NAIA Player Spotlight: Jaiden Bristol – Benedictine College (KS)
In a day and age where the transfer numbers are out of control, it is rare of players to sit and wait their turn. It is tough for a highly successful high school basketball player, to go from playing full games in high school, to seeing limited action in college. Jaiden Bristol could have taken the easy road, and left, but instead he chose to stay and compete. The decision paid off for the junior to be.
Jaiden Bristol came to Benedictine College after a highly successful high school basketball career. The St. Joseph, Missouri native was a 1,000 point scorer, and 1st Team All-District 16, 1st Team All-City, 1st Team All-KC Suburban Conference-Red, 1st Team St Joseph News Press, 1st Team Northwest Missouri Region. After weighing his college options though, he decided to head down the road to attend Benedictine College (KS) because he liked that it was close to home and he felt like the college and community was second to none. He liked the picture that Coach Moody and staff painted for him and his future, and how much they believed in him.
Jaiden said that Coach Moody creates a really fun vibe around the team and you can really tell he cares about the players both on and off of the floor. He said that Coach is tough and will definitely put the team in check if they start to lose focus. All of that was what he expected when coming to Benedictine, and it’s something he has enjoyed about his first two seasons at Benedictine.
As a Freshman, Jaiden was brought off the bench, averaging 4 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. While those are decent numbers for a Freshman in one of the toughest leagues in NAIA, Jaiden wanted more, and spent a lot of time in the gym trying to make sure he had a bigger impact as a Sophomore. The work paid off, as he blasted onto the scene as a Sophomore averaging 10.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. As the starting point guard, he was garnered 2nd Team All-Heart of America honors, and help to lead Benedictine to a 31-4 record, and a trip to the NAIA Quarterfinals. Jaiden credits his teammates for trusting in him to be their point guard and believing in him every night. He says that they are all brothers, and he would do anything for any one of his teammates.
That belief in one another led them to a magical 24-0 Heart of America record. Jaiden has a ton of respect for the Heart of America, and said that it is a very difficult conference to play in because everyone is so talented. He mentioned that there are a bunch of D1/D2 guys who transfer in because of how competitive the league is. The Heart ended up having three teams in the national tournament this year with two making it to the final sixteen or better. Jaiden believes that the success at nationals each year speaks for itself on how good of a league it really is. He also thinks because the Heart is a bigger conference, which means the conference season lasts a majority of the regular season, which is really tiring both mentally and physically. He said that everyone knows who you are and has a ton of film on you.
Nonetheless, Benedictine survived the gauntlet of 24 conference games without a blemish. Jaiden credits the successful year to the willingness of his teammates and hi to fight for each other on the court. He says that no one cared about their owns stats. That they all just wanted to win. They felt like they had a deep team, and that teams couldn’t just zero in on stopping just one or two guys. This was evident in the first round of the national tournament when Jaiden had a career night in their win with 36 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Unfortunately the season ended for them in a tough OT loss in the National Quarterfinals. While they lose two All-Americans, they have a group of returners who are hungry, and ready to fill spots. Jaiden, is looking forward to getting back on the court with the team and making another run in the national tournament because he feels that they are all a little bitter about how the season ended this past year! They are a well coached group, with a tough point guard, and they will be a force in the NAIA DI national title picture all year long.