What Jordan Ashton did at Iowa Wesleyan last year was nothing short of amazing. He took a program that hadn’t been relevant since the late 90’s/early 2000’s and turned the program around in year one. The Tigers finished last season with a record of 27-3 and a trip to the NAIA National Tournament. The season was the winningest season in the program’s 115-year history and included being ranked inside the Top 25 and winning a Continental Athletic Conference title. Ashton would also garner the CAC Coach of the Year award. Unfortunately, at the end of the school year, Iowa Wesleyan decided to close its doors for good. The move would displace the team and coaches and cause them all to look for new programs. One schools loss is another’s gain though and new William Woods AD, Steve Wilson, knew with their new coaching opening that Ashton could be a guy who could help take the program to the next level.
William Woods has started off this season 2-0 with home wins over Bethel (KS) and RV Evangel (MO). Two teams that qualified for the NAIA National Tourney last season. Both teams were picked to finish 4th and 5th in the KCAC preseason polls. We shouldn’t be overly shocked that the Owls have found early success. Six players from last year’s Iowa Wesleyan team made the move over with coach Ashton. Including All-American, Henry Shannon III.
The Owls also have other scoring threats as well. Joey Brown (Iowa Wesleyan) and DJ Purnell (William Penn) lead the team in scoring, both above 17ppg. Purnell already has an AMC Player of the Week award to his name this season. Gacoby Jones (Iowa Wesleyan) and Nathan Schwartze, who was an AMC All-Conf performer last season, also have averaged in double-figures this season.
With the two big early wins, the schedule only gets tougher as the Owls hit the road for five straight road games, including two against Top 25 teams. The first of which is tomorrow, Saturday, November 4th at 10am vs 3rd-ranked, Langston (OK). A Langston program, who was in a similar situation as William Woods just a season ago. A program that hired a new coach and proven winner, Chris Wright, and saw their team take an immediate step forward.
As tough as these next five games are, the Owls don’t need to sweep these games by any means, but they do have several opportunities to open some more eyes across the country. At the very least, the Owls are going to be well tested headed into American Midwest Conference play. For us, we feel like last year matters. If you took this same team, and they were still at Iowa Wesleyan, they would most likely be a Top 25 team to start the season, or at least be getting votes to be ranked. That will all take care of itself though. Opportunities are a knocking and now it’s time to see if William Woods can answer it.
Plain and simple, the Owls are GOOD! We will find out just how good over the next couple of weeks, but in our opinion this is a fringe Top 25 team who can make some serious noise over the next few weeks! Coach Jordan Ashton is becoming a rising star in the profession, and this is a team that we feel can make a run in the NAIA National Tournament come March!