ASHLAND, Va. (WRIC) — Two years ago, the Randolph-Macon College basketball team was four wins away from being crowned Division III National Champions.
The team was set to take on Yeshiva University when its 28-2 season was abruptly ended, as the tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Like everybody, we’ve been challenged by it but the message as that was going on was ‘control what you can,’” Head Coach Josh Merkel said. “Our guys have been committed to each other [and] committed to improvement.”
The following year, in a shortened season, the Yellow Jackets went 12-0 and were crowned “unofficial National Champions” when, as the No. 1 team in the country, they beat No. 2 Trine University 69-55 in the final game of the season.
This year, the team is off to an 8-1 start and is looking to be the first men’s basketball team in school history to bring a national championship to Ashland, Virginia.
“We haven’t really got a chance to compete for a [National] Championship yet,” junior forward Miles Mallory said. “We’re a day-by-day team but we know that we have big goals.”
After being named a First Team All-American last year, Mallory is currently averaging a near double-double with 16.7 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game.
He was a freshman on the 2019-2020 team from two years ago and was one of its most prominent players, averaging 12.3 points per game and 7.8 rebounds. That year, he was named the ODAC Rookie of the Year and broke the program record for blocks in a season with 75.
Junior guard Josh Talbert was also a freshman on the 2019-2020 team. The Virginia Beach native averaged 10.7 points per game off the bench for the Yellow Jackets that year.
“I think we definitely know we have something special,” Talbert said. “We want to carry the tradition on and keep this winning at Randolph-Macon going.”
The team is currently on a break for the end of the semester and the holiday season. Its next game is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 29 where it will host Rosemont College at 7 p.m. The team’s full schedule can be found on their website.