Category Archives: Friends

Thomas Hankerson won’t return to Friends for senior season



Friends running back Thomas Hankerson won’t be returning to Friends for his senior season.

I spoke with Hankerson several times last week — the junior from Boynton Beach, Fla., said he’s leaving school and moving home to train for a career in professional football.

“I’d like to take a shot at playing on the next level,” Hankerson said. “My age is a big factor in me taking this shot. I’m 24 years old, which is a lot older than most of the running backs coming out of college.”

Friends coach Monty Lewis confirmed Hankerson was leaving via text, indicating the move creates a big opening for junior tailback and Nicholls State transfer Tyrie Allen, who was one of Hankerson’s backup this season.

Hankerson, 5-foot-7 and 185 pounds, rushed for 1,534 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. Academics may have played a role in his decision, too. He indicated to me he wasn’t sure he would have the full amount of credits to be eligible to play next season  – Friends was his fourth stop playing college football — hitting four different levels along the way in a rare feat. He started at NCAA Division II Lane College, then to Hutchinson Community College (NJCAA), Kansas State (Division I) and Friends (NAIA).

I profiled Hankerson in October – he was a unanimous All-KCAC pick last month. Here’s one of his highlight videos.

Best of luck to Thomas in the future.












Friends women on hot streak


The Friends University women have been reeling off victories as of late – nine straight including last night’s 76-57 win over Kansas Wesleyan. The link is to a story from Eagle correspondent Austin Colbert.

The hot streak has put the Falcons back in the hunt for winning their second straight KCAC regular-season title – they are now one game back of No. 25 Tabor in the standings with five regular-season games left, including a Feb. 14 tilt at Tabor.

Abril Marshall leads the Falcons in scoring with 12.9 points per game – fourth in the KCAC. Rose Hill product Whitney Bates is third in the KCAC in steals (2.21) and assists (3.54). Friends plays at Sterling on Saturday night.

Former Southeast, Hutch CC star Joe Mitchell lands at Friends



Here’s my story that’s up right now at on former Southeast/Hutch CC star guard Joe Mitchell landing at Friends. This (I think) ends a crazy two years for Mitchell, who signed with Ohio out of Hutch – where former South star Jamaal Walker and Steve Eck protege was an assistant coach – left the Bobcats after spending the summer there and then came to Wichita State, where he sat out last season before quitting the team in October when WSU coach Gregg Marshall didn’t offer him a scholarship.

I never understood why Mitchell left Ohio – he seemed like a great fit there and the Bobcats made the NCAA Tournament last season and are one of the better teams in the MAC. I never saw him fitting in at WSU, either, where there was a glut of guards ahead of him. The scouting report on Mitchell is he’s great off the dribble but if you can keep him from going tot he hoop he’s not able to hurt you from three-point range – but nobody’s seen him in play in two years.

He should be really good in the KCAC. I spoke with Friends coach Dale Faber today and he seemed pretty excited about Mitchell coming to play for him – should be in action Saturday when the Falcons host Southwestern.


Friends track caps record-breaking year with trip to nationals


Here’s my preview of the Friends University men’s and women’s track and field teams trip to the NAIA Championships at Indiana Wesleyan in Marion, Ind.

The gist is that the Falcons went a perfect 6-for-6 in KCAC titles this season in men’s and women’s cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field and have a pair of long-distance runners who have real shots at winning national titles – an incredible feat if you know anything about how the KCAC has scrapped the last couple of years to put its athletes in a spot where they could be competitive on this level. Senior Javier Ceja is the No. 1 ranked men’s marathon runner in the country and junior Jordan Arnold finished second in the nation in the women’s indoor 5,000 and has only lost to one NAIA runner all year.

Friends track coach Brad Peterson, only in his third year, has put together a real juggernaut, but it will be a few years before a team from the KCAC can compete on the national level. To understand it a little better: The Friends men are bringing seven male and six female athletes to the national meet. The schools that win usually have about 25-30 at the meet – something that could definitely happen for a KCAC team in the near future.



Former Friends star Erik Nott receives nation’s top military medicine honor


Here’s my article on Air Force Maj. Erik Nott, MD, receiving the Heroes of Military Medicine Award from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation on Wednesday night in Washington DC – arguably the nation’s top military medicine award. Nott, a Wichita Northwest/Friends/KU med grad, was awarded the Purple Heart last November – here’s the story on the events in Afghanistan that led to him receiving the Purple Heart. Wednesday, Nott was able to meet the Air Force, Army and Navy surgeon generals along with the chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff. Heady stuff.

Nott was a three-sport star at Northwest – football, basketball & track – and was an All-State pick in basketball for the Grizzlies in ’94 after finishing as state runner-up his final two years (full disclosure – we were teammates in football and hoops – he was a couple of years ahead of me in school). At 6-foot-7, he played in a frontcourt with Shawn Rhodes, a 6-10 forward who went on to play for K-State, and some of the battles between those guys and South – with BJ Williams (KU), Darren Williams (WSU) and Manny Dies (K-State) – were epic. That was a heyday for big  men in the City League – East had Korleone Young at the same time while Southeast had Lavell Manuel and Mike Palmer.

