Ancilla moves to top spot

By Josh Sigler

PLYMOUTH – The accolades and pats on the back continue to pile up for coach Aaron Butcher and his Ancilla College men’s basketball program.

But, through it all, he’s continuing to remind his squad that although the present circumstances feel great, there’s still a lot to play for.

The latest headline came for the Chargers (22-1, 12-0 Michigan Community College Athletic Association) on Tuesday, Feb. 6, when they rose to the No. 1 ranking in the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division II poll after three weeks in the No. 2 spot. Losses by previous No. 1 Cuyahoga Community College and No. 3 Parkland Community College helped Ancilla ascend to the top spot.

“One, you’re just really happy for your guys,” said Butcher, a 2003 Wabash High School grad. “They’ve really been working since the end of August when they reported to school. To get to that point to be No. 1 and see their work get recognized (is nice).”

Butcher’s Chargers have come a long way since he took over the program in 2012, going 8-18 in his first season. His squad has improved its wins total every year, including back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2015-16 (20-10) and 2016-17 (26-6). The 26 wins are a school record, but that will likely be broken by this season’s squad.

“You kind of just reflect on the last six years and how much work has gone into building the program,” Butcher said. “It’s been about creating that culture. I think that culture, once that’s in place, you start to have some success. Then your culture attracts the right guys. And, as you bring in better players each year, you win more games and the program solidifies its reputation. I think over time that process just continues. You continue to get good players, good guys, and the wins take care of themselves.”

Butcher also reached a personal milestone this season, reaching 100 career wins while becoming the program’s all-time winningest coach. He drew strong praise from athletic director Gene Reese.

“Aaron Butcher and his team has put Ancilla College athletics on the map,” Reese said. “It is with great pride that I see my 20-year dream coming true.”

Butcher too took pause to take stock of his milestones.

“When you have a couple seasons like those first seasons where you weren’t winning, you definitely want to enjoy this,” Butcher said. “It’s nice that you’ve been able to do it. After Year 2 we had 21 wins, so 100 wins seems a long way off. I think with the ranking and the 100 wins, it’s kind of a reflection. You sit back and just are appreciative and grateful for how far we’ve been able to bring the program.”

The Chargers still have several goals in front of them. They’re undefeated in conference play with seven games to go, and could wrap up a conference championship. Then they’ll look forward to the regional, and if they win that, the national tournament in Danville, Ill.

Butcher knows it’s imperative his squad stays focused on the big picture.

“The support has been phenomenal,” he said. “People around here are the most excited about Ancilla athletics as we’ve ever seen them. We want our guys to enjoy that and be able to enjoy everything that is going on with that. But, also, remind them to enjoy where we’re at, but also make sure we understand what’s got us here, and make sure we’re continuing to keep our minds right and prepare the right way.”

Posted on 2018 Feb 13