USD Men's Basketball 2001-2002

first lime's aCharm

Wabash started the 1982 season off with five wins in its first six games, but it wasn't until they had a three-game losing streak that they realized how good they could be. The Little Giants took a three-game road trip, playing Division I school Louisiana Tech (which had Karl "The Mailman" Malone as a redshirt), the University of Texas-San Antonio and D-II's Texas A&I. Wabash lost all three: 75-62 to La. Tech, 76-67 to UT-San Antonio and 63-59 to Texas A&I in overtime. Metzelaars averaged 23.7 points in those three games. On the flight back, the team knew they could compete. Petty says that Metzelaars turned to him at one point on their way back and said, "Coach, I think we're going to win them all from here on out."

He was named the NCAA Division III Player of the Year and set a record for field-goal percentage, leading the nation as a senior by hitting 75.3 percent of his shots (271 of 360). His career field-goal percentage of 72.4 (784 of 1,063) is still a national record. Metzelaars never had any intention of playing basketball professionally, or football for that matter. "When you go to an 850-student school," Metzelaars says, "your ideas and dreams of playing professionally are long-gone." And that's one of the reasons, he says, that the 1982 Wabash team was so special. No one expected anything of the Little Giants. The team jumped on the wide shoulders of its star- sort of like a modern-day Hoosiers- and rode it all

the way to a national title. "It was just a group that clicked together," Metzelaars says. "Everyone expected me to play well , and they knew Mike could, but other than it, it was like, 'What are these

Metzelaars' size and strength made him a force in the paint for the Wabash Little Giants, and it certainly came in handy when facing the brutality of playing tight end in the NFL

only championship. And that's another thing that makes it special for him. He played 16 years in the NFL and made it to the Super Bowl four times. Those four times, however, he was on the losing end. And

that doesn't leave a great taste in your mouth. But 20 years ago , Metzelaars had the feeling every athlete wants , being the only team in its Division to finish its season with a championship victory. "It was maybe the most fulfilling experience as an athlete I've ever had, seeing a team come together, " Metzelaars says. "I think we came close to it in Buffalo a few times, but to be in a situation where the total is greater than the sum of the parts is the ultimate for a team. It was pretty fulfilling."

"Coming out of that, it gave us the hope and idea that if we could play with those teams with the guys we had," Petty recalled, "that we could play with anyone left on our schedule." Really, no one else could play with Wabash, as the Little Giants reeled off 19 straight wins, the final one being an 83-63 rout of Potsdam State in the 1982 NCAA Division III national title game, during which Metzelaars scored 45 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. "He just dominated, " Petty recalls. "That sonofagun just worked hard ."

Michael Carey is the assistant director of media relations at St. John's University and is a regular contributor to College Hoops Illustrated.


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