‘Defense wins championships' isn't just a motto for Head Coach Oliver Drake and the AU men's basketball team; it's the number one priority.
After graduating 85% of the team’s scoring and 74.7% of the minutes played from the previous season, the 2012-13 Saints hardly missed a beat during Drake’s third season. The team posted a 20-11 record overall and continued to dominate with defense, allowing opponents to score just 57.3 points per game, the fourth-best mark in NAIA Division II basketball, while embarking on its first year as a member of the Association of Independent Institutions (A.I.I.).
Ashford also proved it could compete with the top teams in the country, recording a four-point loss at then #4-ranked Embry-Riddle (Fla.), and rattled off five consecutive victories during the month of January.
During the 2011-12 season, the Saints proved their on the verge of becoming a perennial power in NAIA Division II basketball after stringing together the best two seasons in school history.
More impressive then a second consecutive 20-win season was Ashford's tenacity on the defensive end of the floor. The Saints ranked as the seventh-best scoring defense in the nation (62.5 points per game) while holding opponents to a second-best nationally 29.6 rebounds per game. In addition, the 2011-12 Saints ranked as the sixth-best squad in the entire NAIA in terms of grade point average. The team's combined 3.36 GPA was third-best among the 15 eligible Ashford University programs.
In his first season at the helm, Drake had the Ashford University basketball program explode onto the scene of the Midwest Collegiate Conference and crash the NAIA National Championships for just second time in school history.
Picked to finish just sixth in the conference 2010-11 preseason poll after a vote by the league's coaches, Drake hushed all naysayers and doubters by capturing the MCC Tournament Championship and punched Ashford's ticket into the national tournament with an automatic bid.
With the Saints' historic ascent, Ashford set a single-season win records in both conference play (11) and overall games (23) under Drake's direction. His inside-out philosophy and emphasis on defensive intensity translated into victories over five teams that were ranked in the up-to-date edition of the NAIA Division II Top-25 Coaches Poll at the time.
Under Drake's tutelage, a total of eight student-athletes have found their way onto all-conference teams, 16 garnered MCC All-Academic honors and six have been named Daktronics NAIA Scholar-Athletes.
Originally a native of Neillsville, Wis., Drake kept his Midwestern roots close to home when he accepted head coaching responsibilities of the Ashford University men's basketball program beginning in April of 2010.
Drake arrived at Ashford after a highly successful six-year tenure at Div. III Wartburg College in Waverly where helped the Knights to a pair of back-to-back Iowa Conference Championships (2004-05, 2005-06).
Drake was also an assistant coach at other locations within the Badger State, working at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Eau Claire Memorial High School. He was also one of the youngest head boys basketball coaches in state history when he was at the helm of Cadott High School as an undergraduate for two years.
Drake has been actively involved in basketball camps around the nation including Five Star, Morgan Wooten, Northwestern University (Ill.), University of Wisconsin, Snow Valley Basketball School, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stevens Point, South Dakota, Hoosier Basketball School and North Dakota State University.
A graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Drake obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology-Physical Education K-12 before achieving his Master's Degree of Arts from Viterbo University in Education.
Drake is married to his wife, Kristen, and together they have a son, Sebastian. Drake and his family currently reside in Clinton.
The Saints Under Drake (2010-Present)
|Year||Record||Win %||Conf. Record||Conf. Finish|
|* Advanced to the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball Championship|
|$ Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament Champions|
The Drake File
Pickens is entering his third year as an assistant head coach as a member of the Saints' accomplished coaching staff. In the past, he served as a graduate assistant for the 2010-11 season. He helped the team to a Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament title and the program's second-ever appearance in the NAIA National Championships in 2010-11.
Pickens was a long-range gunner as a guard for the Saints after transferring from Rock Valley College in Rockford, Ill. He hit several memorable buzzer-beating shots during his two-year tenure in purple and gold and was voted the Saints' team MVP during his senior campaign.
Pickens ranked third in the Midwest Collegiate Conference in three-point field goals made as a senior, connecting on 70, while earning honorable mention all-league accolades. He averaged over 12 points per game in his final year and tied for the team lead in assists.
While at Rock Valley, Pickens was a two-time First Team All-Conference selection. He completed his prep career at Jefferson High School.
He graduated in Dec. of 2009 with his Bachelor of Social Science degree and obtained his Master's Degree in Education and Public Policy.
Pickens currently resides in Clinton.