AUSTIN, Texas – It was a special day for the Stephen F. Austin men's basketball team on Tuesday morning, as Representative Travis Clardy had the Lumberjacks on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives to be recognized for their remarkable 2013-14 season.
Director of Athletics Robert Hill, head coach Brad Underwood and players Jacob Parker, Trey Pinkney and Thomas Walkup accompanied Representative Clardy to the floor, while the rest of the team sat in the gallery inside the Texas State Capitol in downtown Austin.
Only on rare occasions are collegiate teams recognized on the floor, and the 2013-14 season for SFA certainly proved to be worthy of merit.
Last season, under the guidance of Underwood, the 'Jacks captured the nation's attention as a Cinderella story in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
SFA posted a 32-3 overall record, becoming the first Southland Conference school in the league's 51-year history to win 29 games in the regular season and first 30-game winner, passing the 1984-85 Louisiana Tech squad that went 29-3 and reached the Sweet 16 with Karl Malone.
Over the course of the season, the 'Jacks garnered votes in both the Associated Press (AP) and USA Today Coaches polls, eventually joining then top-ranked Florida and second-ranked Wichita State as the only schools to go undefeated in conference play on the season. SFA finished SLC play with a perfect 18-0 mark to become just the 18th team all-time to go undefeated at the Division I level in conference schedules of 18 games or more.
The 'Jacks racked up several program highs, including closing out their conference road schedule 9-0 in Week 17, the first time SFA had gone undefeated on the road in league play in the Division I era. Desmond Haymon became a member of the 1,000-point club and the program's all-time winningest player at the Division I level (since passed by Parker), while Nikola Gajic and Deshaunt Walker became the program's all-time winningest players in a two-year span. Gajic and Walker are also the only two `Jacks to go undefeated inside William R. Johnson Coliseum across their careers, posting 30 wins (15 – 2012-13; 15 – 2013-14).
SFA entered the SLC Tournament as the top seed and topped Northwestern State (85-78) and Sam Houston State (68-49) to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, where the 'Jacks were given a No. 12 seed.
In the big dance, Underwood put the SFA on the national map upsetting fifth-seeded VCU77-75 in in the second round on a four-point play to send the game into overtime, the first NCAA Tournament win in program history. With the win over Shaka Smart's havoc-run VCU squad, the 'Jacks set a new school record for the most wins in a single season with win No. 32.
With 32 wins, Underwood ranks third all-time in the NCAA's top 10 best career starts at the Division I level, passing Steve Prohm (Murray State – 31-2, 2012) and Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh – 31-5, 2004). For his success, Underwood was named the 2014 Joe B. Hall recipient, given to the nation's top first-year coach. He was also named the 2013-14 Southland's Coach of the Year, 2013-14 NABC UPS Division I District 23 Coach of the Year and the 2014 Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC) Coach of the Year.