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On a weekend where Barton College will celebrate its greatest athletic achievement with the enshrinement of three individuals associated with the 2007 NCAA Division II men’s basketball national championship into its Athletic Hall of Fame, the business of preparing for the grind of the 2017-18 season gets underway Friday night with the sternest of challenges.
The opening event for the weekend that will culminate with the induction of Anthony Atkinson, Alejo Barovero and Barton head coach Ron Lievense into the Hall of Fame will emanate from Chapel Hill, where Lievense will take his newest crop of Bulldogs into the Dean E. Smith Center on Friday night to face the defending NCAA Division I national champion North Carolina Tar Heels in an exhibition contest. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Barton will enter a new season coming off a 20-win season and a 14-6 finish in Conference Carolinas, losing four seniors off that squad. But this squad does not boast a single senior returning and will introduce seven true freshmen into the mix, along with a pair of redshirt freshmen in Shane Evans and Hunt product Shemar Hudson.
The Bulldogs do return Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year Michael Boykin, as well as sophomore Jeff Gordon, sophomore Isaiah Buck-Lowman and junior Matt Woods. All four were meaningful contributors and averaged double-digit minutes on the floor for Barton. Boykin was Barton’s second leading scorer at 13.1 points per contest.
UNC, which finished 33-7 last season en route to winning its seventh national title, defeated Gonzaga in last year’s championship game. Although the Bulldogs will have their hands full with the likes of senior Theo Pinson and junior Luke Maye, Barton will not have to address the presence of senior point guard Joel Berry, who broke his hand after taking a loss in a video game.
Barton is playing UNC for the first time in exhibition action since 2010-11, where the Tar Heels prevailed 108-67. The Bulldogs played another Atlantic Coast Conference opponent in N.C. State in exhibition action last year.
HALL OF FAME
Barton will hold its Hall of Fame festivities in a tent just across Championship Drive across Wilson Gym on Saturday. A reception will be held from 5 to 5:30 p.m., with the formal program to run from 5:30-7. Dinner will be served following the conclusion of the program.
Atkinson accomplished one of the most dramatic feats in the history of college basketball at any level, scoring 10 points in the final 45 seconds of the championship game to knock off Winona State 77-75. The incredible rally, capped by Atkinson’s iconic layup as time expired, snapped a 57-game winning streak for Winona State, a Div. II record.
In that season, Barton finished with a 31-5 record and won all nine overtime games in which it was involved, an NCAA record. Atkinson netted 750 points in that season, a record for Barton’s Div. II era and also handed out a single-season record of assists at 217. He finished his Barton career with 1,340 points, good for seventh in the Div. II era and second in assists with 376.
Barovero transitioned from a role player into a major contributor by his junior year, when the Bulldogs reached the Elite Eight. His senior year, where Barton won the national title, was interrupted early by a broken hand five games in. However, Barovero declined to take a medical redshirt, and returned to net an average of 15.6 points in 18 contests.
Barovero returned to the Bulldogs as a role player once more after entering his senior year as a preseason All-American. He currently plays professionally in Argentina and continues to do so at the age of 32.
Lievense has amassed more than 450 wins as a college head coach, with a milestone looming for his time at Barton. The 22nd-year head coach will enter 2017-18 needing just two victories to reach the 400-win plateau with the Bulldogs.
In his first season in Wilson, Barton went 22-5, won a conference regular-season title and led Barton to the NCAA tournament for the first time.
Since then, Lievense has won nine more titles either in the regular season or tournament, eight additional 20-win campaigns and six additional trips into the NCAA field. Lievense has been named the Conference Carolinas Coach of the Year on four occasions and took the Bulldogs to the Elite Eight in back-to-back years, 2006 and 2007.