High hopes for Columbia basketball

By Nader Ihmoud

Despite having a low profile on campus, the Columbia Renegades men’s basketball team holds its head up high as it works to develop a respectable program.

The team has 13 roster spots to work with. Head Coach Joseph Phillips said he will keep five of those available for player-coaches and future recruits. The team’s captains are sophomore music major Oscar Chatman and freshman music major Brian Byrd.

“[The team is] comprised of Columbia art students working hard every day, trying to become a better team and cultivate a winning environment,” Chatman said.

He believes there is a misconception among his peers that art students cannot play sports. The team does not have one particular athlete who stands out talent-wise, according to Phillips. Despite that Phillips said his team’s knowledge of basketball has increased since he joined the team.

Phillips, who received a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics basketball scholarship while working toward his Bachelor of Arts in management at Robert Morris University, was approached by Columbia students to be the head coach of the Renegades.

He said taking the position was an obvious decision after speaking with Mark Brticevich, coordinator of Fitness and Recreation at Columbia.

With degrees from both Columbia and RMU, Phillips said his time spent on the campuses helped him develop a relationship with both basketball environments and will help bring athletes from RMU to the Renegades.

Phillips, who received his master’s in journalism at Columbia, said he believes the college’s journalism program could eventually use Renegades basketball to drive up student enrollment.

“With this program here, I believe we could marry this with the journalism department,” he said. “I think it would be a perfect marriage. But if we don’t reach out to each other, it will just be a lost gym.”

Phillips said he uses the sports writing aspect of journalism at Columbia to reach out to students at other colleges, telling them they could translate their love for sports into a career. Using this as a recruiting tool would be beneficial to both the Journalism Department and the Renegades, he said.

“We are just trying to do the normal things to help an organization,” Phillips said. “It’s like we are building a business.”

He described himself as an “entrepreneur by trade” who owns an American Basketball Association team and a media company and wants to develop sponsorships so he can eventually have scholarships for his players.

“We are actually looking into several sponsorships, whether it is with Nike, whether it’s all types of different activities we can tap into,” Phillips said.

Forrest Frazier, vice president of the Renegades, said the goal is pretty ambitious, and if it were to happen, the Renegades would back the plan.

“[The] scholarship idea is great,” Frazier said. “It is always good to give our students extra help financially.”

The team has developed three packages for its sponsors, each depending on the level of sponsorship the company or individual is looking to obtain.

Despite being in team-building mode, the Renegades are off to a good start. The team is undefeated after its first three regular season games against Olive Harvey College, Elgin Community College and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

“We are coming out and playing great defense,” Chatman said. “That’s where we hang our hats.”

Phillips said he wants his players to treat the team with the same discipline and mentality as their classes.

“We aren’t art school pushovers,” he said. “We are looking to win games now. First two years, yeah, I let it slide because everyone has an excuse.”