Redhawks
The Seattle U Redhawks won a share of the 2021-22 WAC regular season title. Courtesy John Shaffer/ Seattle U Athletics.

Looking Back at Redhawks Impressive Run to First WAC Title

Coming into the 2021-22 season, there were some that were high on the Seattle U Redhawks men’s basketball team. And why not? Star point guard Darrion Trammell took his name out of the transfer portal to return. Long time journeyman Riley Grigsby was back. Aaron Nettles was back. Emeka Udenyi was back. And Jim Hayford and his staff added a sharpshooter in Houston transfer Cameron Tyson.

Along with those names, big man Kobe Williamson was returning. And the Redhawks got a commitment out of 6-10 Washington State transfer Brandton Chatfield. So, now the Redhawks had size to go along with a really, really good guard line. Nate Robinson was also along for the ride before leaving the program early in November.

So, there was a lot of hype and excitement in the Pacific Northwest.

And for all intents and purposes, the Redhawks lived up to the hype.

But, it didn’t come without some adversity along the way. Most noticeably the adversity of a coaching change just three days prior to the season opener. Former coach Jim Hayford resigned following an investigation into an alleged incident at a scrimmage and Associate Head Coach Chris Victor was named the interim head coach.

Some teams might not be able to handle a changing of the guard so well. But, Victor attributes his team’s handling of the situation to maturity and a focus on basketball.

“We were able to make that happen because of the character we had in our locker room,” Victor said. “It was a special group of guys. A lot of returners so they were familiar with each other. So even though the coaching transition happened…the familiarity with each other in that locker room combined with the character allowed them to continue to move in the right direction…This team was special because we were able to get better game by game. We were able to get better week by week. And the focus was always on basketball, always on how good could this team get.”

Things got going quickly for the Redhawks. An overtime win over Alcorn State at the Redhawk Center tipped things off.

And following a loss at Washington State, Seattle U ripped off six straight wins to improve to 7-1. And despite losing three of its next four games including losses to UNLV and Washington, Seattle never wavered.

WAC play got off to a bang. The Redhawks got off to a perfect 8-0 start in conference play. And a few of those wins were not easy to come by. At California Baptist on Jan. 17, the smallest player on the floor made perhaps the biggest play. Darrion Trammell used all of his 5-10 frame to come down with a massive offensive board with just over four seconds remaining. And as he was falling down, Trammell found Riley Grigsby at the top of the key who buried the game-tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.

And from there, Seattle U outscored the Lancers 19-12 in the overtime frame to leave the CBU Events Center with a 92-85 win.

The Redhawks finally came back to Earth on their road trip to Grand Canyon and New Mexico State. Both the Lopes and Aggies handed the Redhawks their first conference losses. New Mexico State and Grand Canyon beat the Redhawks by 12 and 15 points, respectively.

But, Seattle U came right back with four straight wins to stay in the hunt for a regular season title. Once again, however, the King of the Mountain came calling. And once again, Seattle U was just no match for New Mexico State. Teddy Allen went for 19 points and Will McNair Jr. had a 14-point, 14-rebound double double to lead the Aggies to a 68-55 win at the Redhawk Center.

It was one of the lone nights of the season where Cameron Tyson was ice cold. The Houston transfer was just 1-12 from the field and 1-10 from 3-point land.

That is pretty drastic for one of the best shooters in the WAC, if not the country. Look at what Tyson did five days before this poor shooting night. Tyson tied the Seattle U single-game record for made 3-pointers when he hit nine in a 102-62 win at UTRGV on Feb. 16.

Three nights after losing to New Mexico State at home, Seattle U went on the road to the great state of Utah. Unfortunately for Seattle U, Fardaws Aimaq was playing in one of his final two home games for Utah Valley. And Aimaq’s 19 points and 18 rebounds led the Wolverines to a 67-52 win over the Redhawks.

But, Seattle U bounced back with a road win over Dixie State (now Utah Tech). And they had to in order to keep pace for a WAC regular season crown. With one game remaining on March 5, the Redhawks also became fans of Stephen F. Austin on March 2 when the Lumberjacks headed to Las Cruces. And Seattle U had its prayers answered when Gavin Kensmil led the Jacks to a 73-71 win over the Aggies.

So, with SFA’s win over New Mexico State, one Seattle win clinched at least a share of the regular season crown. And if either SFA and/or New Mexico State lost in their final WAC game, the Redhawks would be outright champs.

Unfortunately for Seattle U, neither SFA or New Mexico State lost on the final day of the regular season. But, Seattle also did its part on Senior Day at the Redhawk Center. The Big 3 for Seattle U combined for 60 of Seattle U’s 74 points to lead the Redhawks to a 74-66 win to clinch a share of the WAC regular season title for the first time in program history.

And due to the tiebreaker scenarios, Seattle U entered the WAC Tournament as the 2-seed and got a bye all the way to the semifinals. The Redhawks got the 2-seed by way of its 70-62 win over Stephen F. Austin on Jan. 26 at Climate Pledge Arena.

And the WAC Tournament semifinals is where the fairytale season ended. Despite a career-high 39 points from Darrion Trammell, the Redhawks couldn’t hang on in the last minute and lost 78-76 at the hands of Abilene Christian.

23-9 overall. 14-4 in WAC play. Not too shabby for a squad who had a coaching change three days before the season started. The Redhawks get to hang their first-ever WAC regular season championship banner in the Redhawk Center.

Chris Victor was named WAC Coach of the Year by his peers. Darrion Trammell and Cameron Tyson were both First Team All-WAC selections. And Trammell was a member of the All-Defensive team while Tyson made the All-Newcomer team, as well.

Can Seattle U do it again? Perhaps. And with seven of nine rotation players from the 2021-22 championship squad back, don’t count out the Redhawks in 2022-23.

 

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