SLCC men advance to NJCAA tournament, and former Ute/Aggie Silas Mills couldn’t be happier

TAYLORSVILLE — Silas Mills has fond memories of the first time the Salt Lake Community College men’s basketball team made it to “Hutch,” the nickname for the national junior college tournament held in Hutchinson, Kansas.

That happened in 1994 when Mills, the former Utah and Utah State player and current SLCC assistant coach, led the Bruins to a fifth-place finish in the school’s debut on the NJCAA’s biggest hoops stage. He earned all-tournament honors back then.

“That was like dinosaur ages then,” Mills said, laughing. “That was ‘93-94. That’s a long time ago.”

One thing that’s changed since that prehistoric period: the Bruins and their powerhouse program are now almost expected to qualify for the national tourney every year.

Thanks to a sloppy-but-gutsy 89-86 win over Arizona Western on Saturday night, the Bruins earned their seventh trip to the NJCAAs after wrapping up the SWAC championship and the Division I title in consecutive weekends.

The Bruins (30-3) likely would have received an at-large bid thanks to their No. 7 ranking and Scenic West Athletic Conference tournament title, but this victory ensured that they’ll head back to Hutchinson, Kansas, for the sixth time in 11 years.

SLCC won a national championship — the school’s second — the last time it made it to Hutch in 2016.

“We didn’t go last year,” SLCC coach Todd Phillips said. “It’s a big accomplishment for these kids to get back there.”

The Bruins needed a last-second, game-winning 3-pointer from Kearns High product Bushmen Ebet last Saturday to edge their rivals, Utah State Eastern, in the SWAC championship game and had to hold on tight after seeing a 14-point lead evaporate in the second half against the Matadors.

Christian Gray of San Bernardino, California, led SLCC with 18 points and seven rebounds, Ebet added 17 points and four steals, and Puerto Rican guard Josh Colon contributed 16 points in the victory.

“I always told myself when I come back I’m about to get another ring, so here it goes,” said Ebet, who sat out last season — when SLCC went 21-10 and was eliminated by CSI in the SWAC tourney — after being a sixth-man contributor on the 2016 national championship squad. “That was my number one goal — get back (to Hutch) and just be the best player on this team.”

Mills knows all about coming back to accomplish big things after a temporary setback. An athletic forward from Milwaukee, Mills ended up at SLCC in the 1993-94 season after his time with Rick Majerus at the University of Utah ended almost as quickly as it began. Mills went on to have a strong couple of years at Utah State under then-head coach Larry Eustachy before thriving in a pro career overseas.

SLCC gave him a second chance to begin his collegiate career in the 1990s, and he credits his junior college alma mater — and specifically retired athletic director Norma Carr — for giving him an opportunity to begin his coaching career.

“This is awesome. This is the whole journey of life for me. I love it,” …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Top stories


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