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Basketball team, RIC coach, receive Words Unlimited awards

The 2009-10 Rhode Island College men’s basketball team received the Vin Cullen Award for Small College Achievement from Words Unlimited at the organization’s annual banquet held at the Radisson Airport Hotel on Feb. 20. RIC track and cross country coach Kevin Jackson was also honored at the event.

Men's basketball team with RIC President Nancy Carriuolo at Words Unlimited banquet.
The men's basketball team enjoyed a spectacular season in 2009-10, a season that saw them win both the regular season and tournament championships in the Little East Conference. Head coach Bob Walsh's Anchormen went on to win a pair of games in the NCAA Div. III Tournament en route to advancing to the second Sweet 16 in program history with an overall record of 22-8.

The squad improved consistently as the season went along, winning nine consecutive games down the stretch, including a 95-90 shootout over rival Keene State on Feb. 6, and two victories over runner-up Western Connecticut. The Anchormen posted an impressive 12-2 regular season in the Little East Conference, taking first place by a conference record of three full games. Including the tournament, the team won 14 league games and posted an .875 winning percentage along the Little East circuit.

Words Unlimited recognizes Kevin Jackson


Kevin Jackson
Rhode Island College head men’s & women’s cross country/track & field coach Kevin Jackson was honored along with Thom Spann as the founders of the Providence Cobras Track Club by Words Unlimited at the organization’s annual banquet.

The duo was awarded the Community Service Award. As co-founders of the Providence Cobras Track Club – and as coaches of their own track and cross country programs – Jackson and Spann have helped form the backbone of those three sports in Rhode Island.

Jackson, the former boys’ track coach at Pilgrim High, has been the coach of men’s and women’s cross country and track at Rhode Island College for the past decade.

A member of the Providence City Council, Jackson was instrumental in the concept and planning of what is now the Providence Career & Technical Academy (PCTA) near the Central/Classical High School campuses.

The facility contains – among many features – a four-lane, 200-meter track, with accommodations for all indoor field events. The PCTA building has been the site for the past two years of the state Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Spann – a member of the R.I. Interscholastic League’s Hall of Fame and the 1992 Words Unlimited Schoolgirl Coach of the Year – began his coaching career in the state as track coach at North Kingstown High. He has coached track at Hope High for the past 25 years.

Jackson formed the Providence Cobras youth track and field program in 1978 as part of a college work-study program. Spann soon came on board and together they have kept the program going long after the funding ran out.

Over the past three decades, they have developed hundreds of young athletes, teaching them and training them and showing them how to use athletics as a way to open doors.

Antone Gray
February was a memorable month for fans at The Murray Center. The Anchormen were 5-0 at home down the stretch, including thrillers in the semifinals and finals of the 2010 Little East Tournament. Junior guard Antone Gray provided last-minute heroics in both games, hitting game-winning shots to propel the Anchormen to victories of 74-72 over UMass Dartmouth in the semifinal and 81-80 over Western Connecticut in the final.

March saw an impressive conclusion to the magical run, as the Anchormen traveled to distant Middlebury, Vermont and came away winners of the regional. Providence natives Gray and senior backcourt mate Jake Grimes scored 19 points apiece in first round action to carry RIC past Rutgers-Newark, 72-60. On the next day, the Anchormen turned in a signature performance against perennial contender and host Middlebury, scoring a dominant, 75-59, victory and handing the Panthers just their second home defeat of the season.

The victories carried the Anchormen to the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history, with the other coming in 2007's run to the Elite Eight. The 2009-10 season marked a program-record fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, and the fifth and sixth tournament victories of Coach Walsh's first five seasons at the helm. Rhode Island College has won either the regular season championship, tournament championship, or both, in each of the last four seasons.


Jake Grimes
Men's basketball continues to have a bright future at RIC, as the program bid farewell to only one exiting senior in Grimes. Grimes had a major impact after arriving at RIC by way of URI and CCRI. He started 26 of his team's 30 games, averaging 14.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Grimes was the team's top scorer and also led the team in steals.

His outstanding efforts earned him First Team All-Little East Conference honors and a slot on the league's All-Defensive team. Grimes had season-highs of 30 points and four steals at Eastern Connecticut on Dec. 5, grabbed nine rebounds against UMass Dartmouth on Feb. 26, dished out seven assists at UMass Dartmouth on Feb. 16 and had three blocks against Keene State on Feb. 6.


Mason Choice
Junior forward Mason Choice emerged as an elite player in the Little East in the 2009-10 season, earning All-Little East First Team honors just one season after appearing on the conference's All-Rookie team as a freshman.

Along with Grimes, Choice was also named to the All-Defensive team, making the Anchormen the only team in the conference with more than one player recognized for defensive contributions. Choice started 28 of RIC's 30 games. He averaged 13.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Choice registered season-highs of 24 points and five steals at Keene State on Jan. 9, seven assists vs. UMass Dartmouth on Jan. 26 and seven rebounds on multiple occasions.

Gray came up big for the Anchormen when it mattered most, elevating his game to carry his team to victory in both Little East Tournament games en route to being named Most Outstanding Player of the 2010 Tournament. He was also named Second Team All-Little East.

For the season, Gray averaged 14.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He ranked second on the team in scoring and first in assists. His regular season highlights included a 29-point performance at Eastern Connecticut on Dec. 5 and a nine-assist effort at Roger Williams on Nov. 28.


Tahrike Carter
Coach Walsh's squad contends in the present, while preparing constantly for the future, as evidenced by placing another recruit, guard Tahrike Carter, on the Little East All-Rookie team in 2010.

Carter played in all 30 games and earned the opportunity to start nine of them. In freshman minutes, he averaged 3.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.5 steals per game.

The 2009-10 season capped off the best four-year stretch in program history. The accomplishments of those four seasons were recognized as one of the five greatest achievements in the 80-year history of Rhode Island College Athletics at a gala event held at The Murray Center on Oct. 2, 2010.

Cox Sports and the R.I. Basketball Media also honored the Anchormen as the Team of the Year among all divisions in the Ocean State, along with tabbing Grimes as the Co-Player of the Year and Walsh as the Coach of the Year.

“This team improved during the course of the year as much as any team we have had at RIC,” Walsh said. “To come together as a team the way we did, winning the regular season championship, the tournament title and advancing to the Sweet 16 with just one senior was a tremendous accomplishment. It will always be one of the best teams Rhode Island College has ever had."