This was supposed to be Bryant Chambly’s breakout season. A 6-foot-4 senior forward on the Columbia College men’s basketball team, Chambly had expectations of leading the Cougars to an opening night win Wednesday night in front of the home crowd against Lindenwood University.
But as the Cougars came out before the game for layup drills, Chambly lagged behind in street clothes. Rather than finding his rhythm before the first game, Chambly was under the basket, casually passing the ball back out to his teammates.
As the siren blared to signal the start of the game, it was supposed to be Chambly’s moment. But because of NAIA eligibility rules, last year’s AMC Newcomer of the Year was forced to cheer from the bench, helplessly watching the Cougars lose their opener 71-62 to the Lions.
Cougars coach Bob Burchard said NAIA rules allow each player a maximum of 10 semesters to play four seasons. However, when Chambly transferred from Missouri last season, he had already used seven of those semesters up and added his eighth and ninth terms last year, leaving only one semester of eligibility left.
Pressed with a tough decision
of when to sit Chambly, Burchard said he decided to
activate him next semester, when the Cougars play a majority of their conference games that could effect postseason play.
The predicament was unpleasant for Burchard, but it was not unexpected.
“We knew that when we recruited Bryant,” Burchard said. “We just took a gamble. We could have held him out first semester last year, but we made the decision to go ahead and play him.”
Without Chambly in the lineup, the Cougars had trouble finding a rhythm in the first half, scoring 21 points on 33 percent shooting. The team’s opening-game jitters showed as it committed 10 turnovers in the first half and was whistled for more carries than Missouri running back Tony Temple had all game Saturday against Oklahoma.
“I think we really froze in the first half and held on to (the ball),” Burchard said. “Every time the ball got to somebody it just stopped.”
It was a different story in the second half. Players made shots and the game quickly turned into an old-fashioned shootout as each team exchanged threes. In the final 20 minutes, the Cougars were hot. Unfortunately, the Lions were hotter, hitting nine 3-pointers on 56 percent shooting as they held off the Cougars.
“It’s the first game, first time you put on your uniform, (you don’t have) the luxury of having a weak opponent so you knew it was going to be really competitive,” Burchard said. “I think in the second half you saw a little bit more how the games are going to be.”
One player who seemed to stand out among his teammates was junior forward Mikel Fields, a Hickman graduate who has played all three years for the Cougars. A dominate force at 6-foot-6, Fields led the Cougars in scoring (19) and rebounds (11) Wednesday night.
“That’s a pretty nice game,” Burchard said. “I told everybody yesterday that he had made a pretty dramatic improvement. I think you saw it today.”
Primarily known for his inside game, Fields also expanded his shooting boundaries, going 2-for-4 from behind the arc, his only two misses on an 8-for-10 shooting night.
With Chambly’s untimely absence, Fields’s newfound versatility should help to keep the Cougars competitive until he gets back.
“The first half of the season, especially the first five, six games are going to be pretty tough for us,” Fields said. “If we can overcome it and come together as a team and win these games, then we’ll be pretty well set off for the rest of the season.”