Tragedy, adversity and a bittersweet ending


John Hynst

#25 Drew Fisher drives to the basket in a game against UW-River Falls in the Kachel Fieldhouse on Feb. 20.

Ryan Baker, Men’s Sports Assistant Editor

Tragedy, struggles on the court and adversity all stared the UW-Whitewater Men’s Basketball team right in the eyes all season. Before the season had begun, in July of 2022, tragedy struck the entire city of Whitewater, more so to the basketball team. Just after his 20th birthday, basketball player Derek Gray died unexpectedly due to a blood clot in his heart while working at a Whitewater youth basketball camp.

Donning a “DG4” patch on the upper left side of their jerseys, right above the heart, was something that was done to honor Gray. This never left the minds of the Warhawks all season, and beginning the season with this kind of shock and despair put them in a tough spot immediately. After the heartbreaking news, they still had a season to play, and they came out to a lackluster 4-3 record in their first seven games.

After stringing a couple wins together, the Warhawks had traveled to Greenville, Illinois, where things seemed to click for the team. Dropping 124 points in a 34 point trouncing of Greenville University behind a masterful shooting performance from junior forward Trevon Chislom. The All-WIAC forward shot 13-16 with 26 points in the blowout.

The Greenville win was amidst a seven game win streak for the purple and white. Another game in the middle of the win streak that proved the Warhawks were firing from all cylinders was a 43 point win against Northland College.

To conclude the regular season, they walked into the WIAC tournament with a 5-1 record in their last six games. After a first round win against UW-River Falls, they traveled to UW-La Crosse to advance to the WIAC championship in a four point win. Head coach Pat Miller gives the team props for always keeping their cool when their backs are against the wall.

“That’s one of the great things about this team. They stay pretty neutral,” said Miller. “We’ve had a ton of games that have gone down to the wire. They just keep playing and try to do what needs to be done.”

In the championship against a team in UW-Oshkosh, whom they lost to twice during the season, they faced the heart of adversity. They swiftly jumped over the adversity and beat Oshkosh by a score of 92-79 behind a 29 point bomb from Chislom. Bringing home the fifth WIAC title to Whitewater, it punched their sixth ever appearance to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Division III Tournament.

All season the Warhawks were looked down upon and that underdog mentality only grew when it came to the tournament. However, they shocked the DIII community when they willed themselves to their first final four appearance since 2014. The details of their Cinderella run cut short can be read here: Cinderella run falls short

“They definitely embraced the underdog mentality and played with a chip on their shoulder,” said Miller. “Trying to go out and prove they belong and prove they can beat good teams. They did an extraordinary job of it for a month.”

Overall, the Warhawks ended the season with a 25-8 record, managing an astounding 11-1 road game record. They were able to manage a nine game win streak prior to their season ending loss against Mount Union. The biggest glaring hole during their season wasn’t their offensive efficiency, in which they averaged 80 points a game, rather a low end free throw percentage of 72% all season.

The success of the Warhawks was driven by freshman guard Miles Barnstable who averaged the most points per game on the team at 16.2. After that was Chislom with 15.7 points per game while shooting 54% from the field. Another lights out shooter aided Whitewater in their late push, that being sophomore forward Carter Capstran who also shot 54% from the field.

Whitewater was also able to bring home some individual hardware. Chislom was labeled as an All-WIAC player and was put on the National Association of Basketball District 9 second-team. Meanwhile, Miles Barnstable was awarded with All-WIAC honors, WIAC Newcomer of the Year, and was a third team d3hoops all-region 9 pick. Junior guard Delvin Barnstable and sophomore guard Jameer Barker both were All-WIAC honorable mentions.

“Whitewater is back where it should be in terms of basketball,” Capstran said after the team punched their ticket to the Final Four.

Through all the murky waters and rollercoaster of emotions, Whitewater proved everyone wrong this season and next season they are going to be on everyone’s radar. The Warhawks are looking at copy and pasting the team from this season to the next, minus senior guard Earl Lewis. With only losing a single senior and given the late success, Whitewater seems to have an incredibly high-end ceiling for next season. Development and time will tell the tale.