The History of Men's Basketball

Ohio Wesleyan’s first varsity men’s basketball team played its games in the still-unfinished Edwards Gymnasium, compiling a 4-4 record in 1906.

The Bishops won back-to-back Buckeye Conference championships in 1928-29 and 1929-30 before winning 3 straight crowns from 1933-34 to 1935-36.

In 1946, Bob Strimer took over as the men’s basketball coach. Led by Strimer and Jud Millhon ’51, who would go on to win first-team All-American honors in 1951, the Bishops won the 1948-49 Ohio Athletic Conference championship.

Frank Shannon became the head coach in 1958 and, along with Barry Clemens ’65, led the Bishops to the 1961-62 OAC championship. The Bishops’ 21-3 season set a school record for winning percentage that still stands. Shannon was voted Ohio College Coach of the Year. Clemens would become the only Bishop player to win the Dick Gregory Award as the OAC Most Valuable Player. He was a second-team AP Little All-America selection and finished his career as the leading scorer in Ohio Wesleyan and OAC history. Clemens went on to play 11 years in the National Basketball Association.

Gene Mehaffey was named head coach in 1979, and along with All-Americans Scott Tedder ’88 and Lee Rowlinson ’88, led the Bishops to four straight North Coast Athletic Conference championships and the 1988 NCAA Division III championship. Mehaffey was named NCAA Division III Coach of the Year.

Mike DeWitt ’87 took over as men’s basketball coach in 1998. He was the first Ohio Wesleyan graduate to hold the position since Branch Rickey’s last season as men’s basketball coach during the 1908-09 campaign. DeWitt, along with All-America selection Claude Gray ’16 and national Newcomer of the Year Nate Axelrod ’18, led the Bishops to the 2014-15 NCAC championship, Ohio Wesleyan’s first conference title since 1988, and the Bishops’ fourth consecutive NCAA Division III tournament appearance, a first for Ohio Wesleyan.

The Battling Bishop men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball teams play their home games in Branch Rickey Arena, nestled in the middle of the Ohio Wesleyan campus. Named after Branch Rickey, class of 1904, who integrated major league baseball while president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the arena opened its doors in time for the 1976-77 season. Branch Rickey Arena seats 1450 for basketball and has been the site for NCAA Division III playoff games for both genders as well as several NCAC and OAC tournaments.

For 70 years prior to the opening of Rickey Arena, Ohio Wesleyan home games were played in adjoining Edwards Gymnasium. Opened during the 1905-06 academic year, the still-unfinished facility hosted Ohio Wesleyan’s first intercollegiate basketball team. As many as 2000 fans made their way into the double-decked stands surrounding the court on the building’s second floor, which still hosts varsity practices and intramurals. The gym was named after John Edwards, who served on Ohio Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees in the late 1890s and early 1900s, and was one of the biggest facilities in the state at the time of its construction.

Men’s Basketball