At Friends, he was an All-KCAC honorable mention pick as a junior, first team as a senior and played for Ron Heller.

Don’t know what else to say. These have been fun stories to write. Dude is an in-the-flesh, American war hero. Feels good to know guys like him are out there.


Friends trying to complete KCAC’s first triple crown


Here’s my feature that ran on Friends University track-and-field star Quentin Benning that ran in today’s Eagle and at Benning is one of the best all-around throwers in the nation and also a two-time All-KCAC fullback for the Falcons. (MORE)

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Is this when Jeran Trotter finally takes over?



People ask me what’s missing for the Friends football team, and my answer is always the same: An elite running back. The same thing that’s been missing the last two years. The Falcons won the KCAC in 2008 behind a great defense, the best offensive player in the league in offensive lineman Jacob Bruster and a smart-as-a-whip QB in Alex Melugin. Last year, their lack of a running back killed them. Cost them a fourth straight NAIA playoff berth.

But maybe not this year. Former Wichita Northwest and Missouri State running back Jeran Trotter appears to have found his form three games into the season — he ran for 240 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries in the Falcons’ 35-21 win at Tabor last Saturday. For his effort, Trotter was named KCAC player of the week. I honestly believe that there’s another playoff spot up for grabs in the KCAC (Nobody is gonna beat McPherson) and Friends, if Trotter keeps playing like this, has a legitimate shot at it. I’ve always thought Trotter could be one of the best RBs in the league if he put his mind to it, and this might be the year he proves me right. We’ll see.


KCAC puts three in NAIA preseason top 25

College Fanz Network has put out its NAIA preseason top 25 for football, which, of course, puts all other NAIA top 25s to shame. They do their homework up there in Grand Island, Nebraska, and put three teams from the KCAC in the top 25, and all in a row at that. Friends, winners of three of the last four league titles, checks in at No. 14. Last year’s champion Ottawa is at No. 15 and the league’s other playoff team from a year ago, McPherson, is at No. 16.

And that’s pretty much perfect placing. The KCAC gained a little bit of steam last season with Ottawa’s run in the postseason and a respectable showing from McPherson in a first-round loss. The Braves actually gave Lindenwood, the eventual runner-up, a pretty good fight which showed to me they were definitely one of the top 10 teams in the country. And Friends, incredibly, was almost the third team to make the playoffs out of the KCAC. With the Sports Regulation Initiative going into effect this offseason and KCAC teams able to play 11 games in 2011 after a full spring game I think this is going to be one of the more interesting seasons in the history of the league as far as having a template to see what the improvement is from this year to next.

Ottawa’s biggest question mark this year, by far, will be who replaces All-American Ethan Haller at quarterback. For McPherson, it’s going to be seeing how the team plays without the architect of their playoff run in coach Brian Ward, who took a job at North Dakota State. For Friends, it’s just whether or not they can get back on top after winning three straight titles from 2006-2008.

We’ll get it all figured out a month from this coming Tuesday at KCAC Media Day in Salina.

Out. TA.

Friends hires Adam Neisius as baseball coach



The disaster that was the Friends University baseball team in 2010 was something to behold. 0-22 in KCAC play. 3-37 overall. A 29-game losing streak to end the year. Keep in mind that’s just three years removed from a KCAC title. Throw in the fact that the best baseball talent in Kansas resides in their backyard … and you get the picture.They were as bad as any team in the history of the league.

But there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Friends hired Adam Neisius as its new baseball coach Tuesday, and it seems like he should be a good fit … but he’s obviously got his work cut out for him. Dude has been a head coach before — at Dakota Wesleyan from 1998 to 2008 — so that bodes well for the Falcons. Chris Elliott is all over this one for a story in Wednesday’s Eagle, and I’ll link to it here when it goes up online. We’ll also get a Q&A with the new coach up here sometime in the next week.

Out. TA.

Weekend woes for Newman and Fort Hays … but not Friends … and then some more problems for Tigers

Just thought I’d check in and feed the monster after the big weekend — both Newman and Fort Hays lost over the weekend, falling to Incarnate Word and NW Missouri, putting the Tigers in a tie for first place in the MIAA … until they lost at Missouri Western, 75-69 on Monday. Friends, however, held on at No. 1 in the KCAC with a win over Saint Mary. What’s it all mean? It measn that Newman has a grueling road trip coming up — five straight away from Wichita — that will pretty much determine its season. It means Fort Hays saw its 13-game winning streak snapped, but they were bound to slip up somewhere because there was no way they were going to run the table in the MIAA. Now, with two straight losses they have a real problem on their hands. What is going on in Western Kansas?

As far as Friends? They travel to McPherson Feb. 13 for what could very well decide the regular-season title for the KCAC.

Me? I’m just thinking about tomorrow night, Baby. OH, and I’ll be following a JuCo coach around Friday night for our special, behind-the-scenes issue coming out Saturday. That, my friends, will be something else. So ch-ch-check it out.

Take it easy.