Men's Basketball goes to prison
Wilmore, KY---As the basketball season draws nearer and nearer coaches begin to evaluate their teams and instill qualities that will help their team later on in the season. Asbury College Head Coach Will Shouse took a lesser-traveled road to prepare his team for the season, taking them to North Point Training Center, a medium security all male prison in Burgin, Ky. on Tuesday, Oct. 7.
Asbury played against a team of entirely inmates and lost 96-92, but basketball wasn't the main reason for going. "Basketball was second to us, we were there to witness and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ," said Head Coach Will Shouse.
Shouse had heard of teams going to play in prisons and thought that it would provide a good way to test his team, both from the basketball side and the spiritual side. The
prison usually has traveling teams come in, but rarely, if ever, has the chance to play against a collegiate team. Most of the players had played organized basketball before, including one guard who played at Louisville Eastern High School.
Walking through the yard was "very surreal, like a movie" according to senior Michael Spann. There were hundreds of inmates and only two guards walking with the team through the complex. Asbury Athletics Director Gary Kempf said, "That is a walk they will talk about for a long time."
As one might expect the actual game was very tough, but the inmates' respectfulness was what caught the eye of Coach Shouse, "We were very well respected in the gym. They would knock us down and immediately help us back up. They didn't use inappropriate language during the game because they knew we were a Christian school and wanted to show us the utmost respect."
The Eagles have grown accustomed to playing in tough environments, traveling to many NCAA Division I schools to play but have never experienced anything quite like this.
Michael Spann said, "I mean in a way it was intimidating, but I was telling coach there's no way any team we play this year will be half as intimidating as walking into that prison."
After the game Phillip Morrison, sophomore transfer from Olivet Nazarene University, shared his testimony with the inmates in the gym. "We are all in a prison," he said. "We are all just waiting to die. We're no better than you, you're no better than us."
Morrison relished the opportunity to share with the inmates. "It was amazing - that's what I live for," he said. "I'd been praying about getting to share the gospel, and these guys seem humble. It seemed like God blessed his word."
"They listened when we talked," Shouse said. "They didn't just kind of play around - they showed respect for us. I think that says a lot because these are guys that in any other environment would not be respected."
Shouse added that he plans to leave a spot open in his schedule to go back and play them again next year.
Asbury opens the season on Halloween night, October 31 when they host the 13th annual Cecil C. Zweifel Classic. Asbury will play Southern State at 8 p.m. and Spring Arbor University on Nov. 1 at 3 p.m.