St. Louis County Council honors UMSL men’s basketball team for accomplishments in season cut short by COVID-19

by | Nov 11, 2021

The council adopted a resolution commending the Tritons for winning the GLVC title and securing an NCAA berth before the tournament's cancellation in 2019-20.
Members of the men's basketball team stand in the St. Louis County Council chamber

Members of the UMSL men’s basketball team stand with Chancellor Kristin Sobolik, Athletic Director Lori Flanagan, Coach Bob Sundvold and others in the St. Louis County Council Chamber on Tuesday night. The council passed a resolution, put forth by Council members Rita Heard Days and Shalonda Webb, honoring them for their success in the 2019-20 season, which came to an abrupt end because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photos by August Jennewein)

The 2019-20 season was a historic one for the University of Missouri­–St. Louis men’s basketball program, both for what the Tritons accomplished on the court – winning the Great Lakes Valley Conference championship and earning their first NCAA Tournament berth in 32 years – and for how it ended – with the tournament canceled because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic with the players already on the bus, ready to embark on their trip to Indiana for the opening round.

Remarkably, the accolades are still piling up for Coach Bob Sundvold’s team, more than a year and a half later.

On Tuesday, the St. Louis County Council passed a resolution honoring the Tritons for all their on-court successes, their perseverance through that time of disappointment and the work they put in for the community, including volunteering with the Triton Pantry, North County Top View Basketball, 100 Black Men of Metropolitan St. Louis and The Taste in Ferguson.

A St. Louis County Council resolution honoring men's basketball team

The resolution honoring the UMSL men’s basketball team for its success during the 2019-20 season was adopted unanimously at Tuesday’s St. Louis County Council meeting.

St. Louis County Council Chair Rita Heard Days and District 4 Councilwoman Shalonda Webb – the mother of UMSL guard Steve Webb – introduced the resolution at Tuesday night’s meeting, and it was unanimously approved.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is absolutely a delight for me,” said Days, who represents District 1, which includes the UMSL campus. “It is fantastic that I present these to this wonderful group of young men, who have gone above and beyond to do what they need to do. They have had the leadership of the coaches, the athletic director, all here. It is incumbent on me to say that they have put these young men in places that they need to be and doing things that they need to do, and that is exemplary of how this operation has worked.

“Yes, COVID cheated them. But that’s OK. We’re going to do this now, and they will go on – those who are not seniors – they will go on to do greater things in the future seasons to come.”

Days soon handed the microphone to UMSL Chancellor Kristin Sobolik, who was in attendance to help honor the team.

“I am so proud of this group of young men who made it to the NCAA Tournament,” Sobolik said. “They hadn’t been there for 32 years. They were literally on the bus when that tournament was canceled, and you know what they did? Like the young men that they are, they got off that bus, and they played basketball for another hour and a half.”

Each current member of the program was called to the front of the council chamber one at a time receive a copy of the resolution, along with Sundvold and assistant coaches Scott Gauthier, Javis Flynn and Chico Jones, and the Council also recognized departed players Jason Towery, Jalen Wilkins-McCoy, Bobby Parker and Maurice Evans.

“These guys do a wonderful job,” said Sundvold, the GLVC’s 2020 Coach of the Year, in addressing the audience. “They work hard. They’re fun to coach. We get with them every day. Many of them get to see us more than once a day, so it’s a lot of fun.

“If you want good basketball, come out and watch. Mark Twain Gym is fun. It’s a great place. Our athletic director and our chancellor do a great job with our facilities and our support and our resources, and I think you’d really enjoy it.”

Sundvold and his team, which went 13-6 in an abbreviated 2020-21 season to finish second in the GLVC Central Division, will tip off the 2021-22 season on Saturday at home against Walsh.

UMSL was picked to finish first in the Central Division in the GLVC preseason coaches’ poll. The Tritons are led by Webb, the reigning two-time conference defensive player of the year; senior guard Yaakema Rose Jr., a first-team all-region selection in 2019-20 who missed all but five games because of injury last season; and senior forward Marty Jackson and senior guards Shane Wissink and Jose Grubbs, all of whom averaged at least 11 points last season.

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik