Minnesota Bible College doesn't just act like family, some are family

By Troy Young

The Post-Bulletin

It wasn't the road to the Final Four in Minneapolis, it was the road to Tulsa, Okla. But the result at the end of the road was much the same.

A national championship.

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Admittedly, it is a vastly scaled-down version of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament. It isn't Division II or Division III. Not even NAIA.

It is the National Bible College Athletic Association and their 2001 national champion is Minnesota Bible College, from Rochester. MBC finished with a school-best 20-2 record by beating Providence College 78-67 in the finals at Tulsa.

Members of MBC didn't expect a massive welcome-home reception at the Rochester airport or even a ticker-tape parade down Broadway. They don't expect a phone call from President George W. Bush, either.

They recognize their achievement for what it is.

"National champs, that sounds so big," MBC freshman Brent Picker said. "But going down there and seeing it with my own eyes, it seemed like another tournament to go and win."

Picker and his older brother, Greg, an MBC junior, were catalysts on a team whose school's enrollment is about 130. But the Pickers weren't alone. Tim Chaffey was the missing piece for MBC in the middle this season, averaging 23 points and 14 rebounds. Greg Picker averaged 19 points, Brent 17, and Jon Osterlund 17.

"In almost every game, we've had four guys average in double-figures," MBC coach Frank Evans said.

But getting their names in the double-digit scoring column isn't why they play. In fact, despite their competitiveness on the court, winning is far from the team's sole purpose.

"I want them to enjoy it," Evans said. "We want them to get better as a team. We have always emphasized that together you can do more than you can do separately. The kids get along very well."

Basketball isn't the priority with most of the MBC players. Many attending MBC plan on going into the ministry, becoming youth ministers, going into Christian counseling or education, or even becoming missionaries.

Brent Picker, a Rochester Mayo graduate, was thinking about attending Gustavus Adolphus after high school. After giving it serious consideration, he chose MBC.

"I thought it would be best if I would come here and build a foundation for my faith," Picker said. "With basketball being here and my brother being here I'm really happy I made this decision. I think about what it would have been like to play (for Gustavus Adolphus), but never once have I regretted this decision."

Winning his league's national championship makes for a memorable freshman year.

"It's cool," he said. "We went down there and won a championship, but I just love to play basketball. Regardless of what level of competition and whether I'm winning or losing, I just love to play."