The progress of the Saint Louis University basketball program under the direction of Travis Ford in the past four years has been well documented as the Billikens have become one of the top programs in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
However, there has been another very successful college basketball story brewing in St. Louis; and it happens to be right across the street at Harris-Stowe State University.
At about the same time that SLU was tabbing Ford as its new head coach, Brion Dunlap was also being hired as the new head coach for the Hornets. Dunlap has spent the previous six years as an assistant at Holy Cross and Winston Salem State before landing the Harris-Stowe job.
In four seasons at Harris-Stowe, Dunlap has transformed the Hornets into a championship program. The Hornets play an exciting brand of basketball with lots of fast breaks, 3-pointers and plenty of points on the scoreboard.
In his fourth season, Dunlap led the Hornets to a 23-9 record and the championship of the American Midwest Conference Tournament. The Hornets went on the road to Arkansas to defeat Central Baptist 99-95 championship game to win their third AMC tournament championship in four years.
In winning the AMC Tournament, Harris-Stowe earned the league’s automatic bid to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Tournament, which was subsequently cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak around the country. The Hornets also finished the season ranked No. 24 in the latest NAIA national poll.
Dunlap has done a very good job of recruiting excellent high school and junior college players from around the country who are looking for an opportunity to shine at the collegiate level. He has also been able to recruit local players from the St. Louis area who have made a big impact in the program in recent years.
The latest local player to impact the Harris-Stowe program is 6’4” junior guard Deshawn Munson, a former standout performer at East St. Louis Senior High who emerged as arguably the top player in the NAIA ranks this season. Munson was a dominant performer as he is at the top of the leaderboard in nearly every offensive category you can think of.
During his incredible season, Munson averaged 28.4 points, 8.0 assists and 3.0 steals, which led the nation’s NAIA schools in all three categories. He also averaged 11.3 rebounds a game, which was second in the nation.
Munson also recorded seven triple-doubles during the season, including a spectacular 37-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist performance against Central Baptist in the AMC Tournament Championship game. The young man was simply amazing from start to finish all season.
Another local product that made a big contribution this season was 6’8” senior forward Duane Clark Jr., a former CBC standout who had played previously at UMKC and Central Missouri. Clark found a home at Harris-Stowe and averaged 13.5 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field.
Clark also had a big performance against Central Baptist in the finals with 12 points and 14 rebounds. The Hornets also got 15 points from junior Nick McKenzie and 13 points from junior David Spell.
McKenzie, a 6’2” guard from Chicago, averaged 10 points a game while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range while making 66 treys. Maurice Smith, a 6’6” forward, averaged 8.1 points and 5.2 rebounds a game while the trio of Jhaylen Covington-Berry (Hazelwood Central), Spell and Christian Davis all averaged 6.4 points a game.