three-pointers made (215), and ninth in steals (169). He was also selected as an NAIA Division II Third Team All-American in 1997-1998, and he has been nominated for the Academic All-American Team this season.
"Adam may be the best well-rounded young man that I have ever coached," said Flemming. "Not only is he an outstanding player, he is also truly a leader on our campus and in our community. He is mature beyond his years, and his Christian faith is his first priority."
These three seniors will play their final regular-season home game on Tuesday evening when the Cougars (22-6, 12-4) take the court against the University of Rio Grande (19-7, 12-2) at 7:30 p.m. in a match-up of two of the top teams in the AMC